Alastair Smith

First, a quick history lesson about one of the most important documents created in establishing marketing as we know it:

Neil McElroy was a 27 year-old advertising manager at Proctor and Gamble who had been given the responsibility of looking after ‘Camay’ – a soap brand.

On the morning of May 13, 1931, McElroy sat behind his typewriter and drafted a three-page memo to make the case for why he should be allowed to hire two more people to his team.

The memo worked. McElroy got his two people. But what this memo also did was create the basis of brand management. It sparked a revolution in the way P&G managed its brands and structured its company, to the point where P&G was arguably the first marketing-led organisation.

You can see the full memo here, and it is definitely worth reading for any marketer.

But we’d like to focus on one section, which details the approach McElroy recommended taking ‘where brand development is light’:

The three parts of building a successful brand

This part of McElroy’s memo details the three essential steps to successfully tackling a market, either new or existing. And it’s as relevant today as it was in 1931.

(a) Study the past advertising and promotional history of the brand; study the territory personally at first hand in order to find out the trouble.

This research and diagnosis of issues is often forgotten or skipped over in the hurry to get things into market at the lowest cost possible.

It’s also the most important part of a campaign, and we’ll look at why shortly.

(b) After uncovering our weakness, develop a plan that can be applied to this local sore spot

This is strategy – the overarching plan that will be followed to deliver success. Strategy doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated, and an effective strategy can be one that answers the four questions below:

  1. Which customers will we target?
  2. How will we position our product or service to those targets?
  3. What are the brand elements that we are going to communicate with?
  4. What are the strategic objectives?

(c) Outline this plan in detail

These are the tactics that will be used to deliver the strategy to counter the issues found in the diagnosis. This is often the part that people are keen to skip straight to, but deciding on which channels should be used, or the content of an eBook are decisions that should come as a the result of diagnosis and strategy.

The three parts of brand management are multiplicative

The important thing to take away from this section of the McElroy memo is that all three things need to be in place to deliver marketing success.

They are multiplicative.

What do we mean by that?

Basically, that the success of one part directly affects the success of the others.

Imagine that all three of the sections are perfectly executed:

If this is the case, then we’ve done everything we can to deliver success in the market. Multiplying those 10s together would give a score of 1,000:

Even if everything isn’t done perfectly, if you do everything pretty well you will be doing better than most competitors:

But not giving one section the focus it deserves can have a huge effect on the effectiveness of the campaign.

And jumping straight into strategy and tactics, without really understanding your market and the issues that you are tackling?

Multiplying anything by zero results in zero:

Why diagnosis matters

Of course, this is a simplistic model, but it’s intended to highlight an increasingly common situation.

Too often we see diagnosis skipped over as people want to move straight onto doing ‘stuff’, leaping straight into ideas, without knowing the real problem that idea is solving for.

When campaigns are created based on internal opinions, biases are projected outward to customers, rather than insights coming inwards to the organisation to inform strategy.

Without properly-researched diagnosis, it can be difficult to demonstrate to your team that their opinion doesn’t reflect the actual situation or the needs of their customers.

Effective diagnosis

Effective diagnosis can be broken down into three components and scaled up and down as required:

  1. Form a hypothesis – use your knowledge and insights of the history of your brand or product to develop a theory as to what problem you’re solving, or need your meeting.
  2. Test your hypothesis – Talk to people who love the brand – they’ll tell you what they love and what they don’t. There is no substitute for primary research from real customers.
  3. Use quantitative research to determine the scale of the issue to be addressed. The key here is to undertake quant only after speaking to customers. Qualitative works out what the issues are, while quantitative measures them.

The key here, is to not let data suggest a solution that needs a problem to fix. Use your instincts, find the human problem and then use your data – qualitative and quantitative – to uncover the real issue.

Moving from diagnosis to strategy and tactics

Using our three stage model, it’s clear that strategy and tactics should only be considered once diagnosis has been conducted and the issues and their scale, are understood.

Ideally strategy will incorporate both long and short-term objectives – you can read more about why incorporating both will increase your marketing effectiveness here.

Lastly, tactics should include differentiation as a key focus. It’s estimated that consumers see around 600 marketing messages every day, so creativity is key to ensure that your message stands any chances of being noticed and acted upon.

Ultimately though, it’s diagnosis that will ensure that your next campaign is built on solid foundations for success.

Putting this into action

So how do you go about ensuring that you include diagnosis in your next campaign?

The first step is starting with your assumptions (we all have them…) and then using research to test them.

By testing assumptions, you will also be ensuring that you have defensibility of your strategy and tactics if they are challenged.

This research doesn’t necessarily need to be focus groups or interviews, it could be:

  • Analytics data – digital channel analytics can unearth gems about how people are interacting with your current experience, which can then be expanded through qualitative research to find the reasons they are taking the action they are.
  • Experience mapping – plotting a customer’s experience from start-to-finish is an incredible way to find points of friction and issues with a current service. By comparing a ‘current’ experience map with a ‘desired future state’ map, a clear roadmap can be created to ensure that you are meeting customers’ needs.
  • Prototype development and testing – testing low-fi versions of outputs with real customers can be a great way to ensure that what you are creating is on the right track before investing time and resources in the final, polished article.

Ultimately, the aim of diagnosis should be to understand not just what people are doing, but also why they are doing it.

That leads us on to the topic of neuromarketing, which Yell uses to ensure that our campaigns and user experiences resonate with customers on both a rational and emotional levels. If you’d like to know more about how neuromarketing can build deeper connections with your customers, then we’d love to talk to you about it – get in touch with us today.

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