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Alf's Articles

I wish I'd done that!

by Alf Nucifora

It's time for some end-of-year musings about good marketing. Every now and then one sees a product introduction or a brand campaign that hits the spot. Every element comes together to produce a well-balanced campaign that captures the consumer's imagination and attention. The marketing may not always be admirable or in good taste, but it's distinctive and appealing and usually supported with a strong communications message. The product generally delivers against the marketing promise, in terms of product quality, or value, or both. For your consideration, ten who did it right in '03…

1. Krispy Kreme - It is, after all, just a doughnut and there are others equally tasty. To make matters worse, the brand is the poster-child for arteriosclerosis. How did they do it? By going with the retro "goober makes good" strategy. Bottom line, it's a brand that's smartly exploited its legacy to create a lot of buzz, particularly in places where retro counts, such as in the chi-chi streets of Manhattan. Krispy Kreme will go down in the annals as a best practice on how to refurbish a fading brand.

2. Fox News - They claim they're "fair and balanced," and try to keep a straight face while they make the statement. Truth is, they know exactly what their conservative audience wants…the news interpreted through a very heavy filter of bias and attitude. The product is slick, fresh and irreverent. Everything that the stale and lifeless Stepford CNN is not. That's why Fox is cleaning up. I don't watch the network myself (after all, I do like my news fair and balanced), but you have to give Roger Ailes his due. He's a great marketer who knows his insatiable audience intimately and serves them just the right amount of red meat.

3. Reality TV - The list is endless…from Trading Spaces to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Survivor to the Amazing Race, not to mention the Batchelor in all of his various incarnations. We all deny we watch, but we lie. The truth is, we can't resist. The product is a perfect match for today's consumer featuring simple storyline, competitiveness, greed, stupidity, gossip, sex, success and failure. Who can resist the blend? Don't expect Reality TV to fade. We're hooked.

4. Vanity Fair Magazine - It's still the best written, best crafted gossip magazine for the privileged classes. Every issue is crammed with a multitude of reading choices. Aside from its regular coverage of upscale shenanigans, fashion and reporting on the rich and fatuous, the publication always carry a cutting-edge piece on politics and business. Its media reporting, for example, is among the best in the business. The magazine keeps getting fatter with advertising. But then again, a good product will always attract the advertising support that it deserves.

5. SouthWest, Jet Blue and AirTran - The discount airlines have redefined how we consume our aviation in this country. And, they've done a great job at keeping the majors honest at the same time. In fact, they can only get stronger, thereby forcing the majors to redefine their core strategy. Remember that the air traveler, both business and leisure, has been abused by the majors for years. The upstarts heard the squeals of consumer pain and did something about it with low price and managed expectations, not to mention a decent product.

6. Lowe's - Let's face it, blue is giving orange a serious run for it's money with better laid out stores and a product line that speaks to the female buyer instead of concentrating solely on the man of the house. The consumer has responded and while Home Depot will always remain the bigger of the two, Lowe's is delivering where it counts with better service and a better financials. Lowe's proved the point. There's always room for a smart David in a world of retail Goliaths.

7. Viagra - The little blue pill is now as ubiquitous as aspirin. The marketing team did its job well. Where once we dared not mouth the word impotence, now we shout E.D. (erectile dysfunction) from the rooftops. It's almost become a badge of honor to say one partakes. And, this is a pill that sells for $5 and $10 a pop. The Viagra introduction was everything but flaccid. It was medical marketing at its finest.

8. Any Miramax Movie - The Weinstein brothers are the best in the business when it comes to movie promotion. They'll pick a script out of obscurity, put it to film in relatively low-cost form by Hollywood's standards and pull every promotional trick out of the hat at Oscar time. Slingblade, Cider House Rules, Good Will Hunting, Shakespeare in Love, Chocolat, Chicago, Kill Bill. All good movies, but not great. The Weinsteins prove the adage, 'It's now how good you are, it's how good you say you are."

9. Mini Cooper - The car is a retread, small and boxy and not very safe at that. The ad budget was miniscule in comparison to the big boys and yet the Mini Cooper very quickly established a cultist's air about itself. The advertising and promotion was perfectly matched to the genes of the brand. Based on the limited marketing budget, the Mini Cooper should not be the success that it is. Thank marketing for that.

10. Howard Dean - He'll get the Democratic nomination in spite of what the party elders would prefer. Why? Because he knows his customer better than they do. He's tapping into a vein of dissatisfaction and discontent that still represents half of the voting public in this country. And, he's the first to really understand the power of online marketing as a fundraiser but, more importantly, as a viral weapon for rallying the forces and spreading the news. Howard Dean may be your next President. That's not a statement of political preference, just an acknowledgement of good marketing-- which is ultimately how presidents get elected.

More in '04.

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