Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

What you CAN do isn't always what you SHOULD do

Summary:    Marketing today isn’t just about initiating an email blast to your database, texting them, “tweeting” them or creating a really cool mobile app.  While those are tactics that CAN be used, they need to fit within a strategic plan that drives sales.  Successful marketers need to keep a keen eye on all the possibilities presented by things they CAN do with new revolutions in technology, media and hardware, and then they can integrate it if it makes sense into the plan of what they SHOULD do.  The fundamental strategies of marketing…the SHOULD Do’s….haven’t changed.  The ways we CAN execute them have.

In 2008, Taco Bell created the most incredible website I’ve ever seen in conjunction with Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition.  It allowed you to be a virtual Sports Illustrated swimsuit photographer with supermodel Daniella Sarahyba.  You could virtually move around with a camera and click photos of Daniella, then print them out on your home printer.   All the while, Daniella was chatting with you, just as if you were there.  Awesome!  Fun!  Sticky?  Absolutely.  I played virtual photographer about twenty times.  But did it make me go to Taco Bell to buy my lunch?  No it didn’t.  Did it positively affect my brand image of Taco Bell?  No again. 

American Idol made SMS text-voting the vogue, and it makes perfect sense for that program to use texting as their platform.  But does it make sense for Ford Motor Company to send you text messages to try and sell you a car?  No.  Does it make sense for Ford to rip off the Daniella technology to create virtual test drives on the web?  Absolutely!  Should a sports team offer real-time score and team news / injury updates via SMS text to their fans?  Yes.  Do you want your local grocery store sending you text messages promoting their sale this week on Fruit Loops?  Probably not.  But would you like to go to your grocer’s website and note the products you would like to get text alerts for if they come on sale?  You might!   

Barack Obama embraced SMS texting in his successful campaign for U.S. President, having voters register their cell phone numbers in order to get the first word on his selection of Joe Biden for Vice President.  Over 10 million Americans signed up – primarily young voters, who historically have been hard-to-reach for politicians through traditional media channels -- which gave Barack a platform of 10 million voters with whom he could then communicate directly in the two months leading up to the election.  Here are just a few examples of things the Obama campaign did with these phone numbers:
  Raised funds by asking for donations

  Conducted surveys (e.g. are you registered to vote yet? what zip code are you in?)

  On a state-by-state basis, sent reminder messages about the cutoff dates for voter registration and links to registration forms

  On a state-by-state basis, told people to mail in their ballots to vote absentee

  Invited people to campaign events in their area code

  Reminded people to get out and vote on Election Day

  Promoted other Democratic party candidates on a zipcode-by-zipcode basis

President Obama is still embracing text messaging in his presidency, soliciting new sign ups on the White House home page, building an ever-growing network of voters with whom he can directly communicate.  He’s also embracing YouTube as a means of posting his weekly “chat” with Americans, a great way to give unfiltered information to the public, and a very smart way to use the tools of the technology revolution effectively.

What you CAN do and what you SHOULD do in a marketing campaign, is very different. Too often young marketing managers get caught up in the CAN do – what CAN we do with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, SMS Texting, Plaxo, Linkdin, email marketing, mobile apps, widgets, RSS feeds or building micro-sites -- because it seems more exciting, cutting edge, and innovative to hurl themselves into this world of evolving technology.  Doing the SHOULD do’s – brand positioning, websites, packaging, traditional advertising, point-of-sale materials -- seem old-school and boring.  The truth lies in between. 

Eric D Schulz

Eric D Schulz is Sr. Lecturer and Co-Director of Strategic Marketing & Brand Management at the Jon M Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. He is a brand marketing expert and the author of “The Marketing Game, How The World’s Best Companies Play to Win”, with sales of over 250,000 copies worldwide. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.

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