Monday, January 18, 2016
WINNING MARKETING IS ALWAYS A NUMBERS GAME
“He is the most hated man in Washington, and he isn’t riveting record crowds like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are out on the campaign trail. But Ted Cruz is running one of the best presidential campaigns of 2016.”
--A. B. Stoddard, The Hill
Reading Mr. Stoddard’s article on-line this week instantly called to mind a marketing fundamental: winning in marketing is ultimately a “numbers game.” As he goes on to explain, Cruz’s marketing strategy is contra-category. Whereas the conventional wisdom—based upon the now long-running stand-off between set U.S. red states and blue states—is to secure sufficient electoral votes by capturing those swing voters in a very few swing states (like Ohio, Michigan, and Florida), Ted Cruz believes there is another “math-way” to winning. His thinking goes like this: “The path to victory goes through conservatives…there are millions of white evangelical Republicans he can inspire who sat out elections in 2012 and 2008, when the GOP nominated moderate Republicans. He maintains ‘if the body of Christ rises up as one and votes our values we can turn this country around.’”
Whatever you may think of Ted Cruz, you have to give him credit for forging a different marketing strategy for winning the presidential numbers game. Conceptually his approach is not at all unlike the one that Apple has followed here in the United States laptop market (and that we have referenced a number of times in DISPATCHES). You may recall that, while the MacBook reached a 10% share of the total U.S. laptop market a couple of years ago, the number that really matters to them is their 90%+ share of laptops costing over $1,000. Said another way, their “winning math-way” is all about achieving and maintaining a totally dominant share of one marketplace segment: the big spender, big profit segment. One can imagine that Mr. Cruz and his marketing mavens aim for a similar totally dominant share among one marketplace segment: the evangelical, painfully frustrated right.
While this look under the hood of a current presidential campaign provides a good reminder of how super-important it is to determine and then deliver the “right numbers,” winning in the marketplace has always been about figuring out those few numbers that matter most.
A true story: Back in the “who will blink first” cola war days between Coke and Pepsi, the 1980’s in particular, the ONE number that mattered most to both companies was the U.S. supermarket share as measured by A.C. Nielsen. For years, that leading share number had been comfortably held by Brand Coke. But Pepsi’s clever use of the “Pepsi Challenge,” as well as their intensified sales pressure at retail had narrowed the gap to a near-sliver. At stake was not merely the pride of calling your brand the Number One Cola in America; there were significant Wall Street implications (especially for the Coca-Cola Company) should Coke fall to number two behind Brand Pepsi—not to mention the merchandising advantages with big-volume supermarket chains for the number one player.
So intense was the pressure to hold the winning cola share that someone contrived what seems like now a madcap “Watergate-esque” plan to “fix the Nielsen.” It was known that A.C. Nielsen reps did not audit every supermarket to compile their statistically representative overall share for a given market. If one could somehow figure out which specific stores in each market were the ones that drove the overall number, then one might be able to focus resources (especially for fast-turning display inventory and accompanying hot feature prices) on just those stores…thereby showing a winning share for the market. But how to figure out which stores? Surreptitiously stalking Nielsen reps? Hidden surveillance cameras? Again, the story seems like something out of pulp fiction, but the point remains that there are always one or two numbers that really, really matter for winning marketing.
As we begin another new year, it’s always a good time to determine which few numbers, what “math-way,” will lead to your brand’s winning marketing for 2016. For starters we would recommend these three:
1. Share of Target Market Segment—along the lines of Ted Cruz’s or the MacBook Brand;
2. The Level of Target Market Behaviors—what amount of incremental new user adoption, current user switching, or current user frequency/amount will complete the math for number one above?
3. The ROI Delivered by the Brand’s Marketplace Spending/Investment—just how profitable is it for your management to “place their bets” with your brand instead of another one they might prefer?
Of course, determining numbers such as these is one thing; setting up the systems to track and regularly report on progress toward them is yet another. But this it what it takes to win in any numbers game.
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
© 2003 Brand Development Network (BDN) International. All rights reserved.