Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Charlotte's Web: A Lesson in Branding

I recently shared a wonderful Saturday afternoon with my five-year-old daughter, Chloe. We went to see Charlotte's Web on the big screen at our local movie theater.

Like most of you, I already knew the story, having read the book by E.B. White many years prior. Still, it was so nice to share the story and the experience with my daughter.

But that's not where this story ends.

As the movie unfolds, Charlotte (the spider) and her barnyard accomplices embark upon a campaign of spiderweb words to promote the astonishing exploites of their remarkable friend, Wilbur the pig. The first word phrase: "Some pig." Good billing for Wilbur: the locals are buying the claim.

Then comes the next word: "Terrific." A bit more bold, this time, but the pig owns up to this billing and the ever growing throng of spectators deems him worthy of the adjective.

Each time Charlotte spins a new word on her very visible spiderweb, the townspeople become more enamored with the multi-talented pig. As the movie builds to its climax, Charlotte and her cohort, Templeton the mouse, are searching for a word ... just the right word ... to describe Wilbur in a way that proves him worthy of blue ribbons (not to mention keeping him off the farmer's Christmas menu). As Templeton sets out on his final word hunt, Charlotte instructs him: "It has to be just the right kind of word, Templeton. It won't work if they don't believe it."

The fictional spider's advice is pertinent to all marketing professionals and brand stewards, too. Whatever marketing we do, be it a new ad campaign or a new positioning statement, it will not work if our audience does not believe it. In its oversimplified manner, the movie provides a fitting commentary about brand essence. All brands must remain true to their essence, especially as they are evolving. One cannot advance a brand too far, too fast, or in too radical of a direction. To do so certainly means to fall flat on one's face. Perception is reality. That's the first law of marketing. Thus, the brand can be advanced only as far as the audience will allow, through its collective perception.

To put it into Charltotte's spider speak: "The campaign won't work if it defies the brand's essence." (Well ... that's my translation, anyway.)

The marketing genius knows this all to well and clearly understands such constructive limitations.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mall Marketing Well Done

A friend told me about this today, and the story immediately made me want to share it with fellow marketing geniuses across the blogosphere. It's a great example of effective, low-cost direct marketing. It is also a case of "making lemonade out of lemons."

Here in Charleston, our mall has been battling some negative publicity lately about thievery, break-ins and vandalism that has taken place inside their parking garages. To combat this they have stepped up security patrolling on site. The trouble is: no one sees the patrols most of the time. Moreover, no one notices when nothing happens. We do not notice when crime does not occur.

The mall management company decided to place handbills on the windshields of the cars of mall shoppers. Not every car ... just enough to be noticeable. The handbills said: "The safety of your vehicle has just been ensured by the fine efforts of one of our diligent security officers." This is a smart way to offset the negative publicity related to the recent incidents. It sends a clear signal (to those who most need to see it) that the mall is addressing the matter.

What is even better is the next part. The management company was smart in deciding to print a coupon on the back of the handbill. The coupon gave the customer a $1.00 discount on a sandwich from one of the food vendors in the mall. Now that's doubling the goodwill ... doubling the effectiveness of the marketing tactic.

Kudos to the marketing geniuses at the mall! They've earned a celebratory lemonade.