In the world of marketing communications, it seems that confluence is in the air. This point was underscored recently by Eric Trow, a MediaPost columnist who is also vice present of strategic services at Pittsburgh, PA-based marketing communications firm Gatesman+Dave.
Trow’s main point is this: Despite the big differences that marketers have traditionally noted between members of the Boomer Generation and their younger Millennial counterparts, today the two groups are becoming more similar than they are different.
In particular, Boomers are beginning to act more like Millennials.
Trow identifies a set of fundamental trending characteristics that underscore his belief:
Boomers increasingly want instant gratification – and related to that, they want convenience as well.
Boomers are embracing technology more every day, including being nearly as dependent on mobile devices as their younger counterparts.
Boomers connect online – with adults over the age of 65 now driving social media growth more than any other generation at the moment.
Boomers want control – and to that end, they do their research as well.
Boomers want to live healthier – with levels of interest in natural, healthy and environmentally responsible products rivaling those of younger age groups.
Boomers are more questioning of traditional authority – and not just because of the 2016 U.S. presidential election race, either.
Putting it all together, Trow concludes that he and many other Boomers could, in practice, be classified more accurately as “middle-aged Millennials.”
Speaking as someone who falls inside the Boomer generation age range, I concede many of Trow’s points.
But how about you? Do they ring true to you as well?
Although the examples cited by the writers are a little outdated by now, the book remains an important contribution to the literature on the subject of brand positioning and what it takes for a company to build, strengthen and protect it.
Unfortunately, too few companies are paying heed to some of the basic tenets of proper positioning.
Indeed, based on the way many businesses approach their positioning — and the typical positioning statements one encounters — it seems less like a battle for someone’s mind and an exercise in mind-numbing irrelevance, instead.
Here’s a positioning statement I came across recently, from a firm my own industry (MarComm). I’m shielding the name of the company to be charitable. But tell me if this isn’t just dreadful:
“[Company X] is a creative marketing communications firm that delivers fresh ideas and authentic solutions that drive measurable business results.
Our strategic, problem-solving approach generates marketing and communications programs that increase brand awareness, improve sales productivity, increase marketing response, drive revenues and support business goals.
We plan and implement creative solutions that leverage our clear insight, strategic business skills, team building, proven process, distinctive design and measurement methodology.
… and so on. (It continues for another two paragraphs.)
The big problem is that there’s little being said that’s either informative or differentiating.
Worse yet, enveloping a wholly indistinctive positioning statement with a bunch of forgettable adjectives, mealy-mouthed platitudes and other “weasel words” just makes things worse.
To my view, when it comes to company positioning, directness and simplicity is always the better route.
For starters, go for facts. If a company offers what many others also do, that’s no indictment of the business. It’s fruitless to try to communicate “uniqueness” where there is none, because people won’t be fooled for long anyway.
Cut the “marketing buzz-speak,” too. People hear those overused terms as mere noise. And noise is irritating.
If there is demonstrated singular competence in one or more areas, it’s OK to tout that, of course. But throttle back on the hype and leave it to the audience to draw its own conclusions.
Speaking personally, when I read a company’s positioning statement, I’m looking for the quintessential “elevator speech” that covers the “Five Ws” as succinctly as possible.
And spare the marketing fluff, please.
More than anything, going beyond “just the facts” is insulting to the readers’ intelligence. If they want to learn more, they’ll do it on their own terms, thank you very much.
Do you know of any company positioning statements that are particularly effective? If so, please share them here. (On the other hand, if the ones you know are dreadful, perhaps keep those ones to yourself!)
When you decide to ditch a successful marketing slogan after nearly 25 years, you’d better have a very good reason. Because that’s what’s happening with the National Pork Board, which announced last week that it is retiring its promotional tagline Pork: The Other White Meat.
According to statistics reported by the industry organization, annual per capita pork consumption in the United States has remained essentially flat at ~50 pounds in recent years, while annual beef consumption has declined to ~61 pounds and chicken has risen to ~80 pounds.
