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“Moneyball”: paraphrased?


That’s right… here’s my read on “Moneyball”; the book written by Michael Lewis about how Billy Beane and his unappreciated and undervalued Oakland A‘s were able to compete and excel with a limited budget.

But my subtitle would be: Getting more with less: marketing in this crazy economy.

It’s no secret that when there’s a slow down the first cut is to the marketing budget. When the widgets aren’t selling the marketing gets placed on indefinite hold. As a business owner, I too, will forego certain capital improvements. We cut back.

But… I do not cut back on my firm’s marketing. i.e.: self-promotion, eblasts and networking. My aim (as it is for our clients) is getting the most bang for our buck. Whatever has the greatest potential to help us “stand out”, agencyHARTWELL will try. It’s not easy, certainly if your budget has been cut. However, recognizing the opportunity the economy has created is very important… because the marketing landscape has changed.

The momentum, awareness and exposure that you’ve created needs to be protected anyway possible. Doing nothing is going backwards; a hole that is unnecessary. I’ve said it before: you don’t need to spend a lot… but you need to spend something.

Most companies may not be crunching numbers and poring over stats as Mr. Beane has. But sitting on the sidelines (sorry, mixing my metaphors) isn’t going to help get you out of a slump. You have to get up to the plate… and swing!

Swing and keep at it.

I’m a big fan of KISS


Henri Matisse "Nude from the Back" - 1950

Not the late ’70s hard rock band. But the acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid.

KISS is the primary principle behind all effective branding and marketing.

A simplified strategy will always be easier to execute and, in turn, will be more digestible by your consumer. Everywhere you look… logos, movies, car design, literature, etc. it’s all about simplification. The “noise” has been striped out to focus on the important part. What’s the primary thought you want your target to remember? Make it easy for people.

The consumer may not realize the effort that has gone into getting a logo or a new Lexus to market. But I can tell you plenty of logos may have been designed and then refined before their public introduction. Likewise, the new car model; which has been trimmed down, tweaked and refined by the time it arrives in the marketplace.

Here’s a Henri Matisse story I was told while attending art school: every 19 year old student initially draws their nudes using a simple black outline. As Matisse did. What we art students didn’t realize was that it took Matisse 60 years to get to that simple line. Not a couple of semesters. He was constantly trimming, tweaking and refining… 60 years taught him to simply “take the garbage out”.

Since you won’t have 60 years… aiming for simplicity is your only course of action.

Remember: “KISS rules!”

Who’s different? You are! Then show it.


Waiting at a traffic light the other day, my eye caught a well-maintained, red Jeep. It was an older one… maybe a CJ.

It wasn’t white, black or silver. It wasn’t German, Japanese or Korean. But it was different. In a sea of cars, it stood out.

Which leads me to today’s post: what does your company do that no one else can say? What’s your company’s fingerprint? What makes it unique? Does it manufacture something someone also does, but better? Do you offer greater value? And does your consumer know this?

Here’s what we suggest to our clients… and it doesn’t require beaucoup bucks either: take chances with your marketing. Do risky work.

Being different requires it. But a word of caution… more important than budget is having the backbone to stand by it! Everyone from your CEO, President, COO all need to be supportive. Not only will you’ll find the marketing easier but being risky will generate “buzz”. And buzz is the free marketing Holy Grail that every company could use.

Even if you aren’t different, promoting your company is a lot better than doing nothing.

Oh, by the way, it should be obvious that your company better be able to follow through at what it does… otherwise you’ll be “different” for the wrong reason.

But back to what got me started. A red Ferrari would have caught my eye also but a $15,000 Jeep got my attention. At a fraction of the cost.

Marketing = Product Exercise


Being one that likes his physical exercise to be cost-effective (i.e.: low cost/max benefit: push-ups, chin-ups, running) I advocate to our clients that their marketing do the same.

BUT, as with exercise, you need to keep marketing for the best results.

I’ve pointed out in previous posts that you don’t need deep pockets to be marketing. It helps but isn’t necessary.

The “steady stream” approach is best. Because the most important things are how and what you say about your product. Be strategic and be consistent. Just as the consumer is looking for value so should you with your marketing. Remember low cost/max benefit.

As we’ve all heard… “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. If you don’t continually use marketing, you’ll lose all of the awareness the marketing created.

Speak about a waste of money.

The Distillation Process.


In marketing, distilling your message is not dumbing-down.

It’s placing a finer point on your product’s benefits.

Simplify, for the consumer, the  reasons for buying your product. If you produce one ad or a TV spot resist the temptation to over-load it with everything and anything. There is only so much the consumer can absorb so making things more convoluted is not going to work. It’s hard enough to get the consumers attention, so when you have it, make it quick! Otherwise your message, and marketing budget, has gone the way of the wild-blue-yonder.

“Hold on… we have plenty to say about our new XYZ widget!”

Okay, fine… there are other benefits? Prioritize the key reasons. Baking soda comes to mind: 1) well-known as a refrigerator odor eater. 2) great in a pancake recipe. Also good to use for 3) cleaning silver ware (one aluminum pie crust pan, insert silver, sprinkle baking soda over silver, add boiling water. Rinse.). But, please, not in the same ad.

Keep it simple and make it easy for your customers. Focus on your primary and most important point and be done with it!

Facebook or Twitter? Yes! However…


you still have to convey to the consumer “why you”! Why you are better than your competition. Facebook and Twitter are simply another way of getting your message out and creating awareness.

You probably get greater value in using Facebook and Twitter… because there’s a better chance of feedback (good and bad) to and with your customer. No need to worry about cost or delay of research or focus groups to find out what your target is thinking. Your product didn’t do this or that; you’ll hear about it.

Before the internet/social media, magazine ads, direct mail and radio/TV commercials did all of the heavy awareness lifting. This scattershot approach (who reading the magazine was actually interested in your product?) worked at one time. For these avenues to be effective, patience and budget had to be in copious amounts. Which was fine… THEN, not any longer.

“Value” is a word I’d never use in the same sentence with print or TV advertising. In our experience, the creative (the idea) for the print and TV commercials is usually the cost-effective part of a marketing campaign. It’s the media buy where at least 70% of the budget goes. We’ve all heard about the price to run a commercial during the Super Bowl. That’s what the pundits are referring to… the media buy for the game.

In the end, any way that you can get your name or product to stand out in the marketplace will be good. Perhaps, unlike traditional marketing, “value” can be associated with Facebook and Twitter. It won’t hurt to find out.

I found it. A business marketing WON’T work for!


I recently met a woman who’s in diamonds. I have admit that I was thrown by what she said… duh, aren’t diamonds a girl’s best friend?

Ummm… no, that’s not what she meant. She buys diamonds. This is DeBeers, Geneva, Israel, South Africa stuff.

I realized I had come upon one of a handful of businesses that won’t ever use marketing. I did say use… not need.

The reason being everyone wants diamonds. Not only do jewelers use them for engagement rings, earrings and pendants, but criminals… to steal. Think about it… just about every “Caper” film has revolved around the planning/execution of the diamond heist. To name a few, gems (sorry) like RififiThe Hot Rock, The Pink Panther, Thief and Snatch.

Marketing’s purpose is to create awareness, send a message, publicize a new product by getting on the consumers radar. Certainly, publicizing the fact that you buy something people are willing to steal is not brilliant! In fact, the radar I just mentioned, you want to be… and stay off it! Buying diamonds is a business requiring stealth and a low profile.

But for the other 99.99% of businesses, marketing is necessary. To get on that coveted radar!

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