A Tale Well Told

Storytelling as a skill or art form is not often associated with marketing. Marketers are commonly seen as purveyors of facts, knowledge, insight and strategy. “Storytelling” is most often thought of in a fictional sense. Considered an artificial construct of imagination rather than reality. But, there is another kind of storytelling, often overlooked, that can help in presenting or sharing marketing information in a much more concise, compelling and actionable way.

We’re frequently faced with situations where we have a brief amount of time to share information about an often complex situation that has been quite some time in the making. Whether it’s a presentation or just a conversation, some of those in the client audience are often less familiar with the background and details than we are, since we’ve been living with it day to day. Yet, we are often asking for agreement (more…)

Facing the “Moment of Truth”

During World War II, the training slogan of the Ordnance Department of the Army was, “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.” While it was paraphrased from a variety of witty sources dating back to 1794, it does a good job of also summing up the attitude many marketers (ourselves included) exhibit toward the challenges we set for ourselves. But, on the other hand we have Oliver Goldsmith, who is quoted as saying, “He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day.” A much less frequently observed sentiment in marketing circles, but at times…who knows?

Take, for example, the high powered venture capital firm that recently announced it would divest its holdings in a company (and take an estimated multi-billion dollar loss) rather than continue to pursue the opportunity. In announcing that decision, the CEO said, “The investment required a disproportionately large amount of time and resources. The sale will enable us to dedicate more time to our other portfolio companies and new investment opportunities.” That sure sounds more like (more…)

No “Trouble With the Curve”

Clint Eastwood points out in “Trouble With the Curve” that any talented player can hit a fastball, but the great ones are those who can handle the curves. Guess the same holds true in marketing. We were at the initial briefing for a new product launch positioning project. The category in which the brand would compete (sub-category, really) was dictated by the indication for which the client expected the product to be approved. As we were reviewing the background materials, one of the brand managers entered the room ashen faced. He had just learned the product had not been approved for the category indication. A total shocker given all preliminary discussions and indicators. In effect, they now had a product with proven claims, but not the indication needed to compete in the category. End of the line…right? Meeting adjourned forever. Well, not so fast.

While we were all taken aback for the moment, our team quickly shifted into “inductive analysis” mode (our natural state). We suggested that looking at this new information as a “given” rather than a death sentence might reveal some alternative opportunities. The ”aha” moment came when (more…)

Holiday Break 2016…
A Time to Reflect

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While the marketplace never sleeps, it does seem to doze off a bit around the holidays. With the holiday spirit thick in the air (and even thicker on the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue here in New York) it seemed only fair to take a break from deep thoughts on marketing, insight and strategy. But it’s tough to turn off the marketing juices completely. So as the year draws to a close we took a moment to reflect on the past year, not from the perspective of the media, or historians, or social commentators, but through a marketing lens.

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What we saw was a year where perception vs. reality and desire vs. behavior played out on the world stage. While that does sound kind of like a yearend wrap-up on BBC, CNN or FOX, it could be the yearend wrap-up in Ad Age as well. It also reflects a lot of the principles we all have to deal with as we pursue marketing excellence. Because perception, reality, beliefs and behaviors have a major impact on, and the ability to affect, success and failure in the marketplace.

If there was one word that summed up the overarching dynamic for 2016 it was “unpredictable”. It’s that unpredictability that makes our jobs both challenging and interesting. The loss of a key claim, the unanticipated clinical results, the “non-competitor” who suddenly is making inroads in our category. The ability to recognize early, react to strategically and even leverage, yes even leverage, those situations is often the difference between success and failure. In fact, in honor of 2016 our first newsletter next year will be about handling the curves the marketplace tosses your way.

And rather than providing you with thought provoking questions on today’s topic, we’re turning the tables and giving you an opportunity to shape next years’ discussions.You can suggest a topic for a newsletter next year by clicking here. If there’s a marketing challenge or issue or opportunity you would like to see addressed just let us know. It may be a topic that would be of interest to many of our newsletter readers.

So, from all of us at The Masterson/SWOT Team, here’s wishing you a happy and relaxing holiday season and a successful 2017 in your personal life and your business life.

Marketing: The Art of Creating Change

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When you think about it (and even when you don’t), on the most fundamental level, all marketing is about change. If everything were perfect…if there was not another customer to be had, another dollar to be made, another product to be added to the portfolio…no change would be needed and there would be no reason to spend a cent on marketing. But, that is never the case. There is always some change in the marketplace that will benefit your brand and grow your business.

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That is why every project should begin with nailing down a clear, concise understanding of the desired, meaningful change. It may sound pretty fundamental and intuitive…a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast. It’s easy to say “we want to”: grow share, or profitability, or have a successful launch. But, that is the goal for the brand, and not necessarily a meaningful change in the marketplace. Most often those real changes in the marketplace are rooted in the target.

