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March 11, 2008
Now, What's The Payoff?
 

The most unfortunate thing about marketing these days is that it works pretty well. Our analysis, working with IMI International (a very cool research firm), shows that only about 10% of marketing programs are true home runs. And approximately 40% are abysmal failures. This means 50% of marketing programs work ok. And for too many marketers (but evidently not CEOs or CFOs), ok is good enough. “The incentive to push into the top 10% is not as compelling as the disincentive to avoid the bottom 40%- so be satisfied in the middle 50%,” seems to be today’s marketing mantra.

In economics, loosely put, marketing is approaching its marginal cost, thus making the whole profession a commodity. It’s pretty hard to truly screw up and hurt your business, but it’s also really hard to move the business and the brand forward significantly. This naturally turns the marketing agenda to activities and not results, to outputs rather than outcomes.

Think about the struggle of today’s typical marketer: having to juggle creativity, internal misalignment and conflicting agendas, ROI, timeframe shifts, competitive threats real and perceived, channel shifts, and how to manage- promotions, advertising, digital, line extensions, packaging, loyalty programs, product placement, branded entertainment, video game placement, cause marketing efforts, experiential/events, sponsorships, direct/CRM efforts, partners, media mix, and consumer shifts in tastes and habits. Put all that into the marketing department blender and try to make sense of it! What you generally get is one-off marketing.

Of course there’s a better way. Instead of one-off, lets call it “pay-off marketing”. Where everything works to deliver an ROI. Where in-market success is defined prior to launch – eliminating activation/monies that are destined for failure! Where the activities all add up to something. Where a dollar spent delivers much more than a dollar earned. Where consumers are converted, not just rented. And where the brand performs well today and tomorrow. What does pay-off marketing look like?

Pay-off marketing is done by smart marketers who know how to ask two key questions: “So What?” and, “Now What?”

“So What?” is all about what the brand is all about. Am I relevant? Do people care? Should people care? The fundamental defining questions are: Who is your brand? What makes it different? And why should we care? It’s short hand for asking what business am I in? Think of it this way- are you relevant? If the response to “So What?” is just lukewarm, you’ve got to work on driving relevance and heightening importance (or examine your business to make sure you’re not becoming obsolete). The best way to be and stay relevant? Great product and/or service. And fostered by great marketing! Good marketing will communicate your relevance. Great marketing will increase it.

“Now What?” is all about getting the right behavior. We call it, ‘get out of your barkolounger, turn off the TV, grab your keys, get in the car, drive to the store, and buy buy buy’. Can you specifically answer what you want your consumers to do? Having an important and relevant story is necessary but no longer sufficient these days. People may be aware and may see the value of your brand proposition, but they need to be compelled to act. They may believe what you’re saying, so now what? Unfortunately, in today’s’ cluttered world (1334 TV stations, 1345 cable networks, 8929 radio stations, 9893 magazines, 72M websites, a growing collection of social networks to join and maintain, 248B coupons, countless registered brand names, and more retail space per citizen than anywhere in the world), awareness and relevance alone don’t necessarily lead to the right behavior.

The pay-off  version of marketing isn’t driven by coupons and price discounts. It’s driven by brand-centered ideas which are compelling, motivating. We say that great marketing pulls the behavioral trigger within the targeted consumers.

We know it begins with active and aggressive 'investigation' into the consumers' lives and habits and opinions. This isn’t easy because it requires extra time and effort. The outcome from a thorough investigation is always a better insight, and better insights lead to better ideas. Good ideas should then be tortured into greatness, and then screened by consumers. This entire approach to getting to “Now What?” takes a lot of doing, a lot of creativity, and a lot of discipline all at the same time. It takes a very deliberate process. What it does in the end is to ensure a positive ROI, a stronger pay-off.

How does one avoid one-off marketing and get a positive pay-off? By asking “So What?” and “Now What?” By not settling for one-off efforts. By having true insights. By pushing the ideas hard.


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Jim Holbrook began at Procter & Gamble by refusing to leave the lobby until they granted him an interview. (It took six trips, but he got the job.) In 1996, Jim joined agency Zipatoni as president/partner. The owners sold Zip to IPG in 2000, and now look back wistfully! In 2005, Jim was recruited to be CEO of EMAK Worldwide, a family of marketing agencies.

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