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Sunday, March 4, 2012




Did you watch live on television or follow on-line this year’s Academy Awards? If so, you no doubt know that one recipient, Meryl Streep, added to her all-time record for the number of times she had been nominated for the movies’ top award. In fact, her performance this year in The Iron Lady marked her 17th nomination and her 3rd win (for perspective, only 4 other actors have won 3 Oscars throughout the award’s 84-year history). But, did you also know that she has been nominated and won more times for the Golden Globes—26 nominations and 8 wins—than anyone else in history? As an actor, Meryl Streep clearly stands in a league of her own. Of course, she has amazing talent…but she also knows how to get herself into a position to win.


Getting into a position to win. The first time we can recall hearing of such a notion was not from the world of acting, but from the world of sports—more specifically, from the world of golf. And the golfer who routinely talked about it and actually succeeded at doing it was none other than Jack Nicklaus. Even if you are not a golfer or golf enthusiast, you know of Jack Nicklaus—if for no other reason than the never-ending media hype over Tiger Woods’ “chase” to beat Jack’s record for wins in the major professional golf tournaments (The Masters, British Open, US Open, and PGA). The current standing of major wins is: Jack 18, Tiger 14. 


But did you know that, in addition to Jack’s astounding 18 wins in the majors, he also had 19 second-place finishes? Think about that. He literally put himself in contention to win as many as 37 major golf tournaments during the course of his career. As Jack himself has said in interviews over those years, he could not assume he would win every time; but IF he put himself into contention, in a position to win as many times as possible, he could expect to win more than if he did not. 


We think this notion of getting into a position to win as many times as possible is a powerful one—not just for actors or golfers, but for today’s marketers. Perhaps calling it a “notion” doesn’t really do it justice. Maybe it’s more appropriate to call it a “mind-set,” or better yet, an “attitude.” But regardless of what we call it, what really stands out about it is simply this: to win. Marketers today, in virtually every kind of product category or class, face what have to be the most level playing fields in brand marketing history. Which is to say that never in marketing history have there been so many brands with relatively equal (and good) performance. So the more one brand’s marketing team is driven to win, the more likely it is that that team will come out on top (as opposed to settling for some kind of “fair share” results—which another team, seeking merely to play, might happily accept).


To make getting into a position to win more practical for marketers today, this week’s Boats & Helicopters highlight a few of the habits that Jack Nicklaus (and, who knows, maybe even Meryl Streep) relentlessly adhered to—the idea being that adhering to those same habits will increase a given brand team’s likelihood of getting into a position to win more often.


BOATS & HELICOPTERS: Toward Getting into a Position to Win

  1. Aim for Win-Place-Show Every Time. For Jack Nicklaus, this was very straightforward. He intended to finish each major tournament he entered in the top three, knowing that if he aimed for one of these top positions he would have great odds of being in the hunt for winning—particularly when coming down to the last few holes of the tournament. For brand teams today, there is the obvious analogy of aiming for one of the top three share positions in the market. But, as we know, in some markets there are vast differences between the number-one share brand and the number-three share brand. So, perhaps, a more practical day-to-day application of this habit is simply—in every key project that the brand initiates (like developing a new communication campaign)—to set “stretch” objectives…goals that far exceed what is typically expected. As an example, if developing a new communications campaign, the combined brand-agency team might stretch and set the objective of doubling the business within 5 years.
  1. Insist Upon More “Shots on Goal.” Again, whether thinking about Jack Nicklaus or Meryl Streep, what they share in common is that they sought many nominations and top-three finishes in order to win some percentage of their efforts. No one and no one team, no matter how gifted they may be, can assume a win every time. For marketers seeking ideas (product innovation ideas, promotion ideas, communication ideas) the same holds true: no brand team can expect to come up with a winning idea every time. But the odds of coming up with a winning idea more of the time increase greatly when each initiative demands a wide range of options…rather than settling for one or two ideas to choose from.
  1. Concentrate Where It Matters. Nicklaus did not play in nearly as many total golf tournaments as he might have, and for good reason. He openly expressed his intent to “focus on the majors” year-to-year; that not only allowed him more time to practice more days on the golf courses hosting those majors, but it also reduced the distractions he might have to deal with in week-in and week-out events. Winning-driven leaders of brand teams believe in this same principle, and they stubbornly keep their teams focused on the two or three really meaningful things that must be accomplished if the brand is to get ahead.
  1. Know When to Make a Move.  One of the surest traits of golf’s greatest players (including, naturally, Jack Nicklaus) is having that innate sense—probably that comes from a combination of natural-born instinct and experience—of knowing when to make your move…of knowing when to “dial up” the intensity of the effort or to take some higher-risk shots. For marketer’s intent upon winning, knowing when to make a move might simply mean knowing when to bring in additional talent, or to make switch in the current team talent. Even better, marketers who know when to make a move have studied and understood their competition so well that they can sense when the time is right to hit the competition with an unexpected initiative—or at least an initiative the competition cannot match in the short-term.

If you do nothing else after reading through this week’s DISPATCHES, we urge you to engage your brand team in determining what would be the equivalent of winning an Oscar or of winning The Masters for the brand. Once you have determined what that equivalent is—and, presumably, agreed to pursue it—the rest comes naturally: put yourselves in a position to win!

Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney

Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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