A Town Hall Meeting of the Nashville Advertising Industry

This past Thursday, I was the moderator for a town hall discussion held by the American Advertising Federation on the current economic climate of the Nashville advertising industry. All those who attended participated in a passionate exchange of observations and advice on how to get through these tough times. Here’s my list of the top five things discussed:

1. Consumers are in control more than ever. Haven’t we heard this before? We all have been saying this for a several years; however, in our quest to chase profits we find ourselves being reminded of this simple principle. In a world where mass media has been replaced by personal media, listening to consumers is more relevant now than it’s ever been.

2. Marketers are adjusting their messages in an attempt to empathize with consumers current fears. In a world of bail-outs and an uncertain financial future, security and comfort can be found everywhere in advertising today. One such example is Nationