7 Lessons from Great Marketers of Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Red Bull

Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs gives the keynote add...Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Of all dreams marketers have, one stands out: Help products cross the tipping point, reaching a critical mass of consumers. For some marketers, the dream becomes reality—as has been the case withApple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Starbucks(NASDAQ:SBUX), and Red Bull marketers.  For other marketers, it remains just a dream. The difference between dream and reality is in the following seven principles of WOM and Buzz Marketing:

1. Begin with the consumer

Provide a product or a service that satisfies a genuine consumer need.  Apple’s products, for instance, fill the consumer need for mobile communications, computing, music, and distinction. Nike offers consumers top quality shoes, apparel, and accessories. Starbucks offers consumers a “third place,” away from home where they can enjoy a cup of coffee and socialize. Red Bull offers drinks that give consumers with fast energy.

2. Be innovative

Develop products that seduce consumer fantasy and imagination by delivering better value than conventional products and address emerging trends. Make products simple and easy to use. Every single Apple product, for instance, offers a unique value to consumers, as it incorporates a number of distinct advantages over competitive products—simplicity, functionality, access to complementary products, etc.

3. Target the right group

Some consumer groups are more receptive to innovative products than others and should be the early targets of the marketing campaign.  Apple’s products usually target the two groups that are most sensitive to WOM and buzz campaigns, the ”pioneers,” the young, restless and curious, consumers enchanted with the new and the exotic; and the “early adopters,” consumers who are always on the lookout for products that will improve their personal and business lives—a larger group than the pioneers, the bridge to reach to an even larger group, the “early majority.”

4. Create the Message

The marketing campaign should have a message that conveys the product attributes to the target groups.  Make the message appealing, clear, credible, transparent, direct, and sticky using characters and stories familiar to consumers. These attributes help consumers memorize and recall the message the moment they make purchase decisions.  Adjust the message theme to appeal to different target groups, using the appropriate media.

5. Find the right social context

Marketing campaigns are sensitive to the context, the “conditions and circumstances,” the place and time the message is launched. The context is like a magnified glass that allows consumers to see and imagine things couldn’t see and imagine before. A message launched in a cosmopolitan city, in front of a landmark structure, a statue is more effective than a message launched in the middle of nowhere. Likewise, a message launched in the aftermath of a major event that has captured broad attention is more effective than a message launched at a usual time.

6. Spread the message

Enlist to your campaign the “agents of influence” i.e., consumers who are more effective in influencing others or be influenced, by others, and therefore spread the product message, tell their neighbors, their friends, their co-workers and fellow club-members.  Target, support and reinforce your campaign with viral marketing.

7. Turn WOM into Buzz

Add emotion and hype to the campaign to speed up the spread and the diffusion of the message to a critical mass of consumers.  Stir up interest and desire in the product that fuel hype and contagion.  Turn hype and contagion to a herd-like consumer behavior that helps products cross the “chasms”, especially the chasm between early adopters and early majority.

The bottom line: Effective WOM and Buzz marketing campaigns involve the entire corporate organization, from R&D to production, to sales and marketing. They include a unique and innovative product offering; a message targeting the right consumer group in the right context; and a legion of “agents of influence” to spread and diffuse the message to consumer masses.

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