Risingline Marketing strategy / design / development / management
(208) 475.3192

Contact Form

design & marketing blog

Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Guerrilla Marketing Redux

June 27th, 2007

Recently I found myself isolated from the digital world for a couple hours, courtesy of Idaho Power. After a brief period of anxiety, I picked up an old book I hadn’t looked at in many years—Guerrilla Marketing Weapons by Jay Conrad Levinson.

My first observation was how antiquated some of the strategies are. 1990 does not seem that long ago but from a business and marketing perspective it’s a world apart in many ways. Regardless of the era, I question some of the council he provides in his promotion of advertising as “affordable” and a “necessity”. The author was an advertising guy in a bygone era…can’t blame him for pushing his industry.

While some of the info was off base (should I really consider promoting my business through matchbook advertising?) most of the “weapons” are still spot on. One point the author made that really resonated with me was under the heading, Identity:

A word to strike from your marketing vocabulary is image. An image is a facade, something phony…prospects come in…and learn that the company is not, indeed, what it held itself out to be in the first place. Instead, it is different—not bad, but different.. This makes the prospect unconsciously feel ripped off…because you communicated an image that had little basis in reality, only in hope. A far better
i word than image is identity. An identity is automatically honest.

This timeless insight is the essence of the social revolution that New Media / Web 2.0 have brought to bear in the last 15 years and in fact it’s the catalyst that established RisingLine.

In the past, many companies could trick enough people (mainly through advertising and gimmicks) to keep a sustainable level of demand generation to feed their habit. In the New Media world, consumers have the power to cut through the phony facade of images and create their own expose of each company. We see it well established already on such outlets as Amazon’s star ratings and user reviews and are seeing it trickle down to even small businesses through the
local business rating systems of SuperPages.com and Google. It’s at an accelerate pace now that social media will continue to drive out the fakes and increase quality across the board.

It’s ironic that this sage advice is given in a book promoting advertising and gimmicks. I believe the important take away is that more than ever, prominence should be given to building real quality into your product or service and developing a marketing plan to empower your customer evangelists who will be the authenticators and communicators for your marketing message. While advertising and marketing “weapons” may plan a part, their role has been significantly depreciated in today’s business environment.

As a post script, I notice that on the Guerrilla Marketing website Guerrilla Marketing, New Edition is being promoted as an updated version including “strategies for the Internet.”

The Mac is Back: Apple’s customers make it a major player again

June 4th, 2007

Mac ads


Apple’s current ad campaign

For those of you who know me best, you’re already familiar with my incessant evangelism regarding Apple’s Macintosh. For those of you who don’t know me that well, just keep reading this blog. But for all my biased chest-beating, even the most anti-Apple critic has to acknowledge the recent strides the Mac has made in the marketplace. First off, Apple increased its earnings 88% last quarter, the company’s stock/equity portfolio is higher than it’s ever been, and well known icons within the PC industry are in the process of making “the switch.”

So how does Apple leverage their success? Simply buy understanding the consumer and building stylistic products suited to their needs. Steve Jobs and his engineers and marketers strive toward building and communicating value to those who believe there has to be more to computing than blue screens, random shut-downs, and indistinguishable error messages. Not to mention, Apple has developed a reputation for taking care of its customers, providing the industry’s highest standard in design, all the while building quality products that put the competition to shame.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Apple is successfully de-commoditizing itself within the computing market by establishing itself as a leader in consumer satisfaction. It’s one thing for a company to claim it’s good at pleasing customers, it’s another thing when the customers are saying it themselves. While Dell is struggling to right itself by opening low-price channels through Wal-Mart, Apple is creating the undercurrent for a consumer revolution that will only help to break the Microsoft hegemony within the market.

In conclusion, Apple has proven that organizations are able to operate with substantial margins within a commoditized industry. If your business is struggling to find it self within a competitive, dog-eat-dog market, remember to follow Apple’s example in focusing on your customer’s needs. After all, customers are the most selfish people on the planet; they only care about what your product, service, or brand means to them. Apple understands this principal, as do most profitable businesses.

Customer Level Marketing – Investing in the Bottom Up

April 27th, 2007

Earlier this week, I was engaged in a discussion with a colleague on the way corporations tend to invest their capital. The amount of wasted dollars thrown toward executive pet projects, productivity initiatives, cubical redeployments, senseless non-strategic advertising, and other non-sales generating expenditures is simply mind-boggling. It truly makes me wonder how many companies have ever taken the time to consider what the results would be if they were to redirect a portion of their SG&A expenditure to improving customer relations.

Okay, you’re probably asking “what the heck does Erik mean by customer relations?” To be honest, I’ve never worked with or for a company that has ever concentrated their resources at the customer-level of the organization; every company I know concentrates most of their salaries, bonuses, amenities, perks, and other resources at the corporate executive level. Think about it, how many large organizations pay their frontline employees, namely those who interact and serve the customer, more than keyboard jockey managers back at the office?

