The Power Of Simplicity

The AdTech conference starts Monday in New York, and I’ll be there for you.

Before I go, however, it’s a good time to review the essence of good marketing by looking at two books. Both are well written and informative, but only one carries the lessons of great marketing.

Let’s start with the “failure.” That would be “Now or Never,” by Mary Modahl of Forrester Research. As I said, it’s well written, it has nice charts, and it tells an important story, namely how large companies have to change to win the fight for Internet consumers.

Essentially the book summarizes Forrester’s own research results, so it’s an important branding tool for the company, but what’s the message? You have to change. Well, like, Duh! But what’s the message? “The Internet changes many of the rules of doing business – and this book will look carefully at those changes,” says the overview. Yes, but what’s the message?

My point is there is no simple, clear point that gets across what Modahl is trying to say. There’s no branding, and thus no story, even though the book is about branding, marketing, the Internet, and all sorts of really good stuff.

Now let’s look at the “success.” That would be “The One to One Manager,” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers. Peppers and Rogers are management consultants, and “one to one” summarizes (or brands) their advice. Stop mass marketing and start marketing separately to each customer, they write, and in this book they give examples from the real world. (It’s their fourth effort together.)

The message of Peppers and Rogers is no less obvious than that of Modahl, but they tell you what it is. Customer Relationship Management (the concept has become an industry) requires technology to give data to line people so the whole company has a continuing, learning relationship with you, whether you come in by phone, on foot or via modem. Making it work requires changes in operations, not just in technology and marketing. They outline the changes.

You can argue with some of their selected “success stories.” First Union’s TV ads, while beautiful in their way, describe an impersonal world ruled (at the end) by a big building, the opposite of the Peppers and Rogers gospel of personalization. Levi Strauss & Co. has not succeeded in turning the clothing market in its direction, despite its efforts to internalize the Peppers and Rogers gospel into its operations.

But that’s really OK, because the promise of the brand is sound, and you’re not supposed to get all of it. You’re supposed to nod your head, then go to its consulting firm and have it help you make this work. The book isn’t a lesson plan, in other words, but a marketing vehicle, and a very successful vehicle at that.

In the best marketing, the promise meets the reality. The promise is simply and consistently stated across all media. Summarize what you’re about in one very short sentence then get that sentence across to the world in all your communications. That’s the essence of good marketing.

At AdTech next week, we’ll see who has been paying attention.

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