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The Marketing Sage ~ the blog ~

~Marketing Insights to Help You Grow Your Business~

Shattering Myths about Your Brand

Shattering Myths about Your Brand

Remember the old Rolling Stone campaign about perception versus reality? The ad ran in Ad Age, and other trade publications in 1970 were when Rolling Stone was getting started and wanted to convince advertisers that their readers weren’t poor hippies but were actual well-to-do yuppies with lots of money to spend on cars, vacation, and expensive whiskey.  Advertisers had one perception about who was reading the publication yet the facts were very different. In this case, Rolling Stone put the advertiser’s perception (hippie) next to the reality (yuppie) and backed it up with solid audience research. It helped fuel enormous growth and success by addressing this market myth. There is a great lesson in this story. Perception versus Reality This ad always reminds me of how a marketing department, when it is doing its job, is the listening department. They have to serve as the ears of the organization, hearing from the market the objections that keep coming up. Marketing teams must be like independent sponges absorbing misperception about your product and services. Then, you have to bring in the bleach to wipe away the viral and bacterial lies infecting your brand. Perhaps your brand has been positioned by a competitor, and you are fighting an inaccurate portrayal of what you do and how misunderstood your product is with customers. Someone has to take up the charge to convince consumers or your business customers to see you in a clear light that doesn’t cast a shadow on the value you can bring to them. I like to think of this work as myth busting. I have some suggestions that can help... read more
Continuous Reinvention

Continuous Reinvention

When John Willard Marriot started his business with his wife Alice in 1927, they sold frosted mugs of root beer. It was summertime and hot in Washington, D.C. They added food, and for thirty years they ran a series of restaurants. The Marriott’s didn’t open their first motel until 1957 when they reinvented their business.  The Twin Bridge Marriott Motor Hotel opened in Arlington, VA. And the world’s largest hotel company was born through reinvention. They saw an opportunity tied to the increase in public highways created by Eisenhower administration. Marriott wondered where people would sleep when they were far away from home. If you are running a business, you need to be in continuous reinvention. You must always deliver value as your customer’s needs evolve and change.   Ask These Five Questions about the Reinvention of Your Business   Where is the market going to be in a year or five? Are you stuck with a brand that is getting old quickly? Blockbuster was working perfectly until Netflix figured out how to instantly gratify the desire to watch a movie. Kodak was snapping along and invented digital photography but was too ingrained in the film business model to change their culture. They couldn’t stop thinking about film even though consumers were heading toward digital. The products and services you offer today should be focused on the needs in the coming years, not the past. Reinvention requires restructuring, reimagining and reinvigorating your company.  How can you bring the core strengths of your product or service to customers in a reimagined way? Can you still be the same brand but... read more
Delivering a Promise

Delivering a Promise

I recently wrote about two food products that intrigued me – Halo Top Ice Cream and Beyond Meat. Their stories caught my attention, and they both had approaches to marketing that offered distinctively different promise. Since I hadn’t tried either product, I felt like I needed to see if they lived up to their promise or if the product fell short of what I expected. The score is one kept its promise and one failed. The Winner Beyond Meat is a plant-based protein product that claimed to deliver a chicken-like texture product. I was skeptical that the product would be edible as other similar products were hard to swallow. I found their Vegetarian Vietnamese Lemongrass Beyond Chicken sold in the freezer case at a new Sprouts that opened near my home. The pea-protein chicken had a texture that was extremely close to real chicken. The entrée was under $5.00 and the lemongrass, ginger flavors were subtle and delicious. I’m hooked and I hate peas. The Loser I found Halo Top at Whole Foods and was anxious to taste this ice cream made to reduce the calories using several different sweeteners dramatically. Sadly, the product was icy and disappointing.  It reminded me of ice milk – a terrible product from the past that tasted like flavored ice chips. I bought their original product – 240 calories per serving, and it didn’t do the job for me. If I want lower calories while consuming ice cream,  I will hire single serve frozen yogurt bars or another single serve, proportioned products to meet that need. Marketing Lessons and Promises You only get a... read more
Why Did You Become a Marketer?

Why Did You Become a Marketer?

