Old-School Marketing Principles in a New-Media World

If your job has anything to do with marketing, not much has seemed to go your way lately.  Not only has a slumping economy been working against you, but thanks to Google, social media networking, the Internet and an overall explosion of new media, today’s consumers and business prospects have never been savvier and more in charge.

As marketing guru Seth Godin wrote in his book, Meatball Sundae

“Consumers have more choices than ever before.  More media choices, more choices or products and services.  There aren’t three TV networks; instead, there are a million (literally) things to watch on YouTube.  There aren’t a dozen radio stations; there are a million (literally) online.  As a result, the consumer has the power to say, “If I’m not interested in what you have to say, I won’t watch it.  I’m not a hostage any longer.”

Given such rampant intolerance among your target audience to practically anything resembling a sales pitch, you certainly have your work cut out for you.  But that’s where today’s so-called new marketing strategies can help, each and every one of them going a long way toward enhancing the efficacy of your more traditional, outbound marketing initiatives, including email, direct mail, print, etc.

For starters, you and your organization should already have launched a blog in order to engage in the kind of open, candid conversation with your constituents that will, ultimately, earn you more of their loyalty, trust and support.  If you haven’t established a presence in the blogosphere yet, that is one big step you really ought to consider taking post haste.

In addition to blogging, there are countless other social media-related activities – using such tools as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, just to name three – that would certainly be beneficial to your organization and its constituencies.  Before embarking on your own SMM initiatives, take time to read social media maestro Chris Brogan’s primer, “If I Started Today,” which will lay the groundwork for your first few steps onto the SMM playing field.  Advergirl’s recent four-part “Social Manifesto – How Companies Are Using Social Media” includes some excellent information and insight, too.

But all that advice doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in marketing today the old-fashioned way.  Quite the contrary.  There are still plenty of opportunities for purists, traditionalists and even the raw neophytes among us to leverage the timeless, tried-and-true principles of our trade.

A Classic Mail-Order Ad

Take Cushman’s Fruit Company, for example.  Demonstrating the right way to harness a few proven, age-old direct response advertising strategies, Cushman’s was selling 24 of its legendary HoneyBells in a quintessential, full-page mail-order ad that appeared in the November 23 edition of PARADE Magazine.

Just how classic was this ad?  First of all, the written words alone had incredible stopping power, beginning with a headline in the form of a curious question…

“What the devil is this?”
Then Ed bit into one and the plot thickened….

Following the headline above was an extraordinarily interesting, cleverly written story about Ed Cushman and the origin “of the strangest looking, fiery-orange, bell-shaped oranges anyone had ever seen.”

In addition to such original, copywriting craftsmanship, what really helped this ad stand out was its compelling positioning of HoneyBells as “available once and only once each year.”

A little like, well, tickets to a Red Sox-Yankees game or a Barack Obama Inauguration Medallion from The Bradford Exchange, HoneyBells do not come around often.  They are, in effect, a limited edition…

“This is your first, only and last call for Cushman’s 2009 crop of legendary HoneyBells,” the ad reads, substituting an orange icon in the shape of the fruit for its actual name.  “They’ll be hand-picked, packed and shipped to lucky recipients in just a few weeks.  After that, there are no more.  Anywhere.  At any price.  So, you must order now.  Or wait until 2010.”

Talk about leveraging the law of supply and demand.

And as if that’s not an irresistible enough offer, every shipment of HoneyBells includes “free HoneyBell bibs (juice protection), HoneyBell tattoos, a lighthearted HoneyBell story (a rib tickler) and directions on HoneyBell feasting (an art).”


And, naturally, Cushman’s includes a guarantee of satisfaction, which as any old-school direct marketer knows, is always a great way to optimize response rates.

Old Marketing + New Media = Successful Marketing

The lesson to be learned here is that in this day and age, not every marketing communications initiative has to be built online — there is still a place and a time for the traditional mail-order ad.  But just as important:  the new marketers who are doing their thing in a post-Cluetrain Manifesto world have as much to leverage from old companies like Cushman’s as Cushman’s does from us.

I’m thinking that a good formula for successful marketing today is to combine old-school, proven marketing principles with all the new marketing tools, technologies and strategies you can deploy.

Think about it: what could Cushman’s do with a blog?  And what could you do with an ad written like Cushman’s’?

Let’s start accelerating your success.

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