A well-informed employee is the best salesperson a company can have. E. J. Thomas

Penetration

Penetration is often short for market penetration, and refers to the extent that individuals or organizations in a particular market have already purchased a brand, and/or the degree to which a product or service is known among potential buyers. This is a growth strategy in which a company concentrates efforts in its target market in order to increase market share or enhance its competitive advantage. Market share increase can be accomplished by attracting buyers of competitive brands; persuading current customers to buy more; offering an improved or revised product; and/or by attracting consumers who don’t currently buy in the product category.

One-to-one Marketing

Often called personalized marketing, this is when a company tries to make a unique product offering to each potential buyer. It is most practical on the internet because a website can track a customer’s preferences and offer buying suggestions. For example, Amazon tracks individual customer histories and inclinations and makes specific, customized product suggestions.

Opportunity Model

An opportunity model collects and studies past and present information in order to identify trends, forces, and conditions to help management choose appropriate strategies to meet company goals. The Interbrand Brand Opportunity Model employs a construct of differentiation, credibility, relevance, and stretch to determine the unique positioning for a brand.

Naming

This is the practice of developing brand names for corporations, products, and services. Most often, the objective of naming is to develop ownable trademarks and trade names that express a brand’s promise and provide an easy way for consumers to identify and interact with it. Brand names are valuable economic assets and should be carefully created and protected by their owners.

News Releases

News releases, or press releases, are written or recorded communications directed at the media announcing something purported to have news value. Their intent is to encourage journalists to develop articles on whatever the subject is, and they are commonly used in public relations as a means of attracting favorable attention to the PR firm’s client and/or products.

Change and Learning

In turbulent times, many companies act like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. It is hard to get out of the habit of doing what the company has always been doing and shift gears to be proactive in the face of change. Like people, companies resist change with tenacity, yet a changing environment and changing customer needs require— or demand—that the corporate status quo must change. To engage their customers, companies must place their brand within a deeper context of their customers’ lives.

Many times, companies get so wrapped up in finding that right, distinctive branding message that they lose touch with their communities. Hence, brands become defined by their own self-imposed boundaries from a lack of connectivity. They must broaden their view and understand that they are part of a larger community. A community is defined by its collective dialogue and, hence, has no boundaries. Instead, communities have horizons. A horizon is a place one never quite reaches. It is not a boundary or a goal. It is not defined as a final destination but more as a relative journey. Companies must recognize that, to deal with the uncertainty that the world presents, they must strive to jump into the community—like the Mexican fishing village—and enjoy the collective journey of being part of that community. By doing so, brands can develop more profitable, long-term, sustainable relationships built on mutual trust and understanding.

How can businesses accomplish this? Well, it starts with creativity. Creativity can be found in anyone who is prepared to enjoy the journey of interacting in a community. Most businesses are isolated from the central experiences of their customers and the context of their lives. They must be willing to get out of their offices and use their curiosity to rediscover the reality of the communities in which they live from the bottom up. Companies must take the time to wonder. Introducing creativity and wonder means that they must strive to live by more human values like honesty, friendship, and empathy. It means that companies must reframe and recontextualize their current world view. They must be willing to take the leap of faith, try and fail, and, most of all, use a bottom-up strategy to learn and become competitive in today’s dynamic world.

Getting Beyond the Brand

In a world where people are demanding authenticity and originality more than ever, formulaic branding has lost much of its magic. As discussed, many things have contributed to the declining effectiveness of the success of top-down branding techniques. Compounding the problems for companies, people’s behavior is radically changing. Customers now want to act as both consumers and producers, working creatively on things they purchase to make them their own. People now have greater freedom, too much information, too many choices, and a lack of time and are more unwilling to buy products from companies that are not prepared to engage them in a dialogue.

This challenge to companies to bring the right customers directly into the planning process is compounded by changes in the environment in which brands exist. the antiglobalization movement, unstable macroeconomic conditions, and disruptive technologies will continue to be major issues, having the power to impart real damage on companies that remain disconnected from their customers and the communities in which they work. Additional factors, including the rising power oflarge retailers and the prevalence of fear, interject still more uncertainty into the branding process. This uncertainty is difficult to predict or prepare for. The only way to deal with it is to accept its presence and actively work to gain a deeper understanding of the environments in which brands work. Brands must continually strive to act like a local merchant, like a citizen of the community. In Latin, cum and minis mean “shared together.” In a true community, participants share their personal experiences. If companies want to identify with and be relevant to their customers, they must first become trusted, committed community members. With this step, companies can begin the journey toward creating long-term, sustainable relationships.