While marketing is commonly thought of, and approached, as more of a science (think target segmentation, etc.), we have come to realize (more…)

Putting perfection in perspective

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We had a Client who had his own way of evaluating anything that was presented to him…strategic recommendations, creative executions, marketing plans…everything. He would draw a matrix on his whiteboard. Down the left column were his evaluation criteria. Across the top were the alternatives being presented. Say it was four campaign directions. He would review each alternative and put an “X” in any box that was not achieved. Four out of five criteria were not enough. So, it was back to the drawing board in pursuit of perfection. For him, it was absolute perfection or nothing. As you may have guessed by now, it was “nothing” way too often. Of course, eventually the deadline loomed and, not happily, whatever was left on the table was his default choice.

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It may sound as though we are arguing against the pursuit of perfection. Hardly. The questions we are raising are: “When is it time to accept the current state of near-perfection and act?” and “How do you know when that time has come?” Of course, a sense of frustration, “analysis paralysis” and statements like, (more…)

Form or function? Well, yes.

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We were working for a technology client during the formative years of the online communication and information explosion, (so “formative”, in fact, that the internet was not yet in general use…hard to imagine). Let’s just cleverly disguise the product’s identity by calling it “Widget.” This was a truly groundbreaking product and every time we ran into the EVP of Marketing, whether in a meeting or just passing in the hall, the first (and sometimes only) thing he would say was “Widget is…?” That was always followed by an expectant pause, waiting for us to tell him how he could, in three, or two, or possibly even one word, communicate the product’s key deliverable that captured its value to the target.

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We knew what he was looking for was the essence of his brand. Not the product definition, not the category definition or generic, not the brand positioning. He was looking for the trigger phrase that would create an instantaneous visceral connection with his target. It could be rational, it could be emotional, but it had to define the role the brand could play in the target’s life…and do it spontaneously without a lot of thought.

That challenge is as relevant today, if not more so, than it was when he posed it. We live, and market, in a sound bite world. For instance, political campaigns (more…)

Mining Data for Marketing Gold

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When starting a project for a client, we routinely ask for back information on the brand to develop a foundation of existing knowledge and to avoid spending time “reinventing the wheel.” Back in the days when paper ruled, a brand that had been on the market for several years would amass shelves and shelves and boxes and boxes and stacks and stacks of information. Market data, target studies, sales and business data, advertising ideas, qualitative and quantitative research results, competitive intelligence and on and on. The client would invariably ask, “what specifically do you want to see.” We would say, “We want it all.” The client would counter with, “Are you sure? It would fill a truck,” and we would just ask, “when can the truck be here?” Today, for the most part the paper has been replaced with computer files and, if anything, the volume of back data has increased. But, the value of that information for our inductive analysis process has not diminished one bit.

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Because, to us, that information is less a historical record of OLD information and more a treasure trove of NEW ideas and possibilities. We use the term data mining to describe the approach. We borrowed the term (perhaps ironically) from the computer world where data mining is defined as “the computational process of discovering patterns in large data sets involving methods at the intersection of artificial intelligence, machine learning, statistics, and database systems.” (Whew!) But our inductive, qualitative approach to data mining is a far cry (more…)

The Quandary of the Un-targeted Segment

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It’s happened several times now. The results of the tracking study or the copy test or the concept test come in and the analysis shows that, in addition to getting good results with the target segments, one of the un-targeted segments is making a strong showing. Very often we hear someone say, “What are we doing wrong?” Well, maybe nothing and just maybe those Clients were doing something very right for both the target and the “uns”. Our advice has been: don’t toss that learning…there just may be more work to do to figure out “why” your message is resonating with these segments and optimize the situation.

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It all starts with why segmentation is done in the first place. At its best, a robust segmentation is both a tool and a yardstick. As a tool it helps identify the highest potential target in actionable terms, it drives efficiency by focusing effort on those targets and can help drive differentiation by helping to avoid the need to be “all things (more…)

Tipping The Balance In Your Favor

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We were out to dinner with a longtime client and despite all of our half-hearted misgivings, the desert arrived as ordered. Just as his fork plunged into the strawberry cheesecake he proclaimed, “Well, that’s another half hour on the treadmill tomorrow!” Of course we all knew that the cheesecake would take two hours on the treadmill to even make a dent in the calories… and he admitted he might not even make it to the treadmill at all. What does this have to do with marketing? A lot. It set us off on a discussion of “balancing behavior” and how we had seen it, no matter the category, in just about every target we’ve ever investigated.

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While the specifics of the balancing behavior vary by target and situation, the underlying principle is virtually identical…a process of “rationally” justifying behavior. Sometimes the action is overt, sometimes subconscious…sometimes (more…)