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’?


  1. says

    Essentially just taking what has always worked, the old, and applying it to the new. I think that using Cushman’s as an example is somewhat odd though, especially with Social Media in mind. The more technical age group using sites like twitter and facebook probably aren’t Cushman’s typical customers.

    Justin Dupre
    Deeboo.com Webmaster, SEO, and Internet Marketing Community

  2. says

    Using the old and the new is the way to go. Having companies that have been using traditional marketing only seeing that there is a new way to contect with customers. Whole Foods, Comcast and others do a great job on Twitter.

    The key is to have the right game plan to get into the social media world. God knows there is enough of us out here willing to help.

    The kicker is the I in ROI is a lot less then traditional marketing and the R can be proven using landing pages and other on-line methods.

  3. says

    Thanks for the comments. To Justin’s point, while I agree that many of those using social media may not fit Cushman’s’ customer profile, perhaps more of them would if Cushman’s had a presence on Twitter, Facebook and in the blogosphere. SMM would be a smart (especially at this time of year, with the holidays upon us), relatively easy way for a company like Cushman’s to enhance its brand identity and broaden its appeal.

  4. says

    Great information. Everyone should be pleased to have someone willing to provide no-cost guarded secrets to making money online. So many people spend needless money to promote thier businesses just to find out that more money could have been made at no expense. Keep your eye on this blog. Thanks

  5. says

    I could see a company like Cushman developing a Facebook network and doing fun contents and competitions for the last box of these “rare oranges”. They could have customers submit their favorite recipes, ways to eat a Cushman orange or anything like that. They could potentially open up to a new target audience by engaging in blogs, and tools like Facebook and Twitter.

  6. says

    After reading a number of these articles it’s becoming clear that a cohesive strategy is critical to online advertising and marketing. There isn’t much purpose to be on Facebook or You Tube without a method to bring the customer to products. What does You-Tube do for my company besides expose my potential customers to our videos? There needs to be a relationship of marketing strategies! Why did we produce that video in the first place- that is to show the customer how to properly install our products. After the customer watches the video, now what? Its great they watched the video but how can I bring them back to our company to buy the next part they need from us not our competitors. This is where the strategy comes into play. Maybe show another video, but have a real customer installing the same part? Cohesive strategy is the key to online succes I believe.


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