The King and Queen of Marketing Strategy

If media strategies are the queen bee, then messaging strategies must be king.

Your advertising or marketing campaign probably has many components, from television spots and print ads to search engine optimization and online display ads. Maybe direct mail? Trade or consumer shows? Mobile marketing? Take ones? Tried and true bill inserts? Regardless of your media mix, all of it probably works to one extent or another.

But as we become enamored by new marketing and research technologies that are often digitally driven, let’s not forget perhaps the most important ingredient in this recipe for sales success: a forceful, motivating product message targeting the person who benefits most. Don’t let the functions of the latest digital toy lure you away from basic marketing principles.

There are many keys to marketing success, say, timing, for example. Offering your product to a customer precisely when he perceives a need for what you offer dramatically increases sales. How about your channel plan? Are you talking with customers through communications channels they trust in order to lower barriers to acceptance of your pitch?

But the best media plan and timing do not make up for a message that is off key to the ear of the audience. Although it’s a bit simplistic, I like to group messages into four categories that I believe can be labeled great, good, poor, and tiebreakers

Great: Compelling Benefits Messages 

Examples would be such benefit-focused messages as:

• Healthcare service that “makes you feel better” so you enjoy life more

• A soft drink that “refreshes you” so you can keep working or playing

• A great price that “reduces your grocery budget” so you can take a vacation

• A convenient delivery method that “saves you time in a busy schedule” to let you spend quality moments with your children

• Great brakes on a car that “protects your family”

Good: Brand Affinity Messages

An example might be to hear that the Louisville Slugger bat you loved as a kid is the official bat of Major League Baseball®. When you sign up for the church softball team and need a new glove, then you might think you may as well buy the Louisville Slugger glove, too, since you don’t really know which brand has the best glove anyway.

Poor: Features Messages

Inexperience often leads to well-intentioned but less-effective advertising. While the ads may talk about important features, they fail to connect with the customer at a gut level by delivering a strong and compelling benefit. In selling a car, for example, you might list these features:

• Six-disk CD (instead of saying the sound system will make you feel like a teenager again and impress your friends)

• 4-wheel drive (instead of saying you can get deep into the woods to find that perfect fishing spot on a place in the stream no one else knows about)

• 20 cubic feet of trunk space (instead of saying when you pack for vacation you can take all the kids’ toys, the baby crib, and still have enough room for the scuba tanks you never get to use any more)

Tiebreakers: Green or Corporate Donation Messages

We’ve spotted a clear trend in our consumer research for where what I call “green and giving” messages rank. These are messages about how your company has reduced it carbon footprint, or how it eliminates paper waste or recycles. It could be messages about how you are a top-level corporate sponsor for favored charities. In a difficult economy, unfortunately, these messages move down the priority list, though they remain high sometimes for targeted groups of individuals who place these human values for specific causes high on their scale of what is important in life. Importantly, these messages might provide a tiebreaker when price, value, quality, selection, availability, brand affinity, and other factors in a decision leave the buyer puzzled and uncertain.

Your community spirit and generosity can be a tiebreaker. Yet, these messages are not usually the best way to burn up your ad budget. Rather, we suggest delivering them through public relations channels. For example, work with your favorite charities to be sure they get good publicity and your leadership role with them is mentioned. Or include your “green” messages on your website by devoting a special section to your corporate values that make the environment a priority. Perhaps you can publish a “community involvement” annual report for key audiences to know how you support the community.

In summary, yes, you should be rushing toward digital marketing. It is not simply an option, but is the part of the new order of the marketing universe. But please do not forget that nothing is more important than a compelling product message. Make sure you start your marketing and advertising planning by articulating what that message should be for specific individuals.

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