The book espouses that we live in an age of highly fragmented markets (mass market is dead or dying) where customers are increasingly brand savvy and can not be gamed. This environment makes creating succesful marketing programs a big challenge since the game is no longer about creating brand awareness and broadcasting a global message through traditional media.
I have talked about this trend in terms of The Long Tail meme by Wired's Chris Anderson, the constructs aroud building solutions around a model of Jobs, Outcome and Constraints, Online Brand Strategies around a Three Walled Garden approach and will talk further about what this trend means from a career and ideation perspective in an upcoming post so won't recount them here. (Click on the Categories sidebar of my blog if you want to delve deeper into some of these posts).
In any event, the fire analogy, while somewhat pithy, is a decent pneumonic for thinking about the kindling wood required to start a marketing initiative, the match that provides the initial flame, the oxygen that keeps it going and so on, so I wanted to share Stielstra's four steps to build a successful marketing campaign on a shoestring budget:
Gather the driest tinder. "Selling SUVs?" Stielstra asks. "Don't think about a prospect's income or age. Instead, try contacting people whose cars were recently rescued by tow trucks from a snowbank." People, that is, who need your product now.
Touch it with the match. "Give [people] an experience with your product or service." A nutty but effective example: In 2002 Procter & Gamble promoted its Charmin toilet paper by supplying high-end toilets called "Potty Palooza" at events such as Cincinnati's Oktoberfest and at the Super Bowl. As Advertising Age wrote: "On one side, a row of typically wretched public toilets at last year's Oktoberfest in Cincinnati. On the other, squeaky-clean, tractor-trailer-mounted ["Potty Palooza"] bathrooms complete with running water, wallpaper, faux wood floors and plenty of Charmin toilet paper. The feedback was instant." In one year Charmin, er, touched 2 million people in Potty Paloozas, and Charmin sales went up 14% among those who used the facilities.
Fan the flames. Turn your first customers into rabid evangelists. The minister Rick Warren sold the first 400,000 copies of his book The Purpose-Driven Life for $7 each to ministers and other churchgoers. Study groups were formed to discuss the book, and sales boomed. The Purpose-Driven Life has sold 26 million copies to date and is the bestselling hardcover book in history.
Save the coals. Keep a database of your customers. Then you won't have to start the next marketing campaign from scratch.
As Stielstra puts it, imagine your tightfisted CFO allowing you only one match. "Picturing a single match is a reminder of the finite nature of your marketing resources," Stielstra writes. "No matter what they are--money, people or time--you only have so much. Opportunity costs are critical. How will you use your match? What will you touch it to? What tactics will deliver results? Use it wisely by building your marketing fire according to proven principles. You may only get one chance."
Some good pattern recognition to keep in your virtual front pocket.