Don't Be Reticent, Marketers: Give Consumers a Reason to Buy

Follow the Lead of Jetplane Makers Taking a Stand Regarding Their Business

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The economic recovery won't come by playing it safe.

So what if Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd believe that if anybody is having fun it can't be effective marketing? So what if TMZ and Maureen Dowd think golf tournaments where sponsors entertain good customers are scandals of Bernie Madoff proportions?

The thing that's going to get us out of this mess is giving people a reason to buy, and it can't be a namby-pamby reason, and you can't be deterred by what critics might say -- even if the government thinks it's your new CEO because you've taken bailout money.

Considering the uproar over auto executives taking private aircraft to Washington to get their handout, the jet-plane guys are seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place. They could tiptoe around, hoping that somehow they won't forever remain in the crosshairs, or they could react in a non-apologetic and aggressive manner.

I'm glad to see at least two jet-plane makers are taking the latter approach.

"Timidity didn't get you this far. Why put it in your business plan now?" says Cessna in a type-filled ad that starts strong and then wimps out a bit at the end.

"In today's corporate world, pity the poor executive who blinks. The good news is, in trying times like these, fortune tends to favor those who make bold, decisive moves. It's simply about adjusting, not retreating, starting with a good hard look at your flight department."

The ad goes on to ask if executives are flying the right aircraft or if they can adjust capacity to meet demand. I don't quite get what that means; is Cessna hinting that it might be wise to fly a prop plane until the coast is clear?

The ad ends: "One thing is certain: True visionaries will continue to fly. Because, in tempestuous times, leaders recognize it's not about ego. Or artifice. It's simply about availing yourself of the full range of tools to do your job." The tagline is simply "Rise." As in, rise up in rebellion, or rise above it and just keep doing your job? It's not clear.

I like the direct -- you might say confrontational -- approach being taken by Hawker Beechcraft a whole lot better. In a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, the company pitches Starbucks to trade in its Gulfstream 550 for a cheaper Hawker 4000.

"Dear Starbucks, you still need to fly. We're here to help," the headline says. "We recently learned in the press that you're selling some of your business aircraft. That must have been a difficult decision, since taking advantage of business opportunities in today's challenging times calls for speed and flexibility impossible to find with commercial carriers."

Hawker Beechcraft said the 4000 -- which is half the price of the Gulfstream -- would allow Starbucks execs to visit "thousands of Starbucks locations in more than 43 countries around the world." The ad goes on to give the specs of the plane.

I also like the way the hard times are engendering more cooperation among heretofore implacable forces. Gail Collins, a columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote about how soap-opera writers are working product plugs into the dialogue for their characters.

"For some time now, characters in daytime dramas have been taking time from their normal activities, like having amnesia, to engage in animated discussions about the sponsor's products. The ABC soap actors spent February talking about how Campbell's soup and other assorted products are good for your heart (and tasty, too!)," Ms. Collins wrote.

In a touching display of cooperative enterprise, she ended her column by saying that if the time comes when publishers "determine that the only way to keep newspapers in operation is to have their employees wear jackets that say "I [Heart] Kmart" on the back, I'm there."

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