Saturday, November 21, 2009

American Idol, the Marketing Juggernaut?

One of my favorite topics from January through May is American Idol.  Of course, it is only November, so what is up with this?  I've been thinking about the marketing juggernaut that AI is.  While it advertises itself as a television show, it is really a huge conglomerate of marketing tactics rolled into one nice strategic package.

I've only been watching AI since Season 7 (for you non-watchers that is the 2008 season that started in January.)  That nasty writers strike got me started.  One of the things that is so amazing is how they do such a great job continually creating PR (some good, some bad.)  Even the most jaded AI critic has seen Paula Abdul's gaffs on national television or in the supermarket tabloids.  While you might not be able to name the winners (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or David Cook sound familiar?), most people will at least recognize the names when they hear them.

A research study was done this past year for the four primary sponsors of AI, Coke, Ford, ATT and iTunes.  It found that the company viewers thought fit in the least with the AI brand was Ford.  (Guess the Coke cups sitting on the judges table was a fit.)  Who would want to miss out on those Ford videos?  Anyone remember seeing David Cook in those spandex mariachi pants?  How funny was that?

iTunes also performed their own survey after last season.  A fairly lengthy one that I participated in.  Since I am an iTunes user and they obviously noticed that I purchased songs form AI participants, they asked me to answer a few questions.  For purely research purposes, I chose to give them my personal opinion of their relationship with AI.  It wasn't a short survey either.  They asked a lot of questions relating to AI and whether it made sense for them to be involved with the #1 rated television show (huh?) to whether I thought it was a good idea for them to offer a Kris Allen (season 8 winner) iTunes Pass.  They were very thorough.  Very.

Even though iTunes probably noticed that the were selling a ton of downloads for AI singers, they still asked the questions.  Good for them.  Most businesses think they know their customers, so they don't bother to ask.  It will be interesting to see if in this next AI season, anything offered from iTunes is different.  If so, it may be because yours truly took the time to take their survey.

A few notes about AI.  Paula leaving- we'll see what that does for the show.  At least now we won't have someone announcing the first night of Top 13 that Adam would be the winner.  Elimination rounds for the Top 36-please, no repeat of last year's format.  It was ghastly and painful.  Judges-don't let someone like Megan Joy make it into the Top 36.  What were you thinking?  She made Nick Mitchell/Norman Gentle seem like the next American Idol.  AI-keep up the good work marketing the heck out of your show.  It is a marketing case study to be scrutinized for years to come.

Cindy Neky
Marketing Pathways
Visit and twitter

Why Does Everyone Think They Understand Marketing?

Over the years, I’ve noticed that many business people seem to believe they are marketing experts.  Not really their fault, of course.  We are bombarded every day with every form of marketing you can think of.  Commercials, billboards, Starbuck’s cups, McDonald’s arches, and trucks emblazoned with a phone number that says “Call Us.”  Heck, even that tabloid at the supermarket with Britney’s face on it is marketing, the PR form.  Because we see it everywhere, we think we know what good marketing is, or isn’t.

In truth, most people don’t really know what good marketing is.  We only know what we like or don't like.  There is much more psychology to it than most people know.  And there are definitely good tactics and poor ones.  Why else would large companies pay the big agencies thousands (and millions in some cases) of dollars to advertise their products or services?  Surely, they have a marketing staff that knows something.  Of course they do, but they still choose to work with outside experts.  Only if you specialize in it can you keep up with the fast pace, the changes and the evolution of technology that affects it.  Even then, it is tough.  Really tough.

So why do so many business leaders (especially small business) take it upon themselves to direct their own marketing?  Because they can and, gee, it saves them money.  It isn’t like going to a surgeon.  Remember those television commercials with the people performing their own surgery?  We know better than that, don’t we?  With marketing, what is the worst that can happen?  Lose several thousand dollars?  Sales languish?  No big deal.

Those that really understand marketing, advertising, PR, and communications know that if you aren’t an expert you probably don’t know enough to be doing it yourself.  If you can’t hire someone permanently, look for someone on a contract basis that can do it for you, or a part time employee.  Don’t assume (we all know what that means, don’t we?) that you can do it yourself.  Remember, your business could depend on it.

Cindy Neky 
Marketing Pathways
Visit us at or twitter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The All Important Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is also known as the 4 p’s of marketing- product, price, place and promotion. From time to time you will also hear people add other p’s to these four, but these were the original’s and those that most marketing professionals believe are the most important.
Most of this is going to sound self-explanatory, so bear with me during this explanation:

Product: Don’t worry if your business doesn’t have a hard good product like this title suggests. In this case, product refers to whatever your business sells to the public. That can be a hard product or a service provided. Assume that if you provide a service that you can still work with the marketing mix formula.

Remember when you are talking about your product (or service) it includes all facets that the end user will enjoy. So if your product includes a service (you sell a product that also requires maintenance) then consider this in the mix.