This past week, I got to speak at NC State to 350 students.  The class was an Introduction To Marketing, and it was a real privilege and pleasure to share my Ten Simple Lessons about Marketing presentation. After the class, about a dozen students came up to the front to ask questions. One of the most interesting questions was a simple one. Why did you become a marketer? Since I never went to business school and didn’t have any classical marketing training, I shared a few reasons why I was attracted to work in marketing. I was an entrepreneur running a photography business from age ages 15-23. The chance to do creative work every day was inspirational. I didn’t realize I was marketing a photography business at the time but loved the work.  I got to work with my grandfather George Ginsberg, who was a commercial photographer in Philadelphia for most of his career and I learned how to build a small business, how to sell customers and how to be different from the competition. From ages 23-35, my wife and I built a successful wholesale bakery called Rachel’s Brownies that gained national exposure and deep connections to millions of customers I enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to be a creative leader and President of a growing firm. I never thought about marketing as we grew our business – marketing just flowed as the creative expression of what we did each day to get our sweet little double chocolate brownies into the mouths of hungry customers. From 35-50, I worked in corporate marketing climbing a ladder of success.... read more
The First Two Steps in Starting a New Business

The First Two Steps in Starting a New Business

I had lunch with a colleague who was considering starting a new business. As we talked about his idea, I offered him one simple piece of advice involving two-steps. It may apply to you if you are considering a starting a new business. The One Page Summary There is nothing magical about this suggestion. It isn’t novel or disruptive. But it is a practical way to begin. The idea is to write a one-page summary of your business idea and share it with ten friends who know you and will be brutally honest. The friends should be business professionals who have different skills from finance, operations, marketing, and sales. In summary, you should answer these questions. What problem will your product/service solve? Who (target) needs this help? Be extremely specific. Why will they pay you for your product/service offering? What other options exists for your targets to solve this problem and what will you do differently to attract their interest? If you can’t answer these questions on one page, you don’t have a business. Yes, you could wander about for years trying to answer these questions if you have tons of money in the bank. But most startup need some structure, discipline and a basic plan. Write it Down By putting together, a one-page summary of the idea and sharing it with friends, you’ll get the idea out of your head and in front of a range of other professionals. You get to hear constructive challenges that you can learn from before you spend your first dime. By writing one-hundred pages, you don’t make the idea any better. Keep it... read more
Stop and Smell the Roses – Twice

Stop and Smell the Roses – Twice

When Danit was getting married, she was shocked at how much her flowers would cost for her special day. She knew that flowers could last from 3-14 days, so she was curious if someone else was getting married that same weekend and perhaps they could share arrangements. Was there a floral marketplace for weddings? From a keen observation, Bloomerent grew from a seed of an idea. Today, Bloomerent is a floral marketplace for couples getting married who want to find ways to save money on expensive flower arrangements used for hours. The company put together a florist network in sixteen major markets and couples can go online to find someone willing to share. The florist gets to sell the flowers twice, although for less than the original price to each person getting married. Through this marketplace, the florist manages the delivery, pickup, refreshing and redelivery of the flowers. Blooming Ideas Sometimes we stumbled upon a market-based opportunity, through our needs. We have a problem to solve, and a solution doesn’t exist. Being observant, curious and smart can help you find an entrepreneurial challenge that can flower into something magical. Marketing is so much easier when you have had first-hand experience with a problem.  You understand the needs of your target audience. The marketing job is about telling a story where your product offering is the hero. Need help marketing your product or service? Let’s see what can bloom. Text me at 919 720  0995 or jeffreylynnslater@gmail.com Need a speaker for an upcoming business event? Let’s talk.         https://pixabay.com/en/bride-roses-marriage-flowers-1236859/      ... read more
Marketing WOW

Marketing WOW

Stop thinking like a business man/women/person. Instead, find wonder and excitement in how you solve problems and make your customers or clients happy. If you can break through the clutter with a surprise that directly connects to your message, you can get a big wow. Big wows are good. What’s your wow? The software company that sent clients a custom designed cereal box filled with wow. Instead of creating a website, they created a physical package of cereal that had code written on the back. It delivered fun in a box and made their potential partners pay attention. They took their traditional brochure and turned it into something fun to read. (and with a prize inside). A cloud storage company created a series of baseball cards to help them tell their story. They used this fun format for sharing some of their key employee’s stats (bats left and codes right). Instead of creating a typical sales brochure about their capabilities, their marketing broke through the boring, with an unexpected way to deliver their message. The sock company who put their presentation (and samples) into a paint can when they visited new retailers. Why leave another deck of slides, when you can create some fun and excitement with a paint can fill with colorful socks. (each pair had a tag that told a part of the story). Then there is the Bombay Bakery who makes an edible business card to help you digest their message. What is your marketing wow? I majored in marketing wow during my career. Let’s find a way to break through boring. Think of The Marketing... read more
Seven Reasons You Need a Fresh Pair of Marketing Ears

