Brian Creath

Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

Steal This Idea.

In Brand, Marketing, Positioning, Strategy on March 26, 2009 at 11:08 am


Those of you who have reached the age of 40, may recall that in the early 1980’s, generic products in the United States had plain white labels with blue or black lettering, or yellow labels with black lettering, describing what the product was (i.e.: Yellow Cake Mix, Tuna In Water, Chocolate Flavor Syrup, Deodorant Soap, etc.) There was very little other information except for ingredients and preparation information required, and no brand name at all on the front panel. This was during a sharp economic downturn when many consumers were placing more emphasis on value than on brand loyalty. In the U.S. industrial Midwest, a region especially hard hit by the recession of the early 1980’s, generics became a common sight in supermarkets and discount stores.

Today, as consumers flock to WalMart and gain an increasing amount of product and service information from online and word-of-mouth resources, the tug of war between brand loyalty and basic value is being tested again.

Could the concept of true generic marketing work in today’s environment? Of course, the web has drastically changed retail and distribution dynamics. And, most savvy retailers have created house brands during the past 25 years, either branded with the retailer’s name, or a fictitious third-party brand. (Think Target’s ‘Merona’ brand.) But for discussion, let’s stick to true generics: Products, services or retail outlets that carry a product or category description as the label. (Think ‘Beer’ or ‘Gas.’)

Using Maslow’s Hierarchy as a guide to need-based, recession-area marketing, let’s look at retail food for just a moment. (And let’s limit the thinking to perishable, local sales where the web can’t compete as a true retail outlet.)

Would a place called ‘Hamburgers‘ that priced its products fairly, and carried limited offerings in a stripped down, minimalist retail setting do well today? Especially if it could create strong ‘buzz’ based on quality products and quality service? How about a quick shop concept called ‘Milk & Bread‘ that again, carried very few, quality milk and dairy staples.

In the 1980’s, a generic product’s perceived quality came from the retail environment in which it was sold. Often, the product itself wasn’t of very high quality. Today, as real value (quality+fair price) makes a comeback, and as the web gives consumers a way to express product/service satisfaction (or lack thereof), a successful generic product or service offered would have to be of solid, or very high quality. Today’s, “I’m-just-looking-for-good-deal” consumer would, in all likelihood, appreciate a stripped-down concept that carries a built-in ‘quality over marketing’ position.

Could your category utilize generic marketing? If so, please steal this thinking. If not, please look around: As we move through the end of a recession and into recovery, marketing opportunities abound — companies simply need to apply smart thinking, strong support and decisive action. And if you need a firm that can help you think, I do know a good one.

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger messaging to increase consistency, lower cost and drive growth, here.


Marketing: Timing the Recovery

In Brand, Marketing, Strategy on March 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

In his recent article, “How Marketers Should Plan For Recovery,” Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch provides advice to companies wondering when to resume marketing spending: “Don’t wait for permission. Most companies will not begin reinvesting until the Wall Street Journal or Ben Bernanke officially declare the recovery underway. Get ahead of the crowd. Craft your recovery plan now, and pull the trigger when your lead indicators say go.”

Unfortunately, many companies today have confused marketing spending activities with strategic planning efforts. Depending on your category of business, it may or may not be the right time for heavy marketing spending. But undoubtedly, and regardless of economic conditions, it is a critical time for strategic marketing planning.

Why? Because like it or not, your company, your brand(s) and your target audiences have been changed by the economic issues of the past few months. Understanding and articulating the relevance your marketing offerings now (and will) hold with audiences is imperative. Now is the time to rebuild your message for today, and for the future. By the time the recovery is in full swing, your competitors may have already rebuilt theirs.

(By the way, if you need a bit of strategic assistance, I know a firm that can help.)

Regarding the timing of your marketing spend, Quelch goes on to say, “Know your lead indicators. Every good marketer knows the specific indicators, macro or micro, that predict demand for his or her product in the next period. Use common sense. If the Wal-Mart parking lot looks less crowded, some consumers are probably migrating back to Target and vice versa.” As the 3rd and 4th quarters approach, sales people everywhere are beginning to question how their organizations will provide the marketing support they need.

Those companies that invest in planning today, increase their chances of winning tomorrow. Is your company planning to lead, or planning to follow?

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger messaging to increase consistency, lower cost and drive growth, here.