What makes a company successful?...

... delivering products and services that are relevant and create impact among consumers.

I combine my expertise as a Marketing executive in a Fortune 500 company and my passion as an investor to find the Companies that I think have "cracked the code" with consumers. Advertising does work. When I see a new product that fits relevant consumer trends, and that is supported with a campaign that I find particularly shrewd and innovative, I know that Company is potentially a great investment.

One of the great investors of all times, Peter Lynch, recommends to "buy what you know". You watch TV, go to the supermarket and walk around everyday. Observe... look around: what you see can make you money in the stock market. Now, let's be clear: a Company is not good just because it advertises. What we have to look for is great products supported with -and enhanced by- great advertising. The principle is simple: if something is good enough to draw your interest, it will be of interest to millions of persons just like you.

It is my goal to share with the reader my findings in the world of marketing which I think will turn into great returns for investors. Profit from it!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The spirit of the times

In a world regimented by the relationships we had to establish and upkeep in order to have a life, the role of branding was very clear. A brand was to project to others your personality and your character. The ensuing advertising was very straight-forward. A brand would show the type of character you wanted to portray and presto, it was selected by those who required that specific trait.
Nowadays, however, things have changed. The most important change is that people can choose. No, I am not talking about choosing between flavors or between different brands in a given category. Today, people can really choose: choose what to believe, choose who to relate to, choose what to care about. Ultimately, they can choose how to live their lives. The drivers of this change are very simple but very profound: a) access, and b) closeness. In other words, globalization. Not just globalization as an economic trend or economic doctrine, but true globalization: being aware of what’s going on in any part of the world the instant it’s happening; not being limited by geography when choosing who to relate to or what to talk about; the empathy created by being first-hand witness –through the power of media- of the suffering and triumphs of people on the other side of the world, and ultimately, the understanding that we are all interrelated. It’s never been easier or cheaper to move from one place to another. Not that long ago, self-expression and creativity was limited to those who had well-honed artistic skills. Today, self-expression and creativity takes the form of pictures in Flickr, videos in YouTube or a page in Facebook. Suddenly a world is open for everyone and people are exposed to the myriad of experiences that life can be made of. And people today want to have them all. Like never before, life can be fulfilling and diverse and varied and exciting. There is no time to waste and certainly, no conventions to obey to. Molds have been broken, closets have been pried open and non-committal experimentation is possible. In this new world, what you need to be is secondary to who you want to be and what you want to do.

In order to be successful, brands need to follow suit. Consumers today are far more complex and far more fluid than never before. A brand that defines its business, its character or the consumers it serves in too narrow of a way might soon find itself displaced and out of favor among consumers that just moved on to the next thing. The typical criteria for consumer segmentation just don’t work anymore. Demographics like gender or age or geography are simply irrelevant. Lifestyle? There are as many lifestyles as consumers out there.

As a marketer, what do you do? Successful brands need to engender familiarity, trust and a sense of consistency. They can’t be erratic. They can’t change with the wind. But at the same time, they can’t be stagnant. This is the new positioning challenge marketers are facing in this brave new world.

The solution is to embrace and stand for the values that fundamentally define the era we are living in and that in one way or another, touch or are embraced by most people. In other words, praise the journey, not the destination. What is exciting about this approach is that, as a brand, once you stand for a given value or set of values, you can embrace whatever is the expression of such values at any given time and still remain true to yourself and to what consumer have learnt to appreciate in the brand. In very simple terms, as long as you stand for music, you can play any tune. But if you stood for swing, you’d be facing very tough times in a world dominated by hip hop and country. If as a swing brand you started flirting with hip hop or country, then you’d look inauthentic and out-right opportunistic; therefore, not credible and definitely not trustworthy.

This way of defining your brand, and the consequent implications on how your brand communicates and interacts with consumers, is what I’ve called Marketing to the Zeitgeist.
Some examples, and the impact on investment decisions, will be covered in future postings.

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