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September 26, 2010

The Marketing Fundamentalist

by Howard Fox Chartered Marketer

Marketing –it’s very much like the title of the Meryl Streep movie: “It’s complicated” (2009). It has struck me as I settle into my third decade in marketing, that things used to be much simpler in marketing. Remember the old days when everyone agreed there were 4 “P’s of marketing”? Now there are claims of well over ten and counting. More importantly, every marketer now feels emboldened to add his own “P”.

The problem with complexity is that it obscures the principles behind decisions, and in the case of marketing, the Profession is the loser. It’s the reason why, I believe, religious fundamentalism has increased in recent times: life has become much more complex and to make sense of it, people revert back to the fundamental principles. While religious fundamentalists may have become synonymous with religious extremists, we as marketers can learn from the fundamentalist approach.

So I have positioned this column as “The Marketing Fundamentalist” and will try to distil topical marketing issues down to principles that we can then repurpose in our day-to-day marketing strategies. So to be clear, in this context “fundamentalist” is based on the Wikipedia definition: “fundamentalism refers to a belief in the strict adherence to a set of basic principles, sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern life.”

FIFA World Cup

No marketing column published this week would be credible without reference to the glory South Africa has heaped upon itself over the last month. Much has been said about the event, about brand FIFA, brand South Africa, ambush marketing and whether the cost was really all worth it. From a marketing perspective, it is again, all very complicated. So what fundamental principles may we distil from this once in a lifetime event?

Dominate don’t dissipate.

There are approximately 195 countries in the world (192 members of the United Nations and about 3 others e.g. the Vatican). In terms of marketing ourselves to break through the noise from these competitors, South Africa could have invested significantly for a very long period, or as we have done, dominated the world stage for a month. According to football-marketing.com, viewership of the 2010 FIFA World Cup will exceed the previous event in Germany by 5%. This brings the expected audience to 27.6 billion, spread nicely across the tourist and trading markets in which South Africa aspires to operate. There can be no doubt that this dominant, focused approach has “broken through the clutter” as my ad agency colleagues like to say.

The point here is: how often in our effort to have a multiple media campaign, which covers every corner of our markets (but within limited budgets) do we end up dissipating our impact too broadly, rather than being dominant and break through?

Proof is always more powerful than a promise.

South Africa has to a very large extent proved itself to a sceptical world. Proved we can build world-class facilities and host world-class events. Proved the country is a safe enjoyable destination for tourists and proved that we deserve to sit at the high table of the world’s prestigious nations. How much more powerful such proofs are compared to the sometimes-weak marketing promises we make from time to time. And remember that the psychological contract with consumers is such that you don’t have to provide proof for all promises. So again the point here is: would a simple proof of our brands’ promise not resonate more with the market than yet another fluffy promise?

I am hopeful that I have raised a fundamental thought or two.

The Marketing Fundamentalist

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