The Easiest Question in Marketing

I read a recent post by one of my favorite marketing authors, Seth Godin, titled “The Myth of Launch PR”. He talks about compani...

12 Sep 2008 2330 Views

I read a recent post by one of my favorite marketing authors, Seth Godin, titled “The Myth of Launch PR”. He talks about companies who are obsessed with publicity as they launch their brand onto the market. He then reminds readers of the many successful brands than received no publicity on launch. Brands like Starbucks, Apple, Nike, Google, Wikipedia, and Microsoft.  The lesson: spend a little more energy focusing on your product and you won’t have to worry so much about your launch tactics.

Seth raises an excellent point, but I think a better title for his post would have been “The Seduction of Launch PR”.

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Brands become popular when the product they represent delivers value to people.  All the brands Seth mentions have that in common. Brands generate wealth for their owners when they are backed by a business plan that can monetize that popularity. If you have those two things in place their is no myth to good publicity. It works. It accelerates uptake, helps a product reach its market potential sooner, and makes it easier for competitors to enter your category but much more difficult for them to take your leadership of that category. All good things.

The seduction comes in when CEO’s who don’t understand the role of marketing expect PR or advertising to make up for deficiencies in their product and flaws in their business plan. I believe there was a time when this worked. Probably when Mad Men began to feel their oats and realized the power of mass messaging on a media-naive public.

The days of making an inferior (or even average) product and convincing the world it is better based on launch hype and fancy ad campaigns are over. At least in developed nations. I’m not saying con artists can’t make a quick buck hyping junk. But the sustainability of those schemes has dwindled from years to days.

Still old lessons die hard. At least once a month I have some executive ask me, in so many words, how they can make their target audience believe that their product is better than their competitor’s.  That’s the easiest question in marketing: “Make a better product.” I tell them. The answer always surprises them. But it surprises me even more how often really smart business people put so little focus on providing value and so much focus on trying to create the illusion of it.

If you want a successful launch, the best advice I can give you is to focus less on generating excitement and more on generating value. And if you don’t know how to do that, I’d advise you take your launch budget and invest it in getting to know your customers better and developing a product that will knock their socks off.

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Sean Duffy | @brandranter
Speaker, consultant & founder of Duffy Agency, the flipped digital agency that provides accelerated growth to aspiring international brands.