Most of us have been trained to think that there is always a “right way” to do things, and we often try to impose that perspective on our customers and the communities in which we do business. Last year, there was a story cruising around the Internet about how out of touch American businesspeople can be with the environments they enter.

An American executive had just sold his business and was taking some time to think about his next business opportunity. He decided to head south and spend the season in a coastal Mexican village. One day, he was standing at the pier, thinking about his next business move, when a small boat with just one fisherman aboard docked at the pier. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.

The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied it was only a little while.

The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish.

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, then stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos . . . I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA, I’ve just sold my company for millions, and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, until eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

“But señor, how long will this all take?” “Not long. Maybe 15 to 20 years.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you announce an IPO, sell your company stock to the public, and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?” “Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, then stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

This Mexican fisherman acts very much like most customers. They’re living their own lives without staying up at night thinking about which laundry detergent brand will make them a better person or more popular with their friends. Yet, in the context of the executive’s world, a customer is just that—a customer—rather than a person. Many brands today are seriously out of touch with their communities and customers. But these same companies act surprised when their customers get upset and suggest that they seem out of touch.

Companies Control the Conversation

When sales are down, a popular solution for many companies today is an attempt to “rebrand.” Following a misguided drive to turn Las Vegas into a family destination in the 1990s, the town is quickly shifting its gears back to the future. With the latest rebranding effort, Las Vegas has come full circle, back to the glory days when the Rat Pack glamorized the lifestyle of drinking and womanizing and the word family had a very different meaning. When was the Las Vegas brand ever about family entertainment?

Las Vegas first decided to market family-friendly entertainment following a few consecutive years of falling gambling revenues. The idea of attracting families was great in theory, until people actually started showing up with their kids. Casino owners came to a quick realization that this family market would never drive gambling revenue: Nobody maneuvering strollers and carrying diaper bags would be spending big money.

Now Las Vegas, with over 34 million tourists visiting each year, is in the process of rebranding itself again. “The new brand we’re creating is one of freedom based on sensuality,” said Oscar B. Goodman, the mayor oflas Vegas. The city’s new slogan, “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” reflects its new ad campaign. “The bottom line is that people can come here and go to the brink of whatever’s legal, without having anyone look over their shoulder,” the mayor said.[11] People who come to Vegas for its infamous attractions don’t want to be dodging baby strollers on their way to the party.

The mistake that Las Vegas made was in switching its allegiance from a historically powerful, and very authentic, customer base in pursuit of immediate financial rewards. Pursuing the family market didn’t necessarily make sense to the executives behind Las Vegas’s rebranding decision; they just failed to trust their gut.

The Myth of the “Consumer”

The word consumption first appeared in the 14th century and meant to waste, use up, devour, or destroy. Its opposites—production or productive—appeared in Middle French in 1612 and meant to be creative or generative, but the idea of consumption being the opposite of production did not appear until 1745. To further confuse things, tuberculosis is historically known as the disease called consumption; at the beginning of the 20th century, “consumption” was still considered a disease. It was thought that people were sick if they thought about consuming goods. This hasn’t stopped companies from typically looking at their customers as “consumers.”

This classification is just as dangerous and potentially inaccurate as any stereotypical label. Do individuals, who just happen to buy products, want to be considered primarily as consumers? Do you spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overtly consuming? Or are you a person with passions and relationships who has a life beyond that label?

Today, an increasingly diverse mixture of both cultural consumption and production threatens the corporate dominance of culture. New forms of resistance to a homogenized culture are beginning to appear. People are showing an interest not just in choosing the products and brands that are relevant to them but in helping to co-create those products. These “prosumers”—as Alvin Toffler called this emerging class in his 1980 book, The Third Wave—combine the roles of consumer and producer.[13] Toffler spoke of consumers of the future being interested in participating in the creation of their own products. He was right. Today, people are opting to gain local knowledge rather than simply succumb to the available market information. They choose to work creatively on everything they purchase to make it their own. They are also cultural DJs, sampling and mixing, cutting and pasting inspirations to develop and define their own new cultures.

Brands Are Empathetic

Agencies and marketing departments continually strive to make their brands appear empathetic, yet most corporate executives are so preoccupied with the bottom line and so removed from their customers’ reality, that they have no real empathy.

Procter & Gamble once suggested that a competitor’s laundry detergent destroyed fabric. When the accused company researched the issue, one of their most surprising findings was that not one of the company’s executives, or their wives, even did their own laundry. They couldn’t begin to understand the laundry experience. This disconnect happens inside many companies; while executives are busy working, their customers are living the daily experiences that should be influencing company decisions.

