Addiction Marketing

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Addiction Marketing” is a phrase I started using a few years back while waiting in line for my drink at Starbucks. I was observing the mass of people who seemed almost desperate for their daily (if not more frequent) fix of caffeine. It was at that moment I realized the real power of one of Starbucks key business drivers, if not their most critical business driver – Starbucks sells products that cater to peoples addictive tendencies. What Starbucks has done better than many other addictive marketers is that they also make it cool and trendy to succumb to your addiction. In today’s blog post I’ll examine addiction as a key success factor in business.

Brands have always catered to our emotions viewing them as associative triggers – the tactics I’m describing are clearly not new. That said, has this practice crossed the line when addictive tendencies are being exploited for profit? Is this just creative branding and intelligent marketing, or are we merely sheep being led to slaughter? My intent is not to make judgments or draw conclusions, but rather just to have you wrestle with the following question: Are you an addict, pusher, or both, and if so, how do you feel about it?

When I was in school economics professors would lecture on using supply and demand drivers to create a business advantage, business professors would evangelize the strengths of the recurring value and stability of consumable products, marketing professors would espouse the benefits of customer loyalty and relationship marketing, but nowhere do I recall being able to register for a business class on addiction. However if you think about “Addiction Marketing” you’ll quickly realize what the “media pushers” on Madison Avenue and the product development and marketing gurus in the corporate world have known for years – all people have their unique set of vulnerabilities, which when creatively and effectively exploited will lead to strong sales and powerful brands.

In thinking about this topic with respect to media coverage, I recall that a few years back the Indian government was attempting to force Coca Cola and Pepsi to divulge the formulas to their popular beverage products. One of the charges being levied in the Indian High Court was that Coke and Pepsi products were addictive and unhealthy, Hmmm…More recently there have been a number of energy drinks and dietary supplements that have been pulled from retail shelves because of health hazards posed by addictive consumption.

Examine the following representative list of successful businesses and/or industries and come to your own conclusions as to whether these businesses or industries prey on the addictions of consumers world-wide to generate their revenue:

Las Vegas – The tagline “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” caters to virtually every possible addiction under the sun…Sin City lives up to its reputation.

Tag Body Spray – Tag’s recent commercial campaign has taken the phrase “Sex Sells” to a whole new level. In these campaigns all an adolescent male needs to do is to spray himself with the Tag product and he finds himself instantly being attacked by hordes of attractive young women. If you have a teenage son, it would be a safe bet that Tag is his cologne of choice.

The Beer and Alcohol Industry – You will be hard pressed to find a beer or alcohol company that doesn’t portray consumption of their beverage as the key ingredient to a lifestyle of fast cars, beautiful women, successful careers, etc.

The Tobacco Industry – The tobacco industry has been publicly hammered for selling products that leverage the addictive effects of Nicotine, and even with all the known health hazards smokers face, in many instances the addictive nature of the product is greater than peoples ability to make a logical decision.

I don’t think anyone will dispute the examples noted in the above list as obviously preying on consumer’s addictive tendencies. However what about the more subtle side of the addiction business? Isn’t Starbucks using the same addictive business tactics as those industries listed above? What about other fast food outlets? What about companies in the luxury products sector? Companies that sell high end products and services cater to the elitist attitudes of this segment allowing consumers to make statements about their socioeconomic status based on the products they purchase. Is this not also catering to addictive tendencies?

Okay, now I’ll hit a little closer to home and turn the spotlight on myself. What about my company’s value proposition? We sell success… Is it not possible to look at success as being an addiction? How about the social networking industry? Are social networkers and bloggers addicted to the interaction, attention, etc. that the social media platform affords? While I could go on, I think my point has been made.

I’m certainly not implying that all consumers are addicts, nor am I implying that all companies are “pushers,” but I am pointing out that addiction marketing sells and that many companies use this as a strategic advantage. In fact, I believe the evidence is clear that a business can create a strong strategic advantage in sustainability if they find no ethical flaw in what I’ve coined as “Addiction Marketing”.

The bottom line is that I love to travel and watch movies and I don’t think it makes me an escapist. I have a penchant for Starbucks, venti caramel frappacinos in particular and I don’t think I’m a caffeine addict (perhaps a sugar addict), and I appreciate fine clothes & quality automobiles and I don’t believe that makes me a social elitist. However I have also come to realize that my perceived addictive tendencies are clearly attempting to be preyed upon by creative and intelligent marketing and product development efforts. I’ll leave you with the following questions to ponder:

  • What is the difference between pleasure and addiction?
  • Do you feel “Addiction Marketing” is ethical?
  • Does your company partake in addictive marketing strategies and tactics? And;
  • When was the last time you made a purchase based upon your addiction?


Marketing Success

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

marketing successHow do you know when marketing is out of control? Those of you familiar with this blog know that I’m generally a strong marketing advocate. That said, my typical pro-marketing position assumes that certain key fundamentals are in place to insure that the lunatics don’t somehow become in charge of the asylum. In today’s post I’ll discuss how to keep marketing in check so that brand focus is maintained and your company avoids the costly trap of marketing gone awry…

On more than a few occasions I have found myself called in to rescue companies from themselves and/or their consultants with regard to ill advised or poorly conceived branding or rebranding initiatives. I have watched companies spend tremendous amounts of money, time and energy debating logos, taglines, color pallets, font styles, ad campaigns, positioning strategies, marketing messages, brand promises, etc., with the only outcomes being failed initiatives and splintered management teams.

I have often counseled clients to beware the change agents for the sake of change…There are few things in business that can impede corporate progress like failed marketing initiatives. If you don’t believe me just try confusing, offending, or alienating your customers and prospects with mixed marketing messages and see what happens. Today’s consumers aren’t going to tolerate trite marketing gimmicks that either insults their intelligence, or that requires too much intelligence. Don’t fall into the trap of cranking out cute ads where form trumps substance by having the message either lost in the ambiguity of the marketing, or overshadowed by the complexity of the marketing (I would suggest reviewing another post entitled “Keeping It Simple“).

The best way to insure that your marketing doesn’t wander off course is to gut check your marketing and branding initiatives against the following four points to determine whether or not your message is accretive or dilutive to your objectives:

  1. Customer Focus: Mark my words – any marketing endeavor conceived in absence of a customer centric mindset will fail. At its core, marketing is about engaging with customers, meeting their needs, solving their problems, sparking their passion, earning their trust, and cementing their loyalty. Executives or agencies that believe marketing is somehow about them and not the customer represent everything wrong with marketing today. Marketing isn’t about egos, it’s about results – you cannot achieve results without the customer.
  2. Leadership: There are a number of ways to get in trouble here…poor leadership, no leadership, or fractionalized leadership can all be quite problematic. Marketing is not a part-time endeavor, and if you don’t have a qualified C-level marketing executive leading the charge, don’t just trust things to the most vocal staff member. Lastly, don’t decentralize marketing…consistent messaging across markets, mediums and constituencies is critical. Don’t be guilty of mixed messaging because the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.   
  3. Alignment: A fundamental precept to all marketing initiatives is that they must be in alignment with the corporate values and vision. Remember that good marketing adds value, leverage, and velocity to your vision. It should never dilute it or distract from it. Most importantly good marketing is never in conflict with corporate values…compromise in this area and trouble will most certainly follow. If your marketing doesn’t uphold your brand promise or if it’s not advancing core business initiatives, then you have an alignment issue.
  4. Managing Outside Vendors: Remember that consultants work for you, and that the decisions should be made by you and not the vendor. Good consultants build consensus and unify management focus, they do not splinter opinion. If you have a management team that is split down the middle on a marketing or branding issue then you have not arrived at the right decision.

Bottom line…solid marketing and branding initiatives are mission critical to sustainable increases in growth objectives. That said, flawed marketing or branding initiatives have crippled many a good company. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into something that doesn’t resonate with your sense of discernment. If something is important enough to implement, it is important enough to do well.

As always, I invite you to add any thoughts or additional tips in the comments below…

Marketing Made Simple

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

What Is Marketing?What is marketing? One of the most entertaining things you can do in business is to attend a meeting where a group of senior executives begin to pontificate on the subject of marketing. I have more fun watching people attempt to distinguish between marketing, advertising, branding, business development, sales, communications, public relations, etc. It never ceases to amaze me at how something so simple can become so convoluted, and how people can so passionately take a completely ridiculous stance and want to defend that position to the death. In today’s post I will attempt to demystify the subject of marketing and give you some actionable items can be implemented immediately to generate improved results.

Let’s take a moment and have some fun with definitions. The following two definitions of marketing come from the American Marketing Association. The first was a definition was used from 1985 until 2004 when the “revised” edition was released by the AMA.

Previous AMA Definition: “Marketing is the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of goods, ideas and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.”

Current AMA Definition: “Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

Okay…a quick analysis of the two aforementioned definitions shows that the mistake of obviating the customer from the original definition was corrected by the clear and emphasized inclusion of the customer in the revised definition (I guess I won’t resign my AMA membership just yet). Let me be clear…I’m not meaning to make fun of academic theory or best practices, but I have little use for generic, omnibus or overarching statements as they tend not to accomplish anything of value, but rather they just create confusion among the ranks.

Let’s take a look at a few more definitions…Most of you know how fond I am of “Druckerisms,” and so in good conscience, I must quote him to you yet again…Peter Drucker’s definition of marketing is: “Marketing and innovation are the two chief functions of business. You get paid for creating a customer, which is marketing. And you get paid for creating a new dimension of performance, which is innovation. Everything else is a cost center.” Now we’re getting a bit closer, but this is still too ambiguous for my taste…

From my perspective the problem with marketing as a discipline is that the desired result often gets lost in the vast expanse of it’s multi-disciplinary nature. The reality is that marketing is really the aggregation of any activity that touches the customer. Therein lies the problem…that is just too much for most organizations to get their arms around, let alone to manage and execute on.

So, how do I define marketing you ask? Marketing is “any activity that catalyzes a selling opportunity” (my definition). Put simply, I want marketing activities to make my phone ring! I don’t care what the medium, market or message is, if it doesn’t put a qualified prospect into a buying situation it is a waste of time, money and effort. Before the Myatt bashers come out of the shadows, I’m not diminishing the value of brand equity, market share, mind share, etc., but I’m simply trying to take a complex subject and make it real and actionable.

If you’re conducting brand campaigns or mind share initiatives that’s fine, but realize that in most circumstances while these may classically be defined as marketing activities these efforts don’t catalyze sales opportunities in the short run. The litmus test of any good “gorilla marketing” effort is measuring return on cost of sales. A great marketing campaign generates a high velocity of selling opportunities at the lowest possible cost over the shortest possible selling cycle. If you juxtapose this with the typical branding initiative you’ll see that these two efforts are truly diametrically opposed. 

So the goal of marketing is to not get caught up in theoretical debates and academic exercises, but to realize that the main thing, is to keep the main thing the main thing. If you can’t put every marketing initiative under the magnifying glass by tying it to an acceptable return based on the generation of sales, then you might want to reconsider what you’re doing.

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