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So what is Marketing and why is it important for my product?

Good marketing finds the sweet spot at the junction of need gap and trend, creates a clever way to communicate it and chooses the right vehicles to do so consistently, at the right frequency and reach to ensure the (carefully identified and researched) target audience gets to hear the message, which resonates with them and motivates them to act.

There are tons of articles and blog discussing the “Top Ten” marketing/advertising campaigns of all time.  I just want to point out some of my favourite examples and explain why I think they are so good. What has impressed me generally about these particular efforts is the depth and/or breadth of the change in awareness that these campaigns illustrate.  A couple of them have contributed to making taboo subjects mainstream.

Some Examples:

Diamond Shreddies.  Shreddies, a whole-wheat cereal that looks like tiny squares of lattice, has been around in Canada since 1939 (it’s also available in the U.K. and New Zealand).  In 2007, a concept was tested – there was a production accident at the cereal factory which turned the Shreddie 45 degrees, and the little square was re-invented as “Diamond Shreddies”.  In 2008, the concept was rolled out across Canada.

The supporting campaign used the results of real-life focus groups, their reaction, confusion and comments to get people to look at something familiar that had been around for a long time, in a new way bringing interest and attention to the brand.

The trend:  Health concerns had people increasing looking for high fibre, low sugar and sodium content in their breakfast cereals.

The need gap:  People reconsidered a familiar and trusted cereal.

I admire this campaign but must admit I felt totally duped at the time, perhaps it was just envy.  Such a simple concept, with a great execution.  It was extremely effective in getting the brand an incredible amount of attention.  I guess you can reinvent the wheel!

Arm and Hammer Baking Soda.  Arm and Hammer began manufacturing and selling sodium bicarbonate in 1846.  Until the 70’s, baking soda was used primarily for baking and also in laundering.  As the convenience and availability of prepared food coincided with busy lifestyles and more women working outside the home, fewer people were baking and the sales were dropping.

In 1972, Arm and Hammer began promoting the product as a fridge deodorizer.  It was the exact same product, in the exact same box, but it had been re-purposed to keep the inside of your refrigerator smelling good.  The company then built a line of laundry products using baking soda as an ingredient and then continued on to find and promote alternative uses for the product:  carpet freshener, cat litter deodorizer, dental hygiene and household cleaner.

Trend:   Changing roles for women decreasing time available for baking and other traditional and time-consuming household tasks.

Need Gap: Increased need for convenience in cleaning, or prolonging the time between cleaning.

The incredible lesson here is the constant innovation in finding new ways to use the same product.  Each new use has been relevant, needed and practical.  I’m sure that consumer feedback was an important component in finding alternate used for baking soda, which highlights the need for dialogue and a strong relationship with your consumer.

The Optical Inch.  Philips, is a pretty conservative company in healthcare, lifestyle and lighting, headquartered in the Netherlands.  In recent years, men’s interest in personal care and grooming has increased.

Leveraging their expertise in shavers, Philips introduced a line of “body groomers” and coined a phrase embodying a powerful concept for their users and made it desirable to use the product, or a similar one.  The “Optical Inch” is the extra length that appears to result from “trimming your bonsai”, or “trimming the bush to make the tree look taller”.

The trend:   “Manscaping” which Cosmopolitan reports 95 % of the 1,000 men recently surveyed are doing.

The Need Gap:  The tools to do so – privately, painlessly and conveniently.

This campaign amazed me, because it found an emerging trend, and through humour and education along with a strong appeal to male pride, crafted a strong call to action.  I love the way humour was used  and I admire the creativity of coining the term “the optical inch”.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and in 2009, Gillette did something similar, telling men “When there’s no underbrush, the tree looks taller”.

Viagra.  Erectile dysfunction affects 30 million men in the U.S. according to The National Institutes of Health, but prior to 1998 and a little blue pill called Viagra, the general public was not aware of the condition – no one talked about it, not even to their doctor.

In 2006 two TV ads appeared on prime time.  One showed a man leaving his house, hopping, dancing and cavorting to the tune “Good Morning”.  In the other, an ecstatic man jumps out of his house and skips down the street to meet about 20 other equally happy men who bump chests and high-five to Queen’s “We Are the Champions”.

As pharmaceutical product advertising to the general public is very strictly governed, other than showing the very, very happy men, the only message was on the final screen which read “Talk to your doctor” and showed the famous blue diamond Viagra pill.

Trend: Continued virility (retaining youthfulness)

Need Gap:  Made the payout of the possible embarrassment of confessing this problem to your doctor well worth it.

I thought that this was an excellent campaign dealing with a subject that was pretty much unmentionable in private, and non-existent to a public who was not even aware there was a problem, especially as mentioned, in a highly regulated category with severe communications limitations.  Pfizer created a buzz around the TV creative which contributed to a focus in all media channels as people asked, and learned, what Viagra was and what condition it addressed.  Now everyone knows what the ubiquitous “little blue pill” is.

The Magic of Marketing

There are many more examples:  Avis; Nike; the “Got Milk” campaign. When it’s done right, marketing raises awareness and can actually change behaviour, even changing society.  Marlborough cigarettes helped make smoking filtered cigarettes manly – prior to the campaign only women smoked filtered cigarettes.  “Does she or doesn’t she?” put Clairol’s Nice’n Easy on the map and changed the statistics from 1 women in 15  who coloured her hair to 1 in 2, just 11 years later.

Many factors contribute to a successful marketing campaign.  Yes, all of these particular examples had big budgets and high-powered agencies working on the campaigns.  We do not necessarily need to aim so high.

The value in marketing is having a defined strategy to communicate a clear point of difference to the target consumer in a way that is meaningful and motivating to them, using the right vehicles to reach them.  Social Media is a big help in providing alternative vehicles. Cleverness and creativity never hurt, but these characteristics must support the strategy and not be independent, stand alone element.

I chose these particular examples because they illustrate the magic of Marketing.  When everything from concept to creative, through execution to placement comes together (and the moon and the stars are aligned).

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”  T.S. Elliot

Acknowledgements to HubSpot.com, Ralph “Ruck” Ruckman and thanks to my friends Alex and Lynda for added inspiration.