Bentley College Marketing- Honors

This blog is for MK 402-H01 and the greater Bentley College population.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"Wagging the Long Tail"

From The BrandBuilder Blog by Olivier Blanchard.

In this posting Blanchard explains Coca-Cola’s new marketing strategy and uses it as a spring board for providing his take on what makes an exceptional product. Coke is “shifting to the long tail,” as it provides a large number of low-volume, high-margin drink categories. Their marketing strategy is focused on how individual beverages fit into consumers’ lives with need states like “enjoyment today” and “feel good today” and “be well tomorrow.” Blanchard, however, believes that simple great taste is at the heart of the “Coke experience” and provides tips for companies on what we might call “How to Wag the Long Tail the Right Way.”

Here are a few core concepts from Blanchard’s “How to Wag the Long Tail the Right Way”:

  • “Drop the gimmicks.” Focus on quality. People don’t buy products because of a catchy slogan or clever packaging or because they make them feel happy or look ‘cool.’ People buy products and tell their friends about them because they are simply good products.
  • “Don’t quantify the culture, penetrate it.” Anthropology is the tool for understanding the customer and finding out what people really want, not statistics. Companies shouldn’t satisfy needs based on market research and numbers, but should really ‘get their hands dirty to find out what makes them tick.
  • “Do your research at the extreme end of the bell curve.” The “game is not about pleasing the majority of the market…It is about creating a product for a very specific core of rabid fans/customers.” Research should seek out those individuals who “live and breathe the stuff that is at the core of your product’s identity.”

Blanchard’s post is marketing related because it attempts to answer a question many marketers struggle with: “what is a quality product?” Primarily it deals with how to figure out what quality is in a product and where to look to find that information. The tips that the author provides warn marketers of the traps that are often easy to fall into such as gimmick-selling on a slogan or other company-created selling points. All of this, it seems, will produce an average product but not an exceptional and exceptionally successful one. A truly great product is based on quality as defined by the consumer.

This article informs marketing in that parts of it ‘fly in the face’ of traditional practice. It gives professionals a new way of looking at marketing strategy and product quality. Blanchard steers marketers away from “quantifying the culture” with numbers and statistical formulas that are created to come up with ‘perfect products.’ He instead urges them to see the bigger picture, understanding their true customers completely. Management usually requires numbers generated by Marketing Research to give them a sense of comfort with the viability of a product before market entry. If Blanchard’s tips are implemented they could initially cause quite a stir in a company. However if they succeed, management will see the results in hard sales figures from the dead-on product they produced for their specific audience.

Blanchard’s post improved my understanding of marketing as it gave me a new starting point for determining what customers want. Often we are taught that if something is not quantifiable, it is not as valuable as something that is. However, I have always found it difficult to forget information I have heard in a focus group, information that came straight from the mouths of the people who could be potential buyers of the product. That sort of information makes more of an impression, in my opinion, than a slew of numbers in a data sheet. This posting helped me to not discount these qualitative pieces simply because they are not as easily generalizable to a wider audience as quantitative data would be. Blanchard doesn’t seem to tell us to throw away the numbers completely, just provides us with a new starting point for research.

A few critiques of the article: we must be careful not to totally kick numbers to the curb. It is difficult to justify tactics if they do not provide adequate ROI. Marketers already have much trouble tying themselves to the bottom line. However, using Blanchard’s tips as a starting point is very valuable, as it allows us to better understand the customer and produce a quality product benefits that will hopefully speak for themselves in sales figures. Additionally, researchers must be cautious with generalizations. It is easy to feel that you understand a group of buyers and then generalize those feelings to other buyers on qualitative research. Such information should not be discounted but should be taken with a bit of caution.

Finally, the authors advice “Drop the gimmicks, focus on quality,” might not be universally applicable to products that are more central to a consumer’s image/identity. It is likely no one will look at you twice for carrying around a can of Tab, but a can of soda does not say as much about a person as the clothes they wear, for example, or the car they drive. Most people don’t buy Gucci or Prada for durability. In this case it is about the product making them “feel happy and look cool.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post (and critique). Bear in mind that other than image, the Gucci and Prada brands - like Cartier, Hermes, BMW, Moet and Lacoste for example - built their reputations on superquality. Their products are expensive because they are so well designed and so well made. Their unequaled level of quality = high price = exclusivity = high levels of desirability.

If Gucci bags and Prada shoes fell apart like Walmart stu

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 12:34:00 PM  

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