Apr 25, 2019
Behind every great business there is a remarkable marketing campaign
By Elia Fedorovski
Did you know that, once upon a time, Nike’s product catered almost exclusively to marathon runners? Then, a fitness craze emerged — and the folks in Nike’s marketing department knew they needed to take advantage of it to surpass their main competitor, Reebok. (At the time, Reebok was selling more shoes than Nike). And so, in the late 1980s, Nike created the “Just Do It.” campaign. Aspirational and empowering, universal and intensely personal, the campaign inspired people to achieve through sport. It positioned Nike as a clever marketing company that just happened to sell shoes.
It was a hit.
In 1988, Nike sales were at $800 million; by 1998, sales exceeded $9.2 billion. “Just Do It.” was short and sweet, yet encapsulated everything people felt when they were exercising — and people still feel that feeling today. Don’t want to run five miles? Just Do It. Don’t want walk up four flights of stairs? Just Do It. It’s a slogan we can all relate to: the drive to push ourselves beyond our limits.
In 1999, AdAge declared De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” the most memorable slogan of the twentieth century. But the campaign, which proposed (pun very much intended) the idea that no marriage would be complete without a diamond ring, wasn’t just riding on the coattails of an existing industry. De Beers actually built the industry; they presented the idea that a diamond ring was a necessary luxury. According to the New York Times, N.W. Ayer’s game plan was to “create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.”
A hundred years ago, Albert Lasker made orange juice our universal breakfast beverage. Scurvy-conscious gold miners were the main market for California oranges until Lasker branded the fruit “Sunkist,” put simple glass extractors into homes, and directed his agency, Lord & Thomas, to advertise OJ as “healthful.”
The “Get a Mac” campaign of 2006 to 2009 brilliantly met the challenge of depicting complex technology in ads. A denim-clad young man (portraying a Mac) and a suited gentleman (a PC) engaged in witty banter on their respective capabilities, clearly differentiating the computers to Luddite and geek alike. he Mac vs. PC debate ended up being one of the most successful campaigns ever for Apple, and they experienced 42% market share growth in its first year. The campaign tells Mac’s audience everything they need to know about their product without being overt — and they did it in a clever way.
Mary Kate Ash
Inventor of Network Marketing.
Network marketing (recruiting independent-agents to serve as distributors of goods and services, and then encouraging them to build and manage their own sales force) had been around for several decade when Mary Kay Ash founded her world famous cosmetics firm in 1963.
But older companies, like Amway and Wachters, failed to what Mary Kay did: turn the network marketing concept from something on the fringe into into an integral part of America’s middle-class culture.
She did this by tapping a great underutilized workforce: the housewives who were sick of the June Cleaver act, but didn’t want a traditional 9 to 5 job.
Her most brilliant move: awarding top sellers pink Cadillacs, thereby transforming them into mobile advertisements for the company’s products. Beautiful.
California Milk Processor Board
Thanks to the California Milk Processor Board’s “Got Milk?” campaign, milk sales in California rose 7% in just one year. But the impact ran across state borders, and to this day, you still can’t escape the millions of “Got [Fill-in-the-Blank]?” parodies.
Note, though, that the ad didn’t target people who weren’t drinking milk; but instead focused on the consumers who already were. The lesson here? It’s not always about getting a brand new audience to use your products or services — sometimes, it’s about getting your current audience to appreciate and use your product more often.
It’s easily to vilify Ponzi as a conman, but what he did right was promote his company by promoting himself. It’s a technique that CEOs have been imitating ever since.
Ponzi may have intended to pay off all his investors eventually, but his marketing — based upon a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption — created so much interest that it all got out of hand.
At one point, Ponzi was taking in so much money that his offices in Boston were said to look as if a hurricane had hit a bank.
It is up to the product or service to define the business — but its marketing that defines the perception.