Sometimes you see big brands and companies struggling with difficult issues. That's what crossed my mind when I recently observed the master in public relations, Apple, in a strange dance with clients, partners and politics.
I could not resist writing a short blog about a marketing concept that was used by Frank Meysman when he was vice president of Sara Lee. A master marketer, with clear winning strategies. At an INMA Dutch-Flemish seminar in the 1990s he gave us his recipe for future success: it's called MOST. Let me introduce this four-letter word. And watch out for the third letter, where big brands make big mistakes.
M: More value. Simple? Not really, it's the race for continuous improvement and differentiation with your competitors. Clients are always wanting more. This does not necessarily mean more pages, but more answers to real customer needs. Smaller print formats was a clear need, free information on public transport was, local Web sites sometimes are, etc. If you want to win the race for the wallet of your customer, go for more value.
O: Omnipresence. The triangle of success is what I called it. Print-Web-mobile. Follow your customer wherever he is or will be. Create opportunities for buying your products on every corner of the street. Make sure you are in permanent contact with your clients. Follow your customer when he's on holiday, sell newspapers in places where people come together, make sure everybody has the chance to buy or consume your product at least once a day. Think outside the box when you talk about distribution. Realise yourself that newspapers are the fastest-moving consumer good in the world, and adapt your marketing and distribution to it.
S: Sympathy. If there's one determining factor to predict future success for a brand, it's sympathy. Ask yourself the question who in your market is the most sympathetic brand. Better yet: do some research. Put the result in a safe deposit box and take it out in five years. There's an extremely big chance you will see that your prediction was the key to future success. Branding is not dead. It is the key to your future. But the game is difficult and is played in a much more complex competition.
Let's look at Apple in the recent difficult communication with media companies. What they did was change the rules of a game in the middle of a competition. Nobody likes it, nobody will approve it, nobody sees this as a way to do honest business. If you do this as politician, or as football team, or as a household father or mother, your popularity will very quickly disappear. You will no longer be the most sympathetic person in the neighbourhood. You will have a problem.
That's my advice to Apple: you are the most popular brand, you can create strong partnerships with an extremely interesting win for Apple, and a good win for the partner. But don't become greedy, and don't fight big names in media because one day that will have an impact on how you will be perceived. Think MOST.
T: Trial. Unknown typically means not sold! Street wisdom, but still relevant.
MOST: a concept from the past?
Think twice before you say “no.”