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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Next gen marketing trends

This week’s AMA “Strategic Marketing Conference” in Chicago brought together 300+ marketing executives to explore some big ideas in marketing strategy, planning, execution and measurement. The big takeaway for me was that traditional marketing is dead and we need to quickly create new approaches and euthanize many others.

I spoke on Wed. about the need to for all marketers – regardless of company size or type – to create conversation themes that make it easy for people to talk about the company or product. After all, we live in a world of conversations. Not static messages. Not traditional written copy. I talked about the 6 most common obstacles to creating conversations and the 3 ways to get started:

1. Ear-to-the-ground communications research.

2. Developing a point-of-view that gets people saying, “That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

3. Straight talk. Genuine. Clear. No jargon.

Click here if you want a copy of the presentation, “Mind the Gap: Making Brand Conversations Real, Relevant & Repeatable.”

Highlights from some of the other presenters:

  • Brand management needs to be reinvented, with the focus on building customer equity vs. brand equity. Dr. Roland Rust, University of Maryland and author of “Driving Customer Equity.”

  • Market generalists and market niche players need very different strategies to prosper-- and maybe even survive. (Note: any market category only has 3 big players no matter how large the market.) Dr. Rajendra Sisodia, professor of marketing Bentley College and author of “The Rule of Three How Competition Shapes Markets.”

  • Consumers are trading up to luxury goods. 96% of consumers have at least one category for which they will pay more to get better products. Michael Silverstein, CEO, Boston Consulting Group.

  • The big consumer trends to watch: innovation and experimentation, simplicity, word-of-mouth marketing. Ed Keller, CEO of NOP World Consumer and author of “The Influentials.”

  • One of the biggest problems in pricing is communicating the value of the product or service to customers – why it’s fair relative to the value created, relative to competitor value/price, and relative to the cost to develop product. John Hogan, vice president of the Strategic Pricing Group.

  • Using concept and product engineering is an incredibly powerful way to build better – and more profitable -- products and stores, taking the guesswork out of marketing planning. Dunkin’ Donuts used this approach to analyze 16,000 data points, and come up with new directions for national expansion. Dr. Regina Lewis, direction of consumer and brand insight sat Dunkin’ Brands.

  • We need video to tell a story regardless of the medium. But we’re likely to see more video spots on the Internet than TV. Andrew Jaffe, advertising analyst and former editor of “Adweek."

  • Digital advertising is becoming more prevalent, more effective, and easier to measure. Deep search marketing is particularly compelling. Sarah Fay, president, Carat Interactive.

  • You can succeed even in dying categories by creating innovative marketing approaches that help you carve out greater market share. Chuck Feltz, president, Deluxe Financial Services and Direct Checks Unlimited.

  • Customer targeting, positioning and differentiation unequivocally remain the most important elements of successful marketing. Dr. Kevin Clancy, CEO of Copernicus and author of “Countintuitive Marketing.”

Thursday, May 05, 2005

What's commoditizing PR agencies

Sun Microsystems’ use of dynamic bidding as one element of its recent agency search process has put the PR agency industry in a tizzy.

PR Week just published an article, “Dynamic Bidding: PR's race for respect heads south with dynamic bidding,” where PR agency heads bemoan the involvement of procurement in the agency selection process and say it will commoditize the industry.

“As more companies like Sun turn to dynamic bidding during agency reviews, many PR pros argue that the process turns the industry into a commodity,” reported Andrew Gordon in the May 2 issue.

Oh, puhlease…procurement’s involvement can’t turn you into a commodity. But there is something that can – and has for many pr agencies. Here’s my letter to the editor about the topic.

To: Letters Editor, PR Week

As the firm that managed the Sun agency review, I must say that PR agencies should be worried about being seen as commodities – but not because of dynamic bidding, as Andrew Gordon’s May 2 article contends.


A major obstacle for public relations agencies is their own marketing and business models. If you line up most agencies’ value propositions, marketing materials, staffing approaches, and services, it’s difficult to distinguish how they differ. As brands become more similar, purchase decisions become more heavily weighted toward low price – and this fact applies to all business categories whether it’s office supplies or public relations services.

When internal PR execs understand the differentiated business value an agency can provide, they will go to bat with procurement to make sure that the agency is hired – regardless of cost. In absence of understanding that value, all bets are off.

A case in point: the agencies Sun selected (Bite, MWW) had especially clear and unique value propositions that made the hiring decision easy and defensible – even though these agencies were not the lowest bidders.

Lois Kelly
Partner, Foghound
Providence, RI