5 TRUTHS MY MOM TAUGHT ME ABOUT MARKETING STRATEGY
My Mom was by no means a marketing executive in the way we understand
t...
Let me first set the record straight. My Mom was by no means a marketing
executive in the way we understand the term today...
 Concentrate limited resources – money, people, energy, time – on that
  area which can potentially deliver the maximum r...
do this, promise you’ll do it under 15 minutes. And so on. Made with exotic
ingredients, faster, slower, higher, lower, bi...
Aling Lydia would artfully place several pieces of round bright red tomatoes
and fresh green chili pods atop the piles of ...
About the Author:

                    Driven by a personal mission to “take executives to the edge
                    an...
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5 Truths My Mom Taught Me About Marketing Strategy

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My Mom was by no means a marketing executive in the way we understand the term today – she was in fact an elementary school teacher back in her hometown in the Philippines. She was close to the market, but in a literal sense: she went to the town’s wet market daily for our foodstuff. When I was a kid she’d usually bring me to the wet market just so I would not have to drive my Dad crazy at home. Looking back, it is these early “shopping” expeditions with my Mom that gave me my first real-world lessons about Marketing. Theorists like Kotler and others may have put some structure to the discipline but as far as I’m concerned my Mom was the true wellspring of marketing wisdom.

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5 Truths My Mom Taught Me About Marketing Strategy

