You'll Never Guess My 2014 Marketer of the Year

It's Not A Big-Name Brand with a Clio Award

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Heineken will be named the 2015 Creative Marketer of the Year at next year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. I imagine the Dutch beer brand's marketing team is over the moon about two things -- the honor itself and the fact that it's been recognized as 2015's top marketer before the year's even started. Talk about buzz-kill for every other marketer.

There's always 2016.

But before we anoint Heineken for making Elvis and his "Bossa Nova Baby" track cool again, I'd like to submit my humble selection for 2014's Marketer of the Year. And I bet it's a business you've never heard of or used: My local dry cleaner.

It doesn't even have a name these days after dropping its branded franchise affiliation earlier this year, just a generic "Dry Cleaning" descriptor on the building's stucco exterior.

Yes, this modest team of three people who launder shirts, press pants and deliver wrinkle-free clothes to customers in a middle-class neighborhood in Las Vegas' southwest valley are the world's best marketers -- topping anything done this year by the savvy and sophisticated minds of the likes of Heineken, Nike, Apple and Coca-Cola and their global ad agencies with Cannes Lions, One Shows, CLIOs and Effies galore.

What have my local-yokel dry cleaners done to earn this coveted honor? What creative breakthroughs have they authored? What marketing innovations have they inspired?

Absolutely nothing. They've won for their brilliantly simple marketing approach of no marketing at all. Combined with a laser-like focus on their craft and a warm, personal touch with customers, their "marketing-light" philosophy made them the clear choice.

They've never asked me for my e-mail address, nor have they tried to friend me on Facebook. They don't send cute tweets about their latest dry cleaning chemical, haven't pinned anything on Pinterest or Instagrammed their favorite customer couture.

And they've thankfully never nudged me to sign up for a loyalty club, the kind that might "generously" reward me with one free laundered shirt for every 100 I pay for.

If I asked them what CRM, CMS, KPI, ROI or SEM stood for, they'd probably smile and look at me in stunned silence as if I were speaking a foreign language.

And that's exactly the way I like it and why they're the best marketers on the planet today.

They know I don't like creases down the front on my casual pants and that I prefer shirts laundered without starch. They replace broken buttons without being asked and tell me to dry clean, not launder, black dress shirts to better maintain the color and extend the shirt's lifetime.

Most importantly, they respect their relationship with me as a customer who values their expertise and service in cleaning my Sunday best, not as a patron who's looking for companionship.

I don't want (or need) to be Facebook friends with my dry cleaner (or favorite detergent, orange juice, tissue, wine, beer, TV or car for that matter). And it's perfectly okay if the last hotel I visited or fast casual restaurant I dined at doesn't send me a birthday wish or holiday message. I'll survive and won't hold it against them. I promise.

One more loyalty card in my wallet and I'll need a man-purse to carry it -- no thanks. My loyalty is earned with a product or service that's convenient, high-quality and personalized, not by a copycat discount program that undermines a brand's value.

As someone who's worked in advertising and marketing for close to 25 years, I can understand why these words might sound like hypocrisy or even heresy to some. But the best agencies promote restraint and careful consideration, not blind enthusiasm, for the latest "sure things" in marketing.

I'm not an old-school traditionalist who doesn't appreciate the benefits and see the merits of social media, one-to-one marketing, branded content, programmatic advertising, mobile apps and the internet of things. On the contrary, when used appropriately and selectively, they can all be effective and efficient means of selling and persuading.

But so much of what is recommended and done today in marketing is the result of a herd mentality and bandwagon effect with little thought given to relevance to the category, brand or target audience.

There's too much noise out there already and the latest and greatest in marketing just seems to be adding to it. Sometimes less is more.

Which is why my local dry cleaners is without a doubt 2014's marketer of the year. I can't wait to share the good news with them the next time I visit. I've also been meaning to tell them those generic sign letters aren't cutting it and I know just the agency to help.

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