The tortoise wins…even in marketing!


What a strange coincidence! Exactly 5 years ago today I wrote a blog post on “Slow Advertising”. Here I am again. This time on “Slow Marketing” or Tortoise Marketing as I call it! What is Tortoise Marketing? It’s a call to deliberate, to observe, to think, to focus, to connect the dots! Dots that have not been connected before, dots that unlock new insights, dots that don’t just optimize, improve efficiency but step change the game of marketing. Where am I coming from? In the data driven world we live in today there is an excruciating focus on real-time analytics. To track everything, analyze even more, process disparate sources of information as quickly as possible to form a cohesive point of view that can enable split second marketing decisions. To survive in this world agility is the only way to go! I recently had the opportunity to read Shama Hyder’s upcoming book Momentum (I got my hands on a review copy…the book comes out on May 17). It is an amazing read. She talks about the principles of success in the digital age and agility is a cornerstone principle to success today. I completely agree. I’m all for it (in fact I even wrote a little ebook on Real-Time Marketing myself sometime back). Being a ‘hare’ is crucial in marketing no doubt. But some marketing decisions have such huge strategic implications that they may not be enabled simply through quick thinking. It’s like going to the moon and back. Logic dictates determining the shortest possible distance to go and come back. However in orbital mechanics there is a concept known as gravitational slingshot which from it’s apparent trajectory means a longer route around a planet but it is a way that maximizes speed while minimizing fuel usage by using the gravitational force of the astronomical body to one’s advantage, leading to a phenomenally better travel time. Being a tortoise in marketing also ‘apparently’ takes much longer to get the desired result but careful observation of consumer behavior over an extended period of time can lead to breakthrough game-changing insights that are far more impactful than real-time tweaks to a marketing campaign! Skeptical? Here are three examples that have revolutionized their respective categories simply through the power of observation and unlocking breakthrough consumer insights!

Story of the film and the sting! 

Claude C. Hopkins – an ad man from the 19th century has some amazing achievements to his credit! To single-handedly change the game across businesses is not something many can claim today! We hear about pioneers like Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy for their contribution to the world of advertising! They have shaped the industry no doubt but some of what Hopkins achieved is quite remarkable from any standard. One of his biggest achievements was the creation of a ritual that has become a global phenomenon! There was a time when we didn’t brush our teeth! (Can you believe that?!) Thanks to Claude Hopkins now we do! From nothing he created a billion dollar industry! It all came down to an insight! He found an opportunity for toothbrushing by enlightening consumers to the presence of a film on our teeth, something anyone can experience using their tongue. He positioned the toothpaste as a way to remove this film which he claimed was the key barrier to enabling sparkly white teeth! That was a motivator all right but not enough to make the habit stick! To do so he got Unilever to include a mint flavor to Pepsodent. The sting of the mint became a somatic marker, a sensation that tells us that the toothpaste is working and having an effect on our teeth! What’s even more interesting! This minty sensation has ABSOLUTELY NO IMPACT on our teeth. It’s only there for the sensation and is the key aspect of the toothbrushing ritual that makes us want to keep doing it over and over again. This insight not only made Pepsodent the number one selling toothpaste of its time but started a morning ritual the world over. Now that’s marketing!

Removing bad odor vs. a fragrant finale 

Febreze today is a $1 billion brand for P&G. Not so long ago however it was hurling into non-existence. In it’s early days it was positioned to solve a problem of bad odor specifically for people who have cat litter. While the problem existed it wasn’t enough to get the product moving. The thing about bad odor is that after a while you get used to it. So cat litter would indeed be offensive for an outsider but for the person living in that house it is not a persistent problem and therefore the trigger is not big enough to warrant it’s regular use. So what did P&G do? They gave the product to some of their most loyal consumers and as they observed their behavior the team came across an interesting usage scenario – the most loyal users were not using it as a problem solver but as a reward at the end of cleaning routine! Febreze was the reward for a job well done…celebrated with a pleasant fragrance to further reinforce the idea of clean! This was the insight that led to a breakthrough. Febreze was repositioned as a reward for cleaning rather than as a problem solver! This idea unlocked exponential revenue for the brand and led to making the Febreze a billion dollar brand! Another example of ‘Slow Marketing’ that redefined a category.

Falling in Love with Milk

The third and final example is for the California Milk Board. This is probably the finest example of insight mining. How milk consumption was flipped on it’s head through this insight. Before this milk was perceived to be boring. It was like how most people feel about healthy foods. The de facto assumption – anything healthy cannot taste good, cannot be fun. Jon Steel devised a genius approach to unlocking this insight. He got a group of people to go without milk and then got their feedback on how and when they missed milk the most! By depriving people of milk it’s true value was unlocked. It was not about milk for it’s sake it was about how it complemented some of the most fun things we love to eat, from that freshly baked chocolate chip cookie to that moist warm fudge brownie. Milk became that essential ingredient that made that moment even better! It was this deprivation strategy which was leveraged to reposition milk and that eventually led to millions in milk sales and California fell in love with milk once again!

So here we have three examples of how observation of usage behavior led to the creation of a new habit of toothbrushing, turned a dying deodorizer into a billion dollar brand, and made a boring beverage cool once again. Can real-time analytics unlock such category growth? Perhaps! Do you know of such an example? If so please share in the comments section below!

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