Holistic Marketing

What a lovely editorial from Ad Adage!  It talks about taking a holistic approach to messaging by analyzing some very current messaging and how the message they were trying to communicate could have been improved by taking a big picture approach.  Here are a few snippets I enjoyed from this article:

Take Tiger Woods’ endorsement of Buick. On the surface, this might seem like a good idea. A young, charismatic, world-class athlete drives a Buick. How could this not improve the perception of the brand?

But wait. According to Forbes magazine, Tiger Woods made $115 million last year, including $90 million in endorsements. More money than any other athlete in the world. He owns a $20 million, 155-foot yacht. And he drives a Buick? Highly unlikely.

Another point: If Tiger Woods endorses Buick, who is left to endorse Cadillac? God?

Look at how Lehman leaders handled the company’s recent financial troubles:

September 2007: “Our liquidity position is stronger than ever.” — Christopher O’Mara, chief financial officer, Lehman Brothers.

December 2007: “We have come through the current downturn very well positioned on a competitive basis.” — Erin Callan, the new CFO, Lehman Brothers.

June 2008: “We do not expect to use proceeds of this equity offering to further decrease leverage, but rather to take advantage of future market opportunities. Over all, we stand extremely well capitalized.” — Erin Callan.

September 2008: “We have materially reduced our residential mortgage exposure and marked our remaining holdings to levels that make future write-downs unlikely.” — Ian T. Lowitt, the new CFO, Lehman Brothers.

Sept. 15, 2008: Lehman Brothers declares bankruptcy.

It wasn’t what Lehman financial executives said that made a deep impression on investors. Rather it was: Why are they saying this? It’s only when a company gets in trouble that it need to reassure investors that it’s not in trouble.

Warren Buffett never issued a statement declaring that Berkshire Hathaway was “extremely well capitalized.”

Nice!  I never gave much thought to whether the existence of chunky soup meant that regular soup is thin and watery.  However, it does give some context to what I’ve experienced representing products at a retail store.  Customers are very confused by choice and often spec driven organizations market with regards to specs which leads to a whole bunch of box claims that consumers don’t understand, nor care about.  Often they  don’t understand why a product may cost $50 or $100 more than another because the value proposition isn’t clear or because the spec the engineers thought was important is not important to the customers.

I think on the whole, though, specific approaches, rather than holistic approaches may arise from the direction of product definition.  Like I said earlier, if product definition is driven from specs, then that lens will be applied to the marketing of the product.  I think, though, that if you start from the customer first and stay at the level with the advertising and marketing and let the developers handle the specs, then you may get a clearer message to the customer.  Then there’s the problem of the customer who thinks they know what the engineering specs should be and things just get all muddled, because in reality, all they care about is functionality and aesthetics.  Haha!!  Sometimes you just have to take customers along for the ride if they really insist on going.  I guess that’s what makes shows like “How it’s Made” so entertaining.   But I think it also takes a careful hand to guide customers to what’s really important to them, vs the nuts and bolts the engineering tasks — and I don’t mean shrouding development in mystery.   Sometimes, people just want to know how it works and they want to feel as though they have some control in the process.  I think though, when you take the approach of linking elements of development to outcome, then the conversation can be centered around the outcome and not the elements.  You can further this approach by linking the elements to costs so you have a transform to link cost to functionality.

Anyhow … it’s on my mind because I often struggled with the balance of specsmanship and design in my last job.  I always felt that product generation started with the customer expectations and those expectations drove definition which then became engineering targets.  Specifications were something that I separated into the world of manufacturing — you have targets from developments and you must meet certain “specifications,” which are based on the targets, to achieve functionality.  Development and spec setting where always separate to me.  I always felt that driving development from specs created “tunnel vision” — hahaha — and we’re back to holistic thinking 🙂   I’m starting to ramble so I’ll leave my thoughts on this here.


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