I remember the first time I was introduced to this concept during my undergraduate studies over in Finland. My marketing professor asked us to read a phenomenal book by Jan Carlzon titled Moments of Truth. Through the book, Carlzon focuses on his stint as CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), where he is widely renowned for resurrecting what should have been a dead dog company. The SAS Carlzon took over was destined for insolvency, yet his progressive approach to turning the organization upside down literally saved the company and made it a world force in airline transportation. His strategy was simple: slash resources and expenses at the top and invest heavily in the bottom. Within a matter of months, SAS drastically reduced corporate headcount, frivolous spending (such as corporate-level perks), and useless overhead all the while investing in customer service training, customer-focused sales strategies (in regards to ticketing, seating arrangements, and travel packages), employee bonuses based on customer satisfaction, and salary increases for frontline personnel.

Along with the reallocation of resources, SAS initiated a policy wherein all corporate-level employees were required to work at the frontline level for a designated period of time so as to gain an intimate appreciation for the ticket counter representatives and stewards/stewardesses and the customers they served. Furthermore, SAS adapted a progressive policy of promoting high-performing frontline personnel to strategic positions within the organization so as to help consult other service-oriented personnel with customer-relations. Despite the temporary moral downswing at the corporate level, the frontline employee moral shot through the roof as opportunities opened up for incentive pay and promotions. Guess who reaped the benefits of motivated frontline personnel … yep, the customer.

So as to not give too much away, I do encourage you to read Carlzon’s book and contemplate his advice on marketing to your customers through your frontline employees. In addition to the frontline, bottom-up approach, Carlzon provides great strategic insight to managing a successful firm. Here’s a link to purchase Moments of Truth through Amazon:
Moments of Truth

To conclude, it would be well worth your time to consider how your organization could reallocate its resources to building a stronger relationship with your customers. It might be time to consider how to incentivize those who deal with your customers the most.

Market Need Versus Market Want

April 1st, 2007

A major error many sales and marketing professionals make involves confusing a market need with a market want. In fact, marketers that have been around for a while understand all products and services eventually evolve into non-discriminate commodities over time. Make no mistake; understanding the difference between a market need and a want will decide the long-term success of a firm.

So, what is the difference? Namely, a market want is an immediate response by consumers to a service or product without knowledge of a better solution. In other words, a market want is derived through a quick fix, convenient and affordable means to solving a problem or desire. Market wants exist simply because they temporarily answer consumer’s expectations. An example of a market want would be a pre-industrial revolution candle that was used to light a room … luminescence. There was no knowledge of or accessibility to a better solution, therefore the market want settled on candles for light.

Conversely, a market need addresses a higher ideal wherein innovation and customer-directed service push market wants in perpetual progression. In theory, market needs can never be fulfilled since the market is in a constant state of evolution. Additionally, Market wants are actually a very important element of addressing a market need. In other words, we should view market wants (i.e. products) as incremental steps toward satisfying the demands of the consumer. Referring back to the candle example, gas lamps and eventually the electric light bulb replaced the candle as the primary device for luminescence, therefore eliminating the primary use of a candle as a device for light. Today, the candle is used primarily for ambiance rather than luminescence.

For a more practical application of this theory, let’s say your company is in the business of producing cellular telephones. Four years ago, the market want was to develop the smallest practical handheld device that was affordable and would pick up great reception. Today, with the introduction of GPS technology and devices like the Apple iPhone, the market want has evolved to include worldwide accessibility along with features such as SMS texting, GPS mapping, and Internet browsing. In fact, it could be argued that the market need is affordable instantaneous global communication through telepathic transmission … okay, that’s getting a little Star-Trekish, I know. However, the point being that consumers may not be able to express what their true need is, therefore they settle with wants. To my point; this is where the opportunity exists for your hypothetical cellular phone company; you can assume the role of an innovative customer-oriented firm by pushing your product and service offering toward a new ideal of market satisfaction. For example, what if your company could develop a true vid-phone so you could actually view the party on the other line? It’s only a matter of time and money before this technology becomes commonplace, and the first cellular phone manufacturer to do it will in effect push the market want closer to achieving the market need. Perhaps the market need is not a vid-phone, but the point is the iPhone in all its greatness will eventually be obsolete.

In conclusion, companies that focus on solving market wants will always be in a reactionary state, competing primarily on price. However, companies that focus on solving a market need however will be shaping their products and services toward answering the desires of their customers, helping to differentiate themselves from the competition while justifying a higher price per unit. In the real world, Apple is doing this with the iPhone, Target is doing it with virtually the same products as Wal-Mart, and FedEx is doing it with the same overnight delivery services as UPS and the United States Postal Service. Who’s to say your company can’t be the next Apple, Target, or FedEx?

Top

↑ Top