Six Top Insights
First) Accept the validity of the obvious.
The search for any marketing strategy is the search for the obvious. When considering the dictionary definition of the word obvious: Easy to see or understand, plain, or evident; you understand why `obvious' is so important. When a marketing message is simple, easy to understand, and evident - it works really well. The author goes on to talk about people's hesitation with this concept, because of the misconception that the obvious is too simple and does not appeal to the imagination. Likewise, we often think a marketing message has to be very clever and intellectually stimulating to be successful. Trout takes the whole premise of his book from a book published in 1916: Obvious Adams. The Story of a Successful Businessman, written by Robert R. Updegraff. Here are the 5 guidelines from Updegraff's book:
a. This problem when solved will be simple.
b. Does it check with human nature?
c. Put it on paper.
d. Does it explode in people's minds?
e. Is the time ripe?
Second) Watch out for "stuff" that gets in the way of the obvious.
a. Wrong focus: CEOs are not focused on the right stuff. Legions of competitors, constantly changing technologies, faster change of pace, and a flood of information challenges the CEO's attention. The trick to surviving is to know where you are going.
b. Wall Street: Wall Street brokers pursue growth to ensure their reputations and to increase their take-home pay.
c. No time to think.
d. Flawed research: A flood of data should never be allowed to wash away your common sense and your own feeling for the market. You'll never see the obvious solution.
e. Communication. The Internet (plus email) brings more clutter. Word-of-mouth marketing is not the next big thing.
f. Advertising people. Theater, emotion, sloganeering, and creativity are their trap. How to fix this?
g. Marketing people. They just can't stop tinkering. They sit around and try to figure out how to improve things. What top management fails to understand is that the road to chaos is paved with improvements. Convergence and brand schizophrenia are often the result.
Third) Zero in on the proper marketing process.
a. Make sense in the context of the marketplace. What has the marketplace heard and registered from your competition?
b. Find the differentiating idea. Look for something that separates you from your competitors. This does not have to be product related.
c. Have the credentials. The demonstration of your differentiating idea is your credentials.
d. Communicate your difference. Better products don't win; better perceptions do.
Fourth) Know the essence of marketing.
a. It's marketing's responsibility to see that everyone is playing the same tune in unison.
b. It's marketing's assignment to turn that tune or differentiating idea into what we call a coherent marketing direction. A differentiating idea is a competitive mental angle.
Fifth) Beware of obvious blunders.
a. Me-Too mindset won't cut it.
b. Don't get cute or complex. Describe your product in a simple, understandable way.
c. Not understanding that marketing is a battle of perceptions.
d. Don't try to copy a competitor's word or position in the prospect's mind.
e. Guard against arrogance when becoming successful. You tend to become less objective; arrogance leads to failure.
f. Trying to be all things to all people.
g. Don't live exclusively by numbers. When you go down this path, it often leads to bad decisions.
h. Not being willing to attack your own business plan. i.e. Xerox with laser printing; Kodak with the digital camera.
Sixth) Beware of obvious ground rules.
a. Law of the Ear - your obvious strategy has to sound right.
b. Law of Division - Over time, a category will divide and become two or more categories.
c. Law of Perception - Marketing is not a battle of products, it's a battle of perceptions. The perception is the reality; hence, "obvious ideas exploding in the mind" - Robert Updegraff.
d. Law of Singularity - In search for the obvious, only one move will produce substantial results. History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke. To find that singular idea or concept, marketing managers have to know what's happening in the marketplace. They have to be down at the frontlines. They have to know what's working and what isn't. They have to be involved.
e. Law of Duality - Every market becomes a two-horse race.
f. Law of Resources - Without adequate funding, an obvious idea won't get off the ground