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.

Friday, July 30, 2004


The debate between Larry Light (McDonald's) and Jack Trout (Positioning Legend) is one that can generate some good old fashion marketing dialog and debate.

McDonald's has seen some success recently. Larry Light, Executive Vice President - Global Chief Marketing Officer for McDonald's has attributed it to his 'Brand Chronicle' theory.

Basically, conveying the idea that McDonald's will be everything to everybody.

When doing this, he downplayed the idea of Positioning, which resulted in a response by Jack Trout in Ad Age stating that the perfect marketing and positioning statement for McDonald's was sitting right under the golden arches: " The world's favorite place to eat."

So, who's right? Well, let's consider the state of the burger industry. Trout points out Burger King just closed hundreds of locations throughout the country. Where'd those burger eaters go?

Probably to McDonald's.

When your competition pulls out, you are likely to pick up business. It's just how it works.

I remember in 1993 or so, picking up Ad Age and reading that Branding was dead. In the following weeks, the industry went crazy and the revitalization of the phrase grew and grew and is now more than ever a staple term for our industry.

Positioning is a theory that plays off of our brain's capacity to only hold and recognize a certain amount of information.

I'm going to go out on a limb. Jack Trout is correct, if McDonald's keeps trying to attract young, hip folk into their establishments with a clown and a playground on site - I can't see how they can make it cool.

The place doesn't match the marketing I'm seeing. Which is another problem. I am nothing like the people I see in the marketing for McDonald's - so why am I seeing it. It's in the wrong place. I'm 34, married with three children looking at twentysomethings taking off their shirts?!?

Call it whatever you want: Branding, Positioning, Brand Chronicles.

Products must mean something, or they mean nothing. Each person will have a different relationship with your product, but you cannot control it.

Back in the 1950's Rosser Reeves continually showed that some advertising reduced sales (let's see what happens next quarter). You might say to me that "it's not the 1950's." To that I would say, people's brains still work the same.

I truly believe that if a company other than McDonald's followed their lead and diversified their key selling message/proposition, the results would be declining sales, customer disconnect, lower traffic - unless its competitors decide to close up shop and customers had fewer choices.

We'll see, but for now, I'm on Jack Trout's side.

The 2nd Law of Marketing

The 2nd law of marketing is the same as the 2nd law of finance: Do not put all of your eggs in one basket. You wouldn’t place your life’s savings into one stock or mutual fund would you? Of course you wouldn’t.

Many companies that we meet place all of of their marketing investment in one basket, unfortunately. Some rely solely on newspaper advertising. Some rely on radio advertising alone. Still others are solely banking on direct mail, such as coupons or flyers. Marketing plans that rely upon only one tactic are fatally flawed.

"Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have." (Emile Chartier)

The smart strategy is to diversify your marketing. In fact, so much of marketing involves resource allocation, which done wisely is based on research and strategic planning. Face it; your customers view a wide variety of media. They read, surf the Internet, watch TV, listen to radio, see billboards, get mail and attend events. Which of these channels make the most sense for you in terms of where your customers invest their time and attention? Which channels can you afford? Remember, there is not one right answer, despite what many of our friends in media sales might tell you.

The answer is a diversified marketing plan. We’ll help you figure it out. So, do you have all your eggs in one basket?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Attribution Error in Marketing

One of my favorite clients was discussing a prospective radio campaign with me today. She said, "Well, as the parent of a teenager, I listen to public radio. So most parents of teens probably listen to public radio, too. That's where we need to advertise."

Whoa. Not!

First, I need to tell you that this is one SMART business woman. Far from lacking intelligence, she was simply thinking like a human thinks ... Judging the world the way humans do.

We tend to think that the rest of the world looks, feels and behaves like we do. It's an attribution error. And all of us are guilty of making the attribution error periodically. We attribute reasons or causes to things, without any real basis.

The truth of the matter is that this woman is drastically different from most of the audience that she's hoping to reach. She's smarter, wealthier, younger, more highly educated, etc. Therefore, there's no reason to believe that other parents of teens share her radio-listening habits.

We tend to think that the rest of the world is like us. That's human nature, to be sure. Just don't make any marketing or business decisions upon such basis.

Find out what your audience (or your target market segment) actually looks like. Do the research. Get the facts. Determine the demographics. Study the psychographics. Analyze potential media with respect to ability to reach such listeners, viewers or readers. Then ... And only then ... Are you in a solid position to make a good decision.

As it turns out... That audience she was looking to reach ...

listens to Country Music!



Monday, July 19, 2004

How Much to Budget for Marketing?

We face this question almost on a daily basis: "How much should I spend on marketing?"
Answers to this question tend to be vague and elusive. Further, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer or forumula. Nonetheless, I'll take a stab at an answer, since the question is so common.
I'd like to begin by re-framing the question as follows: "How much should you invest in your marketing program?" Then, I would follow with "How much do you want to grow?"
In a survey published by the American Marketing Association, those companies whose mode of selling is primarily business-to-business spent an average of 3.49% of total revenues on marketing. The AMA defines marketing as direct-selling expenses, marketing communications, marketing support, market research and telemarketing. AMA also found that the smallest companies spent more than the average.
Over the years, the Inc. 500 average for marketing budgets has hovered around 10%.
Additional detailed analysis is presented in the following table:
Pctg. of Inc. 500 companies              Pctg. of Revenues
3%                                                                              Less than 1%
43%                                                                            1% to 5%
25%                                                                            6% to 10%
18%                                                                            11% to 20%
9%                                                                              21% to 50%
1%                                                                              More than 50%
We generally recommend that clients invest 5% of total revenues in marketing. However, if the campaign supports the launch of a new company or a new product/service, we recommend a marketing budget of 7.5% for the first year.
As an example, let's say your company has been in business for several years. Last year you recorded $1.5 million in total revenues. Your marketing budget should be at least $75,000 (five percent of $1.5M).
It's not a perfect benchmark, but it's a reasonable starting point. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Word of Mouse

Ran across a new term today - Word of Mouse. I like it. It's catchy and descriptive.

The term refers to the practice of referral communications spreading between customers or prospects. However, the communication medium is e-mail, instead of face-to-face conversation.

So, what are you doing to cause Word of Mouse to help promote your company or your product/service?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

What's your marketing idea worth?

Heard the story about the carpenter that charged twenty-five cents for a nail and $500 for knowing where to put the nail so that it stopped a floor board from creaking?

Where is the true value in this situation?

Oftentimes, we hear about the rates of media being expensive or the price of a marketing plan being high without consideration of the size of the audience delivered, the possibility that the media would be five times more effective at reaching a target market or that the marketing plan, if implemented, would drive revenues through the roof.

Just take a moment and look for the value, the return, the true benefit you will receive if you just hear the entire story.

Look for the value when you you hire the expensive carpenter who knows where to put the nail.

Demand the value when you hire a marketing firm that can help your company reach another level of success by implementing a killer strategy.

The link I've provided is another way to look at it:

My name is not Stephen!!!

Today I opened my e-mail and what appeared?

Thirty e-mails to Stephen Malinoski trying to get me to look at a property in Florence, refinance my mortgage, etc, etc...

Give me a break. I'm afraid to respond in any way, the number of e-mails might increase if they know I'm actually an active address.

If somehow the folks that are sending that stuff to me read this, please take me off your list!

Grumble, grumble, mumble, mumble.