Some companies are taking steps in the right direction. Ford Motor Company recently purchased 12 empathy-belly pregnancy simulators from Birth Ways, Inc. The suit—originally designed as an educational tool to discourage teen pregnancy—gives Ford’s designers the ability to feel what it’s like to be pregnant. Each suit features the large breasts and bulging stomach of a pregnant woman, a six-pound sandbag under the suit simulates pressure on the pelvis and the bladder, and two seven-pound lead balls can be inserted into the suit to simulate the weight of a growing baby. In total, the suit weighs more than 30 pounds and gives designers a sense of how a pregnant woman really feels trying to drive one of their cars. Ford’s designers also employ the use of a “third age suit” to help simulate the aging process. The third age suit helps to mimic symptoms of aging, such as blurred vision and arthritic joints. By using the empathy-belly suit and the third age suit, Ford is going beyond just listening to customers in their design process; such tools give their designers the ability to be their customers, if only for a few brief moments.[8] Only by actively understanding the context of its customers’ lives can a company begin to take the journey toward deeper empathy.

New Product Development

This is the overall process a product goes through before introduction, and it involves seven phases: idea generation, screening ideas, concept testing, business analysis, developing the product, test marketing, and commercialization. New product development almost always refers to activities within an organization, as opposed to new products acquired from another company.

Service Brand/Marketing

The service sector of the business world deals with marketing and selling intangible products instead of physical goods. Nail salons, travel agencies, insurance companies, lawyers, and so on are in the service sector, and what they sell requires branding and marketing just as tangible products do.

Labels Have Meaning

It’s human nature to use words as a way to classify other people’s actions or behaviors. Whether it’s right or wrong, we all categorize people at times. Companies, and especially their marketing departments, do the same thing. A recent popular example of how words can be appropriated is the term metrosexual. Marketers now use this term to describe sensitive, image-conscious guys. “Their heightened sense of aesthetics is very, very pronounced,” said Marian Salzman, chief strategy officer at Euro RSCG, to the New York Times. “They [metrosexuals] are the style makers. It doesn’t mean your average Joe American is going to copy everything they do,” she added. “But unless you study these guys, you don’t know where Joe American is heading.”[9]

It is somewhat ironic that gay writer Mark Simpson originally coined the term metrosexual to mock everything marketers stood for. In the mid-1990s, Simpson used the word to satirize the way that brands and consumer culture promoted the idea of a sensitive guy: one who shopped, used products for his personal appearance, and read magazines like Men’s Health. Simpson felt that consumerism had taken its toll on traditional masculinity. From his point of view, men really didn’t go to shopping malls, use personal-care products, or read self-help magazines. It was all a fantasy propagated by marketers.[10]

However, in 2001, British media latched onto the word metrosexual, and Britain’s Channel Four produced a show about sensitive guys called Metrosexuality. Soon after, Britain found as their poster boy David Beckham, the English soccer star. Beckham has become a social icon by mixing his soccer stardom and marriage to singer “Posh” Spice with his habits of painting his fingernails, braiding his hair, and posing for gay magazines. As Americans became equally fascinated with Beckham, marketers gave new life to the term metrosexual in describing this new, sensitive man.

Companies should be hesitant to ascribe general classifications to their customers. While a label often does a fair job of describing its target population, individual characteristics are completely subject to interpretation. Relying on a simplistic descriptive tool to give life to someone as important as your customer, or potential customer, is dangerous. Get out of your office and spend time in the context of your customers’ lives. A bottom-up strategy will give you a deeper understanding of how your customers live and help you avoid the need to develop or depend on generalized labels.

Market Research

This is the systematic approach to collecting, analyzing, and interpreting the information required to make sound marketing decisions. It is designed to determine the potential salability of a product or service by determining what people want and need. The information can be gathered from secondary sources that are already published and publicly available, or from primary sources such as the customers themselves.

Market Extension Strategy

This is employing a marketing strategy designed for one country and using it to extend into another country, and then another. A brand extension strategy, on the other hand, uses the values of a popular brand to expand into new markets or market segments.

Luxury Brands

Luxury brands are objects or services that are desirable but not essential. They are indulgences rather than necessities and are often expensive or hard to get. Luxury brands often deliver superior quality or better performance and consumers are willing to pay a premium price for them. The challenge of accessing due to either price or supply often results in imitations of the luxury brand.

Line Extension

This is the use of an established and successful brand to introduce additional products into its existing category (for example regular Crest toothpaste extending into whitening toothpaste). Line extensions generally offer new features, flavors, colors, packaging sizes, or ingredients. The expected gains are incremental because existing customers will be given more choice and new customers may be attracted.