What Business Are You REALLY In?

What You Don’t Make

I’ve seen some really great television ads recently that have connected with me emotionally and tugged abruptly at my marketing response strings. That is saying a lot considering the average commercial is typically only between 15 and 60 seconds long; not much time to blast someone full of marketing. Now I understand television ads cost a boatload in terms of agency fees, space costs, production, editing, direction, etc.—so they should all be somewhat exceptional I suppose—but, rarely does a TV commercial solicit a response from yours truly, the cynical marketing guy for obvious reasons; perhaps I’m always looking to be sold. I know. I should be more forgiving. Up to 60 seconds to establish a brand, deliver a key message, solicit a response and leave the viewer wanting more, is a lot to ask from even the best ad agency director (Don Draper, I’m talking to you). It’s easy enough to be distracted for 15 – 60 seconds let alone pay a commercial complete attention and then be able to recall it and have to respond. But, I have to say they’re getting better. Here are a couple of examples that come to mind:

  • Example 1: Quaker Oats. The commercial starts out with a hand petting oats in a sunny field. The voiceover goes something like, “We don’t use the best oats just to make great cereal…” The visual then segments off into various scenes of schoolboy eating breakfast happily starting his day with vigor, some healthy activities from adults commuting and kicking work-butt, etc. “We make a healthy start to your day…” the commercial waxes on. Brilliant! In checking out the Quaker Oats site, it’s clear they are in the “healthy living” business. They even have a section for healthcare professionals in case you’re not convinced. Not only does the “healthy living” business sound so much better than the “breakfast bar, snack, rice cake, other product business,” but it’s so much more compelling, competitively positioned and defendable! “Living Well: Unleash the Power of Quaker Oats” – cool stuff. I now eat my Quaker oatmeal more proudly every day and will probably not switch to another healthy living alternative for quite some time.
  • Example 2: BMW. BMW’s new television commercial starts out with slow-mo scenes of their automobile models drifting through snow, wind, rain and roads. Usually they’re going fast but the visual is meant to suck you in and plop yourself right into the driver’s seat. The voiceover here goes something like “We don’t make SUV’s, or sports cars…” and then the tagline and logo appears. “We make the Ultimate Driving Machine.” Yes! Of course they do. That has been their tagline forever now that I think about it. And, it applies to everything they do. Heck, a BMW golf cart or lawnmower would be that cool and expected with just that tagline. Pretty powerful to lay your claim to the automobile world as “the” Ultimate Driving Machine. Must be hard to compete with that. BMW has established it as the business they are in, and likely plan to occupy that position in the market competitively for many years to come.

In both examples above it is clear that each brand knows what business they are in, even though their products might seem more obvious or mundane (cars and cereal). They use their competitive advantages and unique differentiators to promote the benefits they deliver to customers. That concept has been carefully distilled down into a few words so it’s clear, obvious and memorable to the customer—and this translates into sales. Furthermore, each commercial blatantly dismisses what they don’t do and what business you might think they’re in which they say they are not. They eliminate the unpopularity of being simply just another car or cereal company. The TV ads just further drive that home with imagery, music and spoken words. The result stimulates, excites and motivates. Very powerful stuff—especially if you thought BMW made cars and Quaker Oats made cereal.

Your Business

So what business are you really in? When you think it through as exemplified above, it’s not that easy of an answer. Renowned founding father of modern marketing, Theodore Levitt, may help you find the answer with the following:

“…Let us start at the beginning: the customer. It can be shown that motorists strongly dislike the bother, delay, and experience of buying gasoline. People actually do not buy gasoline. They cannot see it, taste it, feel it, appreciate it, or really test it. What they buy is the right to continue driving their cars. The gas station is like a tax collector to whom people are compelled to pay a periodic toll as the price of using their cars. This makes the gas station a basically unpopular institution. It can never be made popular or pleasant, only less unpopular, less unpleasant.

Reducing its unpopularity completely means eliminating it. Nobody likes a tax collector, not even a pleasantly cheerful one…

In order to produce these customers, the entire corporation must be viewed as a customer-creating and customer-satisfying organism. Management must think of itself not as producing products but as providing customer-creating value satisfactions. It must push this idea (and everything it means and requires) into every nook and cranny of the organization. It has to do this continuously and with the kind of flair that excites and stimulates the people in it. Otherwise, the company will be merely a series of pigeonholed parts, with no consolidating sense of purpose or direction.” (Harvard Business Review, October, 2006)

You (Your Customers’) Decide

So which will it be: The automobile business or the ultimate driving machine business? The cereal/breakfast far/snack business or the healthy living business? The choice is yours—or, to put it more importantly, the choice is all your customers’! You decide.

About the Author

Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Florida and New York since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and teaches Marketing at New York University where he has for over six years. He has been quoted and/or featured in USA Today, Mobile Marketer magazine, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Marketing magazine, BNET TV and Business Currents magazine, to name a few. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom  (abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom)  , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com, call him at 239.963.9396 and follow him on Twitter @angbiasi.

This entry was posted in Branding, Marketing Planning, Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Bookmark the permalink.