It Was a Tough 2008; Resolve Not to Do These Things in 2009

One Way or Another, It's Going to Be a Long Year

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OK, the holidays were a wild ride. Now it's the year after, and already everything looks kinda dark and blurry. To briefly recap:

  • Sales crashed for any product that depends on consumers being conscious to buy it.
  • Price cuts moved some merchandise but often cost profit margins entirely.
  • Funny viral campaigns and loads of social-media banter earned headlines but no cash.
  • No amount of spending persuaded consumers to do things they didn't need to do.
Talk about a wicked hangover. And now we're supposed to think about 2009? I'll take mine with Worcestershire sauce and a celery stalk, thank you very much. Very little worked last year, so spare me another "Here's what you should do" guide from an eager services vendor. The questions facing CMOs are greater than any of the answers getting hyped to you.

Therefore, I've declined my prognosticatorial duties as a member of the Guru Greek Chorus, and have chosen instead to list the three things you shouldn't do in 2009. Following my advice won't cost you a cent. Better yet, it'll probably prompt solutions that you don't need an fMRI device to measure.

Jonathan Salem Baskin
Jonathan Salem Baskin is the author of 'Branding Only Works on Cattle' and blogs about marketing at
Dim Bulb.
First, if it doesn't have an action attached to it, don't do it. I don't care if you're considering a teeny-weeny addition to a web page or a simultaneous, 57-country product launch. Every activity should prompt a subsequent behavior that requires an active verb to describe, and has a causal, tangible link to sales. Just talking about your brand doesn't count, unless you get rewarded on the basis of pleasant thoughts.

Second, do everything you can to avoid waiting for the holidays to magically save your year. Don't trade conversation for actual involvement or opinion for purchase intent, and don't shy away from asking for a sale. Sell every minute, every day and every month of 2009. Invent creative, relevant ways to prompt purchases, not just entertain or distract. Either your 2009 campaigns transmute brand equity into revenue or you could lose your job.

Third, don't just look at marketing for answers. This will be the year of tangible behaviors, as CMOs conclude that consumers aren't clamoring for more branding. So focusing on brand image and awareness isn't a creative or channel issue but rather a strategic bottleneck. The truly creative ways to prove your brand relevance are hiding right now in the not-so-sexy ways you deliver, support or structure your financing. It's more important than a lot of the communicating you've done in the recent past. And it's money that your company is already spending.

Now, on second thought, let's order another round. It's going to be a long year.

Questions to Ask About Resolutions:

Strategies: If you can't specify what you want customers to do, why are you talking to them?

Tactics: If you're uncomfortable asking for a purchase, how does your activity relate to an ultimate transaction?

Metrics: There's no better measure of efficacy than sales. Period. Full stop.

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