Nuggets abound in mining years' Marketing 100s

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The universe contained in this study of 10 years of Marketing 100s reflects an enormous array of products and services with one thing in common-all had something the consumer wanted. There's some spark of creativity in the idea or supporting elements that captures the consumer's imagination. Moreover, this study confirms that the elements of success are not confined to any particular segment, but can be found anywhere-big or small company, old or new economy.

To analyze the database of past Marketing 100 winners, The Everest Group/Advertising Age team categorized each of the case studies into one of 15 primary products and services segments and a scattering in "All others." They fell as follows:

Category No./M100s

Package goods 378

Sports/Entertainment 144

Durable goods 112

Retailing 98

Apparel 54

Publishing 44

Toys 38

Travel/Tourism 26

Financial services 23

Transportation 15

Internet services 15

Communications 14

Housewares/Furnishings 14

Computer software 7

Politics 6

All others 12

Four segments-Package Goods, Sports/Entertainment, Durables and Retailing-account for three-quarters of all case studies in the database.

When all 1,000 case studies were slotted into product vs. service "buckets," products outnumbered services by 2-to-1. This ratio changed only slightly over the years studied.


The analysis clearly indicates that there is more than one way to make a splash in the marketplace. Of the 13 different success drivers identified, in fact, the one reflected in the greatest number of M100s accounts for less than 15% of the total.

Overall, One of a Kind was the leading driver-the principal impetus in 146 of the Marketing 1000. Exceptional Creative was the second-most frequently occurring driver, reflected in 127 cases, followed by PR Power (103 cases). The Everest Group/AA team was reminded that bringing news to the market in the form of new benefits is as powerful as ever, and that there is tremendous leverage in how companies and their agencies communicate information about products and services (see chart above).

There were a few trends evident in the data over 10 years. Not surprisingly, the prevalence of Mutual Advantage doubled in importance in the second half of the decade vs. the first half. On the other hand, Promotion Flair was half as important in recent years as it was in the first few years of the '90s. The importance of One of a Kind and Exceptional Creative remained at or near the top in virtually every year.


The power of creativity, doing things differently-a lot differently-was a major ingredient in all elements of the marketing mix. In 1996, for example, Hard Candy did not just introduce a new line of nail polish but did so through unique colors (pea green), color names (Jailbait) and distribution channels (trendy boutiques) that were differentiated from competitors (AA, June 30, '97).

In a world of teams, one person's leadership, passion and commitment can make a difference. Teams are powerful tools. However, teams have leaders, and leaders make the difference. Two examples of individuals who were the catalysts in creating success: Durk Jager made Procter & Gamble Co.'s EDLP effort a reality (AA, July 5, '93) and Ken Gilbert made Whipper Snapple build potency after Snapple hit a plateau (AA, June 28, '99).

Little things can mean a lot. The research team was impressed how some M1000 stories resulted from taking one small element and making it a major differentiator. For AstraMerck's Prilosec, purple, the color of the capsule, was incorporated across all elements of the marketing mix in a clever way to create a difference to its advantage (AA, June 26, '00). Enterprise Rent-a-Car's campaign, featuring a simple wrapped car, conveys its special delivery, "We'll pick you up" message to consumers (AA, June 26, '95).

Willingness to take risks can generate big rewards. In 1998, Gardenburger took a gamble in betting the business on one 30-second spot on the "Seinfeld" finale (AA, June 28, '99). The resulting publicity spiked awareness of the brand, forcing big grocery trade distribution gains that built sales. Big risk, big payoff. In 1996, Clean Shower took a risk in using a strategy of live endorsements by radio personalities to promote the brand. Everyone else in the household cleaning products category was using soap operas (AA, June 30, '97).

Small companies can generate big results. One doesn't have to be a mega-company to generate big sales. Rhino Records, Rembrandt and Green Mountain Coffee are all small companies using different drivers that made big noise.

