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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Say bye-bye to outdated marketing myths

'The Enablers' - We develop humans into winners

Saying Buh-Bye to Three Outdated Marketing Myths

by David Warschawski August 9, 2005

They say the truth will set you free. Hopefully, the truth will also help you create great marketing results.
Here are three communications myths whose time has come to an end.

Myth 1. Of all the marketing disciplines, advertising will give you the maximum impact. In fact, advertising should set the strategic direction for all of your marketing efforts.

Wrong! You should have thrown that concept out with your Rubik's Cube and Milli Vanilli CDs.
The power and persuasiveness of advertising, as we have known it, is dying. Don't believe me? Over the last year, BusinessWeek, Fortune and Inc. have written about what most forward-looking marketers have known was coming for years—the advertising market is deteriorating in a hurry and is in need of fundamental change.

Years ago, advertising held greater credibility. People were more apt to believe what an institution said about itself.

That has changed. Today, we need third-party credibility. Someone we trust has to tell us how great a product is before we are motivated to action. Advertising has virtually no third-party credibility.

Instead, advertising is like white noise to most of us—experts estimate the average person is exposed to 237 advertisements a day, or 86,500 advertisements a year. Very little advertising breaks through and moves us to action, especially when more and more people use their digital recording devices to block out commercials.

As Al and Laura Ries so eloquently laid out in their recent book, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, public relations is becoming the weapon of choice for smart marketers.

Myth 2.

To create a powerful brand, you need to first create an impressive and memorable logo, then you need brilliant packaging and collateral, then you need an unforgettable tagline and wowing ads.
Backwards! Wake up and smell the Starbucks coffee!

Starbucks is one of the companies most often cited by marketing experts as a shining example of powerful branding. Most people can't describe the Starbucks logo to you, but they still drink their coffee. The packaging and collateral is nothing special. As for Starbuck's tagline: I can't remember one, can you?
Oh, and by the way, the company was built from the ground up through public relations techniques. It didn't begin advertising until many years after it was successful. Today, most people can't describe a Starbucks ad to you.

Yet, last year 25 million consumers per week were willing to drive further, pay considerably more, and wait in line longer for the opportunity to buy their cup of coffee at Starbucks. Why? The answer is the strength of Starbucks' brand. The emotional connection with Starbucks resonated strongly enough that Starbucks had sales of $3.3 billion last year.

So what is brand? Simply stated, it is the fundamental emotional experience that you want consumers to have every time they come in contact with your institution, product or service.
Brand is not based on a logical equation. For example, Starbucks is not successful because it offers the fastest service, the most inexpensive, the most geographically convenient or even the best-tasting coffee for many consumers.

Starbucks wants you to feel sophisticated and feel that you are part of what many brand experts refer to as a "coffee house" community. That is the DNA of the Starbucks brand—sophistication and community.
That is why every store calls its cup sizes "grande" and "venti," not medium or large. It is why every store has a "barista" making the coffee fresh for you at a separate counter, never behind a wall or out of sight from the customer. It is why every store has tables and chairs for congregating, and many have plush sofas and arm chairs. It is why they encourage people to read or work at the store and have even installed wi-fi so customers can surf the Web all day long.

If you want powerful branding, focus first on clearly defining your organization's brand DNA and find ways to constantly express it to your customers. Your logo, tagline and advertising play a distant second fiddle and should only be discussion points after your brand DNA is completely clear.

Myth 3.

Research and measurement techniques are critical for putting together a great marketing program. Without them, you can't tell who you should target and whether you've "moved the needle" with your work.
Whoops. This is the agency research department's ticket for paying off the mortgage on their new vacation homes. For the majority of clients, mass research is a waste of time and money.
Sure, for about 10-20% of clients, a strong research and measurement component for a marketing campaign is vital. But for the rest of you, a good marketer who is worth his or her salt can steer you in the right direction without the time and financial expense. They've been there and know the right direction to take without the fancy, colorful spreadsheets.

I can't tell you how many times I see industry award entries where agencies tout the "ground-breaking" research they conducted to set the course for their program. I just laugh. Their findings are predictable to an experienced marketer.

As for moving the needle, most CEOs know the metrics they need for you to affect and can tell whether your program has been successful or not. All the spreadsheets in the world won't help you if the phones aren't ringing, membership or readership doesn't increase, and the cash register doesn't "ka-ching" more often.
So go ahead—cut out the junk, focus on what produces results and show no fear! It's time to move beyond the myths so you can create exciting, goal-oriented marketing results. And please, have fun.

David Warschawski is founder and president of Warschawski (, a full service PR, marketing and branding agency based in Baltimore.


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