March 22, 2012

Beware the Ides of March Madness

Every year, millions of people attempt to predict what will be the outcome of the NCAA Basketball Tournament; a chance for any team to hoist the trophy at the end of the season, be it the favored number one seed or the fan-favorite Cinderella story. The potential for upsets is what creates the “Madness” that everyone loves to see. That is unless you had Missouri going deep into this year’s tournament, as I did.

According to a blog post on, last year there were 5.9 million brackets filled out and submitted to the website’s annual Tournament Challenge, yet only 279,308 submissions picked the UConn Huskies (#3 seed) to win the championship, a total of 4.7%. This is the sort of unpredictability that makes the NCAA Tournament such a widely followed and beloved event.

Marketing’s world is reversed, where a lack of predictability is not so beloved, and many a marketer has seen their #1 entry being defeated by a #16 seed. Everyone truly believes their video should go viral. Their creative is absolutely engaging. Their last tweet is so perfectly crafted as to be shared with the global community.

Similar to filling out a bracket, there is no foolproof method to implementing a marketing campaign. Although there are hundreds of thousands of people that believe they have the process down to a perfect science, “upsets” will always occur.

So what are three tips that can help prevent an “upset” when preparing your next marketing campaign?

  1. “Stick to your guns.” Be sure that the products or services that you are offering consumers consistently align with your company’s brand identity… I’ll use the Dove brand as an example. In 2006 Unilever launched the highly successful Evolution campaign as part of their “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”. The focal point for promoting their newly developed “Dove Self-Esteem Fund” was a brilliant commercial (which can be viewed here) “depicting the transformation of a real woman into a model and promoting awareness of how unrealistic perceptions of beauty are created.” This has always been the mentality of the Dove brand… to “feel comfortable in your own skin”.To learn more about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty click here.
  2. “Know your target market.” This may seem like a basic marketing 101 principle, yet it is constantly overlooked by companies. Does anyone remember Pepsi A.M.? In the late eighties less people were drinking coffee, so PepsiCo created a new product with 28% more caffeine per ounce than the original Pepsi Cola. Needless to say the product flopped; it turns out many people – at that point in time – did not want to start their day off with a soft drink.PepsiCo should have researched their consumer’s openness to a morning soft drink more thoroughly. Had they done so, they may have decided to market the beverage as an all-day energy drink and the story may have ended differently; but, as they used to say in the Tootsie Pops commercials, “The world will never know.”
  3. “Be a sponge.” Last, but certainly not least, be a sponge. As a marketer you cannot afford to stop learning and absorbing new information. Just as a financial advisor might tell someone to “diversify their portfolio”, I am telling you the same thing but in terms of knowledge.  Go out and buy a magazine that you wouldn’t normally read or look at a blog that you have never checked out before, HECK download a new app that you’ve never heard of. You may learn of an opportunity or an up and coming trend to base your next campaign off of.For instance, I was recently looking at an article that talked about some of the “big hits” from the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin, TX. The article reviewed some new apps that were on display, such as Glomper, which uses geolocation (the aspect of Foursquare that allows members to “check-in” to restaurants or venues) to locate events like parties or nightlife near one’s location. If I were a promoter, this would be an app that I would definitely look into to help promote my restaurant or nightclub.

These may seem like basic tips but, more often than not, going back to basics may be all the difference that is needed from turning an upset into a champion.