Villing & Company

Resolutions are great, but don't forget the fundamentals

As I write this, we are halfway into the first month of the new year.  And, amazingly, about a month away from baseball spring training.

A new year is all about fresh starts and new ideas and attitudes.  Spring training is based on remembering how to execute the fundamentals.  I believe both are timely themes for marketing professionals as well.

Marketing, like many professions, is changing at the speed of an Aroldis Chapman fastball.  One has to be aware of all the latest marketing marvels and, if relevant, consider how being early adapters may help us win out over our competitors.

That’s all well and good.  But chasing bright and shiny new ideas should never come at the expense of remembering the tried and true.  So just as spring training is about fine-tuning the fundamentals, this may be a good time to get back to the basics of smart marketing.  In that spirit, I offer these reminders of five immutable laws of effective marketing communications.

  1. Empathy

    It is human nature to assume that everyone else has the same worldview as we do.  Early in my career, I had a client who insisted we base our TV media buying plans on shows he liked.  Of course, that is a recipe for disaster – especially if the customer profile is substantially different than our own.  In addition to the obvious demographic differences (gender, age, income, etc.), lifestyle differences are a major factor in purchase decision-making.  So the most important commandment in all of marketing is “Know Thy Customer.”  My advice is simple.  Do whatever it takes to make sure your knowledge of your customer base is current, relevant and free of personal bias.

  2. Emotions matter

    I don’t know if it qualifies as human nature, but as a species I believe we also tend to think buying decisions are made based on hard, cold facts.  Yet research has proven time and again, the opposite is true.  As often as not, purchases are based on emotional reactions.  Yes, we’re influenced by features and facts, but at the end of the day, we make decisions based on emotional benefits.

  3. Less is more (more or less)

    Estimates vary substantially about the number of branded or promotional messages the average consumer sees every day.  These projections range from 500 up to 5,000 or more.  Regardless, it’s a lot of information competing for our attention.  And even if every message were the ideal combination of memorability and simplicity, we couldn’t begin to process all the information marketers bombard us with daily.  Unfortunately, many of these messages are unduly cluttered and complex, making retention all the more challenging.  So we would all be advised to follow the KISS concept.  One strong photo or image is better than multiple smaller ones.  And the number of words should be just enough to make your primary point.  No more.  No less.  That takes relentless discipline and willingness to self-edit, but the results are worth the extra effort.

  4. A solid strategy trumps tons of tactics

    Despite our reputation to the contrary, marketers are actually quite risk-adverse. We are often tempted to throw a bunch of tactics at the wall and hope something will stick.  But isn’t that really just a way of hedging one’s bet?  Trying new and different approaches is fine and often commendable and experimentation based on a sound strategy is a worthwhile endeavor.  Unbridled experimentation is not.

  5. Creativity and success are not mutually exclusive.

    Years ago, a prominent agency ran a campaign based on the theme, “It’s not creative unless it sells.”  And to this day, there are those who are cynical about creative approaches to marketing communications.  To be sure, creativity should never be an end unto itself.  But I would submit, there is an important corollary to that agency “it’s not creative” premise.  I believe creativity is essential to effective marketing.  As noted above, the average consumer is inundated with commercial messages. Which ones will stand out and command attention?  The ones that are presented in a unique and compelling way.  And to me, that is the essence of creativity – and smart marketing.

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Villing & Company

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