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football helmetYou’d think because my profession is marketing that the Super Bowl would be my favorite time of the year. That’s not exactly the case.

While it is always interesting to see how these organizations develop huge productions that do indeed grab the eye, may entertain, and may have us buzzing about some of them around the water cooler Monday morning, that does NOT mean that what we’re seeing is good marketing.  Good marketing gets RESULTS, and don’t let the experts in advertising who tell you that getting people “buzzing” about the brand is good because it generates favorable associations to the brand. If you love the commercial you’ll love the product, they argue, so much so that you might be willing to buzz about it. However, all that buzz is just a means to an end.

The commercial should be part of an overall strategy that will ultimately pay for itself. And it had better pay for itself! A 30 second Super Bowl spot costs $3.7 million bucks these days. That’s a lot of dough to spend on on spots that are fun, clever, humorous, warm and fuzzy, whatever, an we’re supposed to believe that if we all chatter about them afterward they represent “good marketing.” If we’re still “buzzing” about some of these commercials after they originally air is noteworthy, but that’s not the ultimate measure of their success.

My friends, it’s only good marketing if it gets results, and typically the result we’re after is sales. Good marketing is an investment that will yield a return. Good marketing pays for itself many times over.  Good marketing sells product! When the impact of these ads moves from water cooler chatter to the bottom line, then they’re worth celebrating.

Explore this on your own. As you’re watching this year’s commercials, ask yourself these questions:

1. Who is the target market for this message? (And is this ad really reaching them?)

2. Will this message ultimately help sell product?

For as the legendary marketer David Ogilvy once said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

With that in mind, the AMAOKC has its annual Superbowl Showdown coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m eager to hear what this year’s panel has to say about 2013’s Super Bowl commercial offerings.

 

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tic tac toeIt’s that time of year. The execs are sitting around the board room getting fidgity, wondering if they should overhaul their current strategic plan or scrap it altogether. Or maybe just tweak it a little, since they haven’t tweaked anything in a while.

Truthfully, and practically, their energy could probably be better spent on other endeavors.

I like to suggest to anyone who’ll listen that there is one simple aspect of a strategy that should be considered before doing anything -  If the current strategy is working, it may be better left alone. If the strategy is getting RESULTS, then changing it might be foolhardy. Or unnecessary. Or irresponsible. Or just downright stupid.

Thinking about changing a strategy is a good idea. In fact, CONSTANTLY thinking about changing a strategy is a necessity and is the role of the leader. But a really good leader knows a strategy should be changed only when it stops performing. You can read more about why I say this here.

So…

1. THINK about changing a strategy CONSTANTLY.

2. CHANGE a strategy only when it stops consistently performing or yielding desirable RESULTS.

As someone once said, “Don’t be afraid of going slowly, only be afraid of standing still.”

 

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sunglasses - wayfarerFinally! Finally, finally, finally, I get the chance to be cool again like I was for approximately 32 minutes way back in 1987.

Back in the day (as you young people are fond of saying), I had a flight jacket, a Coca-Cola shirt, and, of course, a pair of Wayfarer shades to top it all off! I also owned a pair of Bugle Boy jeans but that’s a part of my life I’d really rather not admit to publicly, so I’ll keep that to myself.

Wayfarers were trendy back in the 1950s and 60s, and had been brought back into style by a brash youngster named Bruce Willis on a show called Moonlighting. Or it may have been Max Headroom. Or it may have been Don Johnson on Miami Vice. Well, anyway, they were indeed, as we used to say back in the 80s, way cool! And I owned several pair during those glorious days.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate…I still own several pair and I’ve been waiting all these years for the chance to get to wear them again. As these things often go, they went out of style but are working their way back into style, and this time, I’m ready!

This is an example of how the Product Life Cycle (PLC) can work. The traditional way we’re taught the product life cycle is that a product (and recall, a product can be a good, service or idea) goes through four stages: Introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. In the absolute long run, this is true.  A product goes through a definite introductory period and will inevitably decline. But the product life cycle may not be an a neat, smooth, entirely linear, normal curve. Chances are it’ll be a lot bumpier, full of ups and downs, peaks and valleys. A product’s life cycle may be a thousand years or it may be 15 minutes. A product may look like it’s going to be the new industry standard, and it may fizzle just as fast. Or a product may look like it’s dead and buried, only to be resurrected later on. So the hard part is in knowing at exactly what stage a product is in the life cycle without the benefit of hindsight. But just knowing the stages exist and their characteristics can be a very useful tool in making strategic decisions.

There is no security in life. Only opportunity.” – Douglas MacArthur

 

 

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In 2007 we went all out for Christmas and bought a flat screen TV. My wife and I were so proud as we put it above the mantle so it could be the centerpiece of the room. In the summer of 2004 we had looked at plasma televisions that started around $3000 or so, so when the opportunity to own a comparable entertainment solution for only around $1400 came available, we were thrilled. Of course, to protect this great techno-treasure I spent an additional $250 at Circuit City and got the service plan that would cover any problems that might arise. An investment like that deserved to be protected, after all.

It’s bad enough that you’re probably laughing yourself out of your chair about now, so I’d rather you not send me any sales circulars that showcase much better flat screens you can buy today for around $500. I am well aware of that, thank you. Go ahead and giggle. When I die I plan to have this thing bronzed and to have it buried with me. I may even get the last laugh by making you a pallbearer!

Though it does pain me a little to think about that particular transaction, it’s actually a superb testament to the great abundance we all enjoy as part of the free market economy. As Warren Buffett once said, the average American today has it better than the Rockefellers, the richest family in the world, had in their time. When we think about how much it costs to live these days, we should probably turn right around and ask ourselves, “compared to what?” In 1960, a black and white television cost close to $1000! The sticker price of cars is higher today but look at all the features that now come standard that were expensive options years ago, if they even existed! Cars are safer to drive, less expensive to maintain, and even the most basic models should give you 100,000 miles without much worry. If you have a smartphone, you quite literally have in the palm of your hand many times more computing power than the space program owned when it made the unprecedented achievement of putting the first astronauts on the moon in 1969.

Granted, there are some items whose ticket prices cause us to complain and yearn for an alternative, and in the free market system we’ll typically get one before too long in most categories. And the delivery of that new solution will create jobs and deliver value for those who purchase it. Capitalism sure isn’t perfect, but it deserves more credit than it gets sometimes, too. It’s truly a matter of value for value!

So the next time you spend, think about all you’re really getting in return!

A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

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Businesses ultimately go through basically 4 stages: Startup, survival, success, and sell-off.

A smart entrepreneur will recognize from the very beginning that beginning with the end in mind  is a good idea. Even if the entrepreneur loves running the business, even if the entrepreneur remains healthy enough to run the business throughout his or her entire life and “dies happy” while running it, it’s a good idea for him or her to think about how the business can function without him or her.  This is where the exit strategy comes in. And this is where thinking like a franchise, long before you part ways with your business, can make your enterprise much more valuable.

One of the reasons franchises are so successful is that they are easily replicable (or if you prefer the $3 MBA term – “Scalable”). For a business to grow, it has to be replicable, and the more easily replicable it is,  the more valuable it is because it’s that much easier for a new owner to purchase and quickly derive profits from it! Systematization is the friend of the entrepreneur if the entrepreneur will only embrace that friendship!

Thinking like a franchise, thinking of the business as something to be replicated as many times over as desired, from day one in putting the business together is a good idea. It’ll help the entrepreneur grow it (survival, success), and will help the entrepreneur more easily find a buyer (sell-off).

Begin with the end in mind” – Dr. Steven R. Covey

 

 

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