Tag Archives: Madmen

Unordinary Thinking No. 19 – Beating up big guys

The stories many of us like best are where the underdog triumphs. Where David kills Goliath. Where the little guy wins. Here’s such a story.

Wilson Harrell was an American entrepreneur with a highly effective domestic cleaning product, Formula 409, and had got it to a point where he had approximately 5% share of the market. He was confident in his product, knew that customers liked it and felt sure that he could continue to grow.

Then the type of bombshell which, you would think, any entrepreneurial outfit must dread: the behemoth producer of consumer goods, Procter and Gamble, started test marketing their own competing product. Regardless of whether P & G’s new product might be better than Formula 409, Harrell knew this was a grave threat to his business. With P & G’s gigantic marketing budgets and expansive distribution networks, the only thing he knew for sure was that he had to do something.

Harrell knew two things which would prove critical. Firstly he knew his customers. He knew what they liked about his product, how they used it and how frequently they purchased it. Secondly he knew how an organisation like P & G would behave and that they would make their decisions with a primary focus on their internal targets, processes and requirements. It was from these insights that Harrell developed a two staged strategy.

Formula 409 discovered that P & G were planning to test their product, Cinch, in Denver. Harrell knew that, like any big organisation, P & G would see how their product performed in this test to then decide how to formulate their national launch strategy, project sales volumes, apportion advertising spend and forecast how quickly they could anticipate their return.

But how could Harrell hope to compete on a nationwide basis? Realistically, he simply did not have the resources and pockets to put Formula 409 up against P & G all over the US. If Cinch rolled out nationally, prospects for Formula 409 were bleak. Surely his only option was to leverage his knowledge of his customers, take the gloves off and go into battle in Denver in the hope that he could beat Cinch and hence dissuade P & G from going national? No. Instead Harrell stopped all advertising of his product in the Denver area. He discouraged reorders from his customers. He let Cinch win and P & G rolled it out nationally.

At this point, Harrell implemented the second, genius, stage of his strategy. Along with a half gallon size of Formula 409, he bundled a second smaller sixteen ounce bottle, priced it at a huge discount and sold it to whoever he could. He knew that his customers liked his product, would find his promotion attractive and would buy it. What he also knew from his prior experience of selling Formula 409 was that when they bought it, they would not need any cleaning liquid for at least the following 6 months. They would be out of the market and would not bother to look at Cinch. Thus, Cinch’s potential audience became much smaller than P & G expected and they were not able to hit the aggressive national sales targets they had projected from the Denver test. This, in turn, meant they did not make the returns they had forecast. Which, in turn, meant that Cinch was withdrawn from the market within 12 months.

Which meant the little guy won.

Posted by Ajai Ranawat

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

The Best of a Marketer’s Diary (March 2012)

Since May last year I have been capturing ads which have made an impression on me and tried to explain why. I look around all the time for marketing messages (it’s part of my job) and attempt to choose one each day which really stands out, to me. At times, the pickings are pretty lean. But on occasions true gems emerge. Each month I publish the previous month’s highlights.

In March I have found a mixed bag. The deluge of disappointing Olympic executions continue to underwhelm. Fortunately, there are some really smart media placements and clever emotionally engaging ads out there at present to restore the quality balance.

In the ‘oh my goodness, did they really do that’ bracket we find soft toy incentives in exchange for credit card take up and José Mourinho’s brand continues to be butchered by an asset management company. 

But at the other end of the quality scale, the following are at the top of my crop:

Best alternative pricing message – Marks & Spencer

This isn’t just pricing. This is M&S pricing.

Who else can pull this off? They are bundling product and selling it cheap and yet we still look at it as a ‘Saturday indulgence’. With many brands looking to move away from fruitless pricing strategies, this is a prime example of how to do it without compromising the brand.

Best use of a celebrity asset – Vitamin Water / Jessie J

So let’s get this straight, it’s not about the price tag. Jesse J is hot sponsorship property at the moment and she doesn’t mind playing the game. From tights to flavoured water, she’s helping brands get some bang for their marketing buck. With her music on teenagers ipods, her face all over the billboards and personality arriving on BBC prime time she’s a short cut for what’s hot for the mainstream late thirty somethings. Vitamin Water have done more with the property than most linking the Olympics tie up of P&G with a party and a specially designed bottle. Not quite brand activation in the league of B&Q (our current favourite in this space), but a country mile more sophisticated than slapping Jose’s face on your ad and calling your asset management business ‘the other special one’ (sadly a true story).

Best innovative use of a conventional media – Sky Atlantic/ MadMen

This is as much for the 60s ads that ran in the first episode ad breaks as for the posters. Such an impression have Stirling, Draper and the gang made on us that we need only a straight shot of a character to start drooling over the anticipated new Mad Men series. Bit too much of a sepia wash for my liking on these – it’s as if we were going back to the 40s rather than rushing from the 50s into the 60s (but given it’s Mad Men, they are forgiven of course).

And the significant PR coverage from this stunt hasn’t escaped my notice either. With one commentator perfectly stating how the ad break can often ‘rip’ the viewer from the mood and atmosphere created by a period show back to the present. But not on this occasion, the ads respect the show!

April 2011 will be the last monthly post before the Best in Marketing Communications 2011/2012 grand final. Until then, I hope you enjoy these March highlights. For the full March selection visit the flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/66864671@N00/

Posted by Christopher Brooks.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which achieves cut-through propositions for our clients. To do this we look beyond the familar towards the unordinary. 

To find out more about what we do and if that might be of interest to you please visit our website lexdengroup.com

Or contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.