If you have the opportunity to make yourself stand out by being different with your product or service, by all means, do so. It is easier to market a product that stands out from its competitors than one that is like all of the others, commonly referred to as a commodity. Even a product that is like everyone else’s can stand out if the service behind it is unique in its excellence.

Price: Most businesses agonize over the price of their product or service. It isn’t good to charge too much and you can’t make money if you charge too little. The best way to determine a price point is to accurately figure the cost of either manufacturing, purchasing or providing it. When you have a precise number for this, anything above it results in a profit.

The problem most businesses have in figuring an accurate cost of goods sold is that they don’t include everything in the cost. Nothing your business does is outside the cost of doing business. When you are just starting a business some of these numbers have to be estimated, but this estimate can also be based on industry standards. The research to find out what these are is worth your time.

Using your competition in determining a price is also helpful. But be careful you don’t fall in the trap of only using your competitor as the determination for your price. If your product or service is differentiated in any way (which hopefully it is-more to market that way) your costs may be different.

Place: This has taken on a completely new meaning in the last few years. Years ago, it simply meant the store where your product could be purchased. Now it is almost limitless. Not only can you have a storefront, but you can use a Web site, ebay, mail, trade show, parties, and the list goes on.

Keep an open mind when you look at how your product or service is sold or traded. You may have multiple avenues that can all be used effectively. These different paths for distribution are referred to as channels. Choose your channels wisely and greater success will be achieved.

Promotion: Getting the word out about your product or service is important. The world of marketing has many places and ways to tell your target market what you do.

In fact, some people get confused with all of the choices. The best way to start is with the simple ones. If you make it too difficult, you may get frustrated. You can continually add to your marketing efforts. If you are a small retailer, then advertising and direct mail are still very effective. A manufacturer working through a large channel of distributors can use direct mail, email and trade magazine ads.

If you are wondering what the point of the marketing mix is then you aren’t alone. The key to knowing and studying the above four p’s is how you optimize them together. No one part is more important than the others. It is finding the right combination that is important.

These four elements must be included and considered in the development of a strong marketing plan. When a major change is made in any of these factors it is considered to be strategic. For instance, many magazines added online editions over the last few years. Now some of them no longer have a print edition. They have converted the entire publication to online. This would be a major strategic move.

If a slight change is made this is considered tactical. Rather than charging $13.50 for your product, you decide to charge $12.99. Not a huge change, but something that you feel will benefit sales.

A large change in the marketing mix would be strategic. An example of this would be completely changing or adding to the distribution of your product. This change would affect the other p's in the mix.

Now you understand the Marketing Mix. Simple, but important to the strategic decision-making process.

Cindy Neky
Marketing Pathways
For more information visit

Email Cindy

SWOT Method of Analysis Provides Framework for your Marketing Plan

SWOT is a discovery tool. This method of brainstorming helps you understand your product or service more intimately than before. Here you will learn what it is, how important it is to the organization, what questions to ask, and how to organize the report.

This study should be one of the first exercises in preparing for your business or marketing plan. Understanding the elements in this process will affect the decisions you make in marketing. That is why we discuss it here.

What is it?

It's simply an acronym for the behaviors and influencers of a company. Specifically they are- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that affect your business. This process can be a powerful means in gaining a clear perspective on your marketing strategy and tactics.
* Strengths: These are positive attributes that help achieve objectives.
* Weaknesses: Work against achieving stated goals.
* Opportunities: Conditions external to the organization that could help achieve objectives.
* Threats: Outside influence that would be detrimental to achieving goals.

How hard is it to prepare?
This is not a difficult technique to master. It can take as little as one brainstorming session to uncover the advantages and disadvantages your business faces in its marketplace.
By looking at your business with a magnifying glass and asking the hard questions, you will gain helpful insight. Ready to begin your analysis? 

Cindy Neky
Marketing Pathways
For more information visit Email Cindy

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Marketing Plans

As most people that know me very well are aware, I am a big believer in developing a solid marketing plan for your business. Most business people either don't understand this or they just don't have time. It's tough to make the time. But having a good solid marketing plan for your business is essential to growth and stability.

With the economy in flux, it is even more critical to think through your marketing strategies and develop tactics that not only fit your company, but also your budget. Don't skip thinking through exactly what amount your business can afford to invest in marketing. The national average is 10% of gross. Start-ups should spend more than that.

If you aren't sure what to include in your marketing plan have a professional do it for you. Don't forget to research your industry, the competition and the types of vehicles available to you. Research your clientele. It doesn't have to be a full blown market research project to get valuable information. Pick up the phone and call your clients. You would be amazed on what they will tell you. Ask them to rate your service, what types of publications they read, what online reading they do, what radio they listen to and more.

Update your marketing plan on a regular basis. You will be surprised at how much your business and its needs will change in a year. Put your marketing plan down on paper so you don't forget it. Be flexible, but be committed. Marketing will probably be the difference on which companies make it through the more difficult economy.

Cindy Neky
Marketing Pathways
For more information visit or Email Cindy