Few things in marketing are as difficult or as rewarding as bringing a dying brand or product back to life. But it can be done. In 1993, Ethan Allen was facing the challenge of redefining a great but aging "early American" brand (AA, July 4, '94). Air Bake's introduction of insulated cookie sheets rejuvenated a non-innovative category, spawning an entirely new cookware and bakeware category (AA, June 30, '97).


All marketers are looking for growth. That's their job. Based on this and other work The Everest Group has done, here are some thoughts on putting what has been learned to good use:

Study growth drivers of other industries. We as marketers know our own industry and competition, but probably don't spend the time we should looking at what other people do in other categories.

For example, in 1997, Maytag introduced the Neptune washer over the Internet a year before it was available in retail stores (AA, June 29, '98).

This pre-release marketing strategy, commonly used by film and publishing companies, generated about 3,000 orders and created a significant "buzz" a year before it was available in stores. There are a lot of good ideas to be found elsewhere that with a little twist can be helpful.

Define and extend the creative process to all marketing activities. We all look for new ideas, but we find that few companies apply the same energy and formal creative processes to all marketing elements, such as packaging, new channels and partnerships.

Distinguish your "core" market from your "target" market. In 1996, Pepperidge Farm discovered the power inherent in truly focusing on kids as the core user of Goldfish Crackers, traditionally a premium adult snack. Adjusting all the marketing elements to speak more directly to kids' needs, the brand enjoyed dramatic volume increases (AA, June 30, '97).

Clearly define how you are going to win vs. how you are going to play. Virtually all the stories we analyzed had clarity of differentiation in their key success driver that allowed them to win in the marketplace, not just participate.

In 1998, Gillette used the benefit provided by three-blade technology to win in the tough razor wars with its introduction of Mach3 (AA, June 28, '99). Gillette continued its "winning-through-technology" strategy with Venus, a 2001 Marketing 100 winner. Even though Venus, developed for women, had a different creative strategy, it continued to use Mach3's technology to deliver a unique benefit to its users.

"One of a Kind" works. Creating a distinctly different product is not easy to do, and even more difficult to sustain. The clear winner in the "what drove success" tally, however, was just that: having something that no one else had. Mars: The Musician's Planet (AA, June 28, '99) differentiates itself from other music and recording stores by making education and learning the core differentiator. Young and old amateur musicians can learn, rehearse and perform at the store's recording studio and demo rooms. The chain of 48 stores has expanded to 24 states. Creating that "special sauce" that makes your product meaningfully different is worth the effort.

Understand the power of partnerships. The definition of a successful partnership is two parties achieving their respective objectives through the efficiency of working together. The question for each marketer is: "What partner can help me achieve objectives faster and more efficiently than trying to do it internally?" In 1997, Starbucks created a partnership with Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream that extended the brand into an ice cream category it could not reach on its own (AA, June 29, '98). It was a forerunner for many interesting Starbucks partnerships.


When Ad Age and Everest initiated this study, we were looking for one or two "silver bullets." We didn't find them. What we did find was a striking breadth of tools used across every product and service segment to achieve goals.

One lesson here is realizing there is more than one "right answer." It's human nature to favor the familiar-to do what worked last time. The marketers in this database of 1,000 cases demonstrated a high propensity to do things differently-to find a new "right answer" that succeeded brilliantly.

It was also evident from this large sample of success stories that this remarkable collection of premier marketers was already demonstrating in the '90s what we believe will be a critical "core competency" of the next decade: the ability to merge and leverage creativity and analytics.

They clearly understood their target consumer and their competitors. They'd done their homework, derived important insights and then fully leveraged those concepts with powerful creative executions to gain competitive advantage.

Tom Barnum and Jim Kauffman are principals at The Everest Group, a Chicago-based growth strategy consulting company serving consumer product and service clients. Mr. Barnum's background includes Sara Lee Corp., where he was president of the frozen food group, and Citicorp, where he was chairman-global consumer payments. He also served as senior adviser on international trade strategy with the Carter administration. Before joining Everest, Mr. Kauffman was VP-consumer publishing at Rand McNally Corp. and VP-product management at Quaker Oats Co.

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