  1. 1. 5 TRUTHS MY MOM TAUGHT ME ABOUT MARKETING STRATEGY My Mom was by no means a marketing executive in the way we understand the term today – she was in fact an elementary school teacher back in her hometown in the Philippines. She was close to the market, but in a literal sense: she went to the town’s wet market daily for our foodstuff. When I was a kid she’d usually bring me to the wet market just so I would not have to drive my Dad crazy at home. Looking back, it is these early “shopping” expeditions with my Mom that gave me my first real-world lessons about Marketing. Theorists like Kotler and others may have put some structure to the discipline but as far as I’m concerned my Mom was the true wellspring of marketing wisdom. TRISTAN B DE LA ROSA Founder & Principal Coach www.thebanyanway.com Banyan Way © 2007 Page 1
  2. 2. Let me first set the record straight. My Mom was by no means a marketing executive in the way we understand the term today – she was in fact an elementary school teacher back in her hometown in the Philippines. She was close to the market, but in a literal sense: she went to the town’s wet market daily for our foodstuff. For those who have not been to the Philippines or other parts of Asia, a wet market is any public open space where you find rows upon rows of stalls selling all manner of fresh food items – from Chinese bokchoy to live chickens in wire cages (they slaughter and feather the chicken for you; otherwise you’ll have to take care of this business yourself at home). Anyway, when I was a kid she’d usually bring me to the wet market just so I would not have to drive my Dad crazy at home. Looking back, it is these early “shopping” expeditions with my Mom that gave me my first real-world lessons about Marketing. Theorists like Kotler and others may have put some structure to the discipline but as far as I’m concerned my Mom was the true wellspring of marketing wisdom. Let me now share with you The 5 Truths My Mom Taught Me About Marketing Strategy. 1. Have A Strategic Focus. In one of our trips I asked my Mom why she would not buy all the stuff we needed from the man at the end of Row 7 who seemed to carry everything. Her response: “Buy chicken only from the chicken guy and pork from the pork guy. Never buy from the everything guy.” She went on to explain that the “everything guy” knew little about how to prepare special though unusual dishes or cuts of meat. Also, his stuff was not as fresh because she had it from a reliable source that the chicken and pig farmers gave preference to the chicken and pork guys who always bought bigger quantities. From this simple buying philosophy I came to understand the basic principle of having a strategic focus. Identify a market where your product or service will have the strongest competitive advantage and become a master. Then craft that competitive advantage into a sharp, provocative, single-minded benefit message that you can hammer incessantly at your market. Having a strategic focus allows you to do the following: Banyan Way © 2007 Page 2
  3. 3.  Concentrate limited resources – money, people, energy, time – on that area which can potentially deliver the maximum results for you.  Be the expert in your field by doing the one absolute thing that you do best. If your medulla oblongata needs fixing, the brain surgeon is your best bet and not the GP at the corner clinic.  As a pricing strategy, you can charge more for your product or service on the basis that your customers trust that they’re getting only the best from you. Alternatively, because you specialize and you know all the secrets of sourcing your raw materials plus you have economies of scale, you can charge a lower price than generalists and totally corner your market. 2. Differentiate Yourself. There is no such thing as commoditization. What can be more of a commodity than pork, chicken or vegetables bought in a wet market? Yet Mom would not buy pork other than from Mang Ador, the toothless man along Row 3; or chicken other than from Aling Perla, the lady who chews betel nut at Row 6. Mom could have bought the same stuff from other vendors but why them? That’s because they have learned to differentiate themselves. Mang Ador and Aling Perla set themselves apart in terms of their service. If not himself, Mang Ador would ask his nephew to carry our basket of purchases all the way to the bus stop. Aling Perla always put in an extra piece of chicken liver or gizzard (which I love) to my Mom’s purchase. The essence of brand marketing stems precisely from this simple idea of setting yourself apart, of creating a competitive advantage. Having identified your strategic focus is a good first step. But assuming that you’re not the only bright kid on the block, there will be others (aka your competition) who would be thinking along the same line as you. No matter how basic, how prosaic your offering is you can always find a platform to set yourself apart. Your pizza tastes better because you use only ingredients that you yourself grow in your backyard and flour that you milled by hand. If you cannot promise a better-tasting pizza, promise that it’s 50% bigger for the same price. If somebody else promises the same size at the same price, promise that you do free home delivery. If somebody else can Banyan Way © 2007 Page 3
  4. 4. do this, promise you’ll do it under 15 minutes. And so on. Made with exotic ingredients, faster, slower, higher, lower, bigger, smaller, farther, nearer, cheaper, snobbishly expensive… you should always find a meaningful promise that sets you apart and creates a powerful competitive edge. It’s there and all you need to do is to look for it. 3. Communicate Your Competitive Edge. Along the central aisle of the wet market was a big fish stall which never failed to attract huge crowds of customers. Its competitive edge: it was the only stall that sold freshly-caught Bonoan bangus, a special kind of fresh- water fish found in the Philippines’ northern waters. Mang Ambo, who owned the stall, had hung a wooden 3’x2’ signboard above the grass- baskets and piles of fish that proclaimed “Bonoan Bangus. Caught Fresh at 3:00 This Morning.” The message was simple, sharp, single-minded. I was not aware that anybody ever challenged Mang Ambo about the preciseness of the time of the catch but my Mom agreed with everybody else that this was proof the fish was truly fresh. Other than his signboard, Mang Ambo also had a full- time barker whose only job was to shout (and sometimes sing) exactly the same words as what the sign said. Like Mang Ambo, I learned that it is not enough to have a better mouse trap. You have to let your target market know about this; otherwise they will not beat a path to your door. As we witness the continued fracturing of audiences reached by traditional media and the emergence of new communication vehicles and social networking tools (Google, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, SMS), there are challenges and opportunities to watch out for. But the basic dictum of communicating your competitive edge to your target market remains a fundamental point of marketing wisdom. 4. Reinforce Your Key Message Through Brilliant Merchandising. Across Mang Ambo’s fish stall was that of Aling Lydia. She did not draw as big a crowd as Mang Ambo but with the “generic” fish that she sold, she was able to hold her own. Banyan Way © 2007 Page 4
  5. 5. Aling Lydia would artfully place several pieces of round bright red tomatoes and fresh green chili pods atop the piles of fish at her stall. When not in the mood for Mang Ambo’s Bonoan Bangus, my Mom would buy from Aling Lydia. I believe the fresh tomatoes and chilis strongly reinforced Mom’s perception that the fish was really fresh. Also, my Mom said the tomatoes and chilis always whetted her appetite as they suggested a scrumptious way to cook the fish. Aling Lydia was brilliant at merchandising her fish. I have found throughout my marketing career that many Marketing Executives forget this “final stretch” in their marketing planning and execution, leaving it to chance and happenstance as to how their product is merchandised at point of sale. For most low-value non-investment purchases, the buying decision is made right at point of purchase. While advertising can positively predispose a consumer towards a specific brand, the marketing person cannot be sure until the actual purchase is made. A sale can be made or broken depending on what the consumer sees or does not see at that exact moment in time when she’s standing in front of the grocery shelf or the service counter. 5. One Final Lesson: Never Cheat Your Customer. While it may be the last item in this piece, it is perhaps the most important as it goes beyond Strategy. It talks to the Values that we must hold as marketing and business executives. My Mom never again bought vegetables from the balding lady at Stall #3 along Row 1. That was after she tried passing off to my Mom a few rotten eggplants under a pile of fresh ones that she was bagging. Never pump the chicken with water so that it weighs more on the scale. Never include dead shrimps along with the live ones. Never put colorant on the beef so that it looks redder and fresher. When, because of an honest mistake you give a rotten tomato, make amends by giving extra tomatoes. Treat your customers fairly and well and you’re sure they’ll be back again the next market day. Banyan Way © 2007 Page 5
  6. 6. About the Author: Driven by a personal mission to “take executives to the edge and push them to fly – as leaders”, Tristan B de la Rosa is the Founder & Principal Coach of Banyan Way, an executive coaching and development company. He is also in the Coaching Advisory Board & Faculty of Northwestern University. Tristan brings an uncommon blend of masterful real-world experience and rich multi-national & multi-cultural insight to the Executive Coaching field. He has decades of leadership experience working at the world’s most respected CPG companies, among them P&G, J&J, General Foods, and the Wrigley Co. As country head or senior marketing executive, he has been posted in some of the world’s most important and fastest growing markets – including China, India, the tiger economies of South East Asia – and in the United States. Tristan is based in Chicago where he shares a home with his wife, Marilyn. Tristan can be contacted at tristan.delarosa@thebanyanway.com. Read his blog at http://bwintrospections.blogspot.com. Banyan Way © 2007 Page 6

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