I worked in marketing for 20+ years for a Fortune 100 company—in various roles, including brand management, global communications, marketing research, and communications—for some of the best-known brands.*
In a word, I've had lots of experience with some of the best creative minds and agencies in the world while working at a large corporation.
Yet, in the past three years, as a marketing consultant for a very small boutique agency in New York, I have learned more about what it takes to operate successfully and create value in today's "new brand world."
1. Marketing materials don't have to cost a lot
Yes, you can create a TV/video commercial, and a pretty damn good one, for under $50,000. Basically that leaves $300,000-$400,000 or more to get exposure for your message.
With new technology, hungry talent, and people looking to make their mark in the entertainment business, the execution of a spot can be done very affordably. If you know your brand and it is being managed with the right message to the right people, putting it on video does not have to be expensive; and it can still be fun, fresh, educational—and get noticed. You can get logos and graphics designed by talented up-and-comers; you can get celebrity endorsements for little or no dollars.
If the brand fit is authentic, the message is on target, and the ultimate program is win-win for those involved, you can often do a lot with little up front investment.
2. Pay what something is worth, not what it costs
Prices are always negotiable. In general, you can get the product done or the media needed for a price that is in line with the value it creates. Recently, we negotiated 40% off the original quote for the media costs of a print ad in a major consumer publication with no sacrifice in placement. If you don't ask, you won't get.
3. Work with people who offer value
The work day is long. With Internet, email, and mobile devices, ideas come at all times of the day and night. There is little divide between work life and home life. Work is life and life is work, and it all fits together. Just make sure your intrusions are giving you value, interesting insights, and offering return on your time.
4. Work for people you trust and respect—and who trust and respect you
That is the most important thing—and, together, your positive energy will help make things happen.
5. PR has always been easy to get… as long as you have news, but today it is even easier, quicker, and less expensive
With one click, the world can learn about your message, as long as it is newsworthy and creates interest. Social networking, blogging, and viral pick-up can work magic. There is often no need to send a formal release. But just remember: one click and the world will know your message.
6. If your product has style, the stylish will rave and share
I know many people who can spot something that has the "it" factor: They think it's cool, great, stylish... and that it will be a must-have. If it has style, Fashionista, Refinery29, People StyleWatch, Glamour.com, Elle.com, the Cut, and many, many bloggers and fashion influencers will write about it, covet it, pin it... because they know it "has it" and they love it. The Cambridge Satchel in its heyday was a great example.
7. Do something you are passionate about
If you're doing something you love, you will be more likely to have the energy to make something happen. Energy and enthusiasm in communications are contagious. If you are passionate about your brand, others will want to be, too.
8. Work with a team that has diverse skills, various points of view, and different backgrounds
Together, they can form a holistic perspective and bring new and exciting ideas to the table. Again, nothing new... but I have learned just how well and successfully a small team can operate. Our agency's strength is built on the strength of individuals, but it succeeds only because of the strength created as a result of how we work together as a team. Winning teams collaborate, build, and support one another. Doing so seems easier in smaller agencies because of less politics, similar goals, and faster response time.
9. It's not what you know, it's who you know
That has always been the case. But this is even truer in our new world of communications. The difference today is that it is relatively easy to get to know new people. You can find someone's contact details online or by phone. Getting a celebrity to cast... you can probably get his or her cell phone number. Finding a CMO's email... a breeze. Lists of bloggers, websites, etc. are there for the picking. No need to buy lists; go online and search. Then tell them what you know.
10. Marketing research is no longer a formal science—it's a way of life
There is research at your fingertips. Use it. Consumers want to be engaged. In fact, they are probably already talking about your product and your competition. Just take a look. Get alerts. Do searches. Check Twitter streams. Ask questions. Start a dialogue. Engage consumers on a fan page. A blog. Tumblr. Pinterest. Instagram. Facebook.
Don't pay for research until you have done your research on information that's already available, for free. Then pay for new research smartly to find out the why, to get into the backstory, and to do further analysis.
11. Global marketing is relatively easy today: What used to take years now takes days or months or less
You can take a product from the UK or Brazil, and get PR for it in the US, and get retail placement for the product fairly quickly. All with the Internet... sharing pictures, prices, endorsements, and press pick up. The world is much smaller. Great products in one country are usually great, and accessible, in another. Increasingly, consumer needs and desires are similar globally. And top celebrities and editors have worldwide influence.
12. Keep your brand relevant
It is one thing to create buzz, awareness, and news for your brand. But if you want to keep it vital, it has to remain exciting, newsworthy, and interesting to your audience. For Cambridge Satchel, this was done with new styles, celebrity usage, designer collaborations, and product placement. But you need to keep such activities up to maintain brand relevance.
13. Continuously audit and protect your brand
To the best extent you can. Your brand lives in a viral marketplace now. So much is out of the control of the brand managers and the communications managers. If you aren't continuously on the lookout and don't manage and monitor your brand... it will still be out there, living without your input and protection.
14. Success breeds counterfeits, so beware of cyberfraud
Social Media is an amazing tool that can shortcut the success of a brand by creating awareness and interest that can spread exponentially. The flip side is that social media has created a viral "Canal Street" that ignores copyright and trademark, and sets up fraudulent websites, Facebook accounts, and Twitter profiles using your brand and photos. Others will trade off your success. Buyer beware, and brand be aware!
*I was fortunate to work for DuPont and participate in its growth of some of the best-known ingredient brands, including Tyvek, Kevlar, Lycra, and Coolmax. I also worked on co-brand programs with many leading apparel, fashion, performance, and beauty brands, including Adidas, JCP, Rimmel, Wacoal, Zac Posen, IMG, UnderAmour, Levi's, J Brand, and more. I had a hand in hiring and working with some of the world's leading global advertising and PR agencies, including Saatchi, BBDO, Y&R, McCann Erikson, Ketchum, and Publicis, and some wonderful boutique agencies such as LaForce & Stevens, The Bromley Group, Syrup, and Exit. I've worked with the great marketing research firms for qual and quant, including NPD, Gallup, Yankelovich, Harris, Penn and Schoen, Wirthlin. And I've experienced the brilliance of some of the best identity firms: Landor, Siegel and Gale, FutureBrand, and Interbrand.