Seven Reasons You Need a Fresh Pair of Marketing Ears

When I came into a new client’s office to conduct a marketing audit last month, I brought something incredibly valuable to the meeting. It wasn’t any sophisticated algorithm or expensive measurement system. It didn’t involve PowerPoint or Excel. I brought a fresh pair of marketing ears. Curiosity and Questions An outsider can challenge, listen and learn how a company presents itself to a new prospect. Sometimes, things get stale, and you get caught in your weeds, you forget what’s is going on in the customer’s world. A logical, rationale and well-structured presentation might fall on deaf ears because your client is so overwhelmed with work. Maybe your pitch is not her main focus. How effective can you be if your prospect is multi-tasking her way during your call? Your product offering might be a perfect solution, but you are encountering resistance that comes in the form of inertia, distraction, and a dull message? Seven Reasons To Find a Fresh Pair of Eyes and Ears  Consistency: Does your marketing focus on a core message that both sales and marketing use? Reinforce your Message: Do your marketing material, digital footprint, and online presence reinforce the message and story you want to tell? (It is hard to show yourself as cutting edge when your website isn’t even mobile-friendly). Blending In: Are you following the herd and doing what your competitors do to reach new clients or are you finding unexpected ways to break through? The Right Target: Are you testing your message effectively with the right target audience? Sometimes, where you enter an organization can affect how much traction you might gain.... read more
What is Marketing?

What is Marketing?

I spent some time with some entrepreneurs who were starting different businesses from software to soft serve gelato. They were all in the early phases of launching, and they asked me to speak to them about what marketing is and isn’t. The following are some of my notes from that conversation. What Marketing Is Marketing is about feelings. Marketing is the collection of activities that make your customer tell her friend about your product. Marketing is the way you package your brand so that it fits the worldview of the customer’s you are serving. Said another way, how will your client’s feel when they use your product and will it motivate them to tell a story to someone who has a similar worldview? Marketing should help change their emotional state if you want it to affect a change in behavior and attitude. Marketing is answering questions before a customer asks. Great marketing is baked into the simplicity of navigation in a website that allows a new visitor to understand what you can do for them – in eight seconds. Brilliant marketing instantly allows someone to learn how you can help them solve a problem and fill a need. It anticipates concerns and is proactive in providing solutions. A sign of great marketing is when your customer thinks, “they read my mind.” Marketing doesn’t feel like selling; it feels like educating. Effective marketing leaves you smarter and with a better understanding of an issue. It doesn’t feel transactional – but helpful. It answers all the questions on your mind before you asked them. When you write a brochure or any copy... read more
Ice Dreams and Halo Top

Ice Dreams and Halo Top

Imagine finding a pint of ice cream with 75% fewer calories than Haagen Dazs and 50% more protein than Ben & Jerry’s. And it tastes great! Halo Top is freezing out the competition in the race to challenge consumers to eat more ice cream. They use organic stevia, a plant native to Paraguay that has been sweetening foods for 200 years. And a sugar alcohol called Erythritol, a product found in pears and grapes. It doesn’t affect blood sugar nor creates bloating. CEO Justin Woolverton says that although labeled as light ice cream, Halo Top fans indulge as if it was traditional ice cream, just without the guilt. After much trial and error, Justin wanted to solve a personal problem of being hyperglycemic yet loving frozen desserts. The first nine contract packers refused to work with him demonstrating how important persistence and tenacity is for every entrepreneur. Justin built his marketing on word-of-mouth enhanced with paid ads through Facebook to reach a highly-targeted audience who wants flavor and indulgence, just not the calories. His team had a very special voice that tells their story through social media and paid targeting online ads. Results have sales exceeding $65MM in 2016. With sponsored content messages, he can find a consumer who will seek out his product in local retailers. Lead with your advantage From a packaging perspective, each pint screams how many total calories are in a pint. Because consumers expect calorie counts twice, or three times, 240 calories seem like a dream come true. Marketing Lessons Focus on a big message – 240 calories per pint Be consistent with your... read more

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