by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Practicing Metaphor Engineer…
Looks like it’s over for us marketing strategists.
Now I’m not saying there’s no more need for marketing strategy. If you look at the anemic brands of most banks, airlines, and Web 2.0 startups, you’ll see that the need for marketing is growing faster than Rush Limbaugh at a cheesecake bake-off.
But the opportunity to develop a revolutionary new marketing strategy may have passed. Sure, we marketers can still develop new tactics based on new mediums and new markets, but the big picture strategies have apparently all been done. Even worse, they’re now being recycled…
This dawned on me while teaching an integrated marketing class. Although I’m quoting different marketing experts and their theories, I soon realized that I was repeating the same ideas disguised as different metaphors.
For example, in the 1976 book Marketing Warfare, Jack Trout & Al Ries recommended that “a good flanking move must be made into an uncontested area.” Nineteen years later, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne recommended the exact same strategy, but opted for a nature metaphor with Blue Ocean Strategy. A couple of years after that, Marty Neumeier’s Zag tapped his design experience and recommended “look for the white space.” Three bestselling marketing books. Same basic idea. Different metaphors.
Then there’s the current reigning king of marketing metaphors, Seth Godin…
Godin has cranked out an entire shelf of business bestsellers. His method? Devising wildly creative metaphors — such as sneezers, purple cows, meatball sundaes, and big red fezzes — for basic marketing concepts. Three of his books extol the virtues of being “remarkable,” which is his way of saying “be good and different,” which is about as novel to marketing as “profit” is to finance. He regurgitates common knowledge in an uncommon way, resulting in millions of books sold. Godin is the Rachael Ray of business lit.
Since I found myself wading knee-deep in metaphors before a score of marketing students, I decided to show them how they, too, can contrive their own. I asked one student to pick an item, any item. He suggested a cheeseburger. (In these late night classes, food is always high on the mind.) And right there in class, the Cheeseburger POV (Proposition o’ Value) was born…
The Cheeseburger POV: The Exclusive Recipe…
Your basic American cheeseburger consists of a meat patty layered with cheese, an obligatory slice of lettuce, and a bun. And like a cheeseburger, a good value proposition is greater than the sum of its parts:
- The meat: This is the core product benefit, which is what consumers primarily want. In a car, that would be the drivetrain that takes them from point A to point B. But a drivetrain is not terribly exciting by itself, so…
- The cheese: You layer your core product with features like leather seats and a killer stereo. The more cheese, the tastier the product, and the more you can skimp on the expensive meat.
- The lettuce: This is the token nod to nutrition that enables consumers to say, hey, we’re eating healthy! In marketing, this is the corporate social responsibility element that’s the trend du jour. Think of the hybrid technology used to greenwash an SUV.
- The bun: Then there’s the styling, design, and other fluffy branding elements that hold it all together.
Just apply this Cheeseburger POV, and you’ll have a product that satisfies the consumer and commands a tasty margin. (Ever see what a hybrid SUV costs?) If you crave even more profit, just ask your customer if they want “fries with that” (an extended warranty). The Cheeseburger POV can help you sketch out an idea for anything from an ecommerce site to a coffee shop to an MBA program.
Now it’s your turn to pull a Godin…
Anyone can coin a marketing metaphor — go ahead, give it a shot here. To help you get started, I’ve posted a list of suggested terms below. What do you think they represent?
Just take one of those, apply it to some basic concepts from a marketing textbook, and expand it to 200 pages (large type, lots of leading). Voila! — you have a business bestseller. Just don’t forget the cheese.