The Pork Board determined that the best to way achieve new growth would be to convince people who already eat pork to consume more of it, rather than to continue trying to encourage other consumers to shift to pork.
Ceci Snyder, vice president of marketing for the National Pork Board, said this: “We want to increase pork sales by 10% by 2014. To do that, we needed to make a stronger connection – a more emotional connection to our product.”
This kind of strategy may make sense in that ~28% of American households represent nearly 70% of the total at-home consumption of fresh pork products. And it’s probably true that these people don’t need to be continually reminded of the “healthy” characteristics of pork via the “Other White Meat” slogan.
But retiring a marketing theme is one thing … and coming up with a compelling slogan to replace it is quite another.
And the one that is being debuted strikes me as a poor substitute. Are you ready to hear what it is? Drum-roll please …
“Pork. Be inspired.”
Excuse, me, but this is about as inspiring as reading the pages of the Des Moines telephone directory.
I have no doubt that the Pork Board focus group-tested this new message, and it probably came out with no posted negatives. After all, who could object to this innocuous little slogan?
But here’s a problem: It says almost nothing to anyone. If I’m a pork lover, how is this slogan supposed to make me any more inspired than I was before about preparing pork recipes? And it I’m someone who doesn’t eat pork – or eats it only infrequently – what does this tagline do to encourage me to take fresh look at this meat?
In my view, “The Other White Meat” positioning communicated so much more, not least in that there was a “health” component to the slogan. The message of healthy eating has become more important in recent years rather than less, and the beauty of that tagline is that it speaks strongly to pork consumers and non-consumers alike.
Any time your marketing slogan can speak powerfully to multiple audiences, you’ve got a winner.
And here’s another thing: All of the Pork Board’s energy and resources that have gone into publicizing “The Other White Meat” over the past two decades have resulted in a recognition of “health parity” between pork and chicken in the minds of consumers.
This seems like tossing a whole lot of goodwill into the trash can.
The National Pork Board reports that it will be plowing more than $11 million into an advertising campaign to roll out its new marketing slogan, beginning this month. I’m sure they have every intention of scoring the same success now as they achieved with “The Other White Meat” before.
Unfortunately, it may not matter how much money there is available to throw at the campaign. The best measure of how successful it’ll be is in the inherent compelling power of the theme.
“Pork. Be inspired.” doesn’t do it … on any level I can think of.
Memo to the marketing folks at the Pork Board: Forget the beaucoup bucks you’ve already expended developing this bowser of a slogan. Instead, troll around online and see some of the alternative taglines “Joe and Jane Consumer” have come up with. The Los Angeles Times, for one, invited their readers to submit alternative ideas. I particularly like one that came from Jacqueline Ochsner, a reader from Santa Monica, California: “Pork: The better white meat.”
Not only is that slogan a better one, it was offered up free of charge!
Buzzwords – those stock words or phrases that have effectively become nonsense through their endless repetition – tend to find their penultimate manifestation in forgettable corporate vision and mission statements.
If you look online, you’ll find that the “about us” pages on corporate web sites are littered with the detritus of high-mannered phrases. We all know them — terms like:
Considering how frequently these terms show up in company positioning statements, is it any wonder they’ve become nothing but meaningless pablum?
Here’s an interesting exercise: Try to find a published corporate vision, mission or positioning statement that doesn’t contain any of the terms above. I spent the better part of an hour looking, only to come up empty handed.
This is not to denigrate the aims of businesses. We all want our companies to embody the laudable qualities these terms describe. And why not? They’re good principles that are worthy goals in how to interact with customers, with communities, and with the larger world.
But companies also want differentiation, not sameness.
Unfortunately, you’ll find none of that with these terms here. Just mealy-mouthed nothings and “yesterday’s vision for tomorrow” … conveyed with all the pizzazz of a cold mashed potato sandwich.
So it’s back to the drawing board, or it should be. But considering the birth pangs most of these mission / vision statements must have endured in the first place — committee assignments and all — that’s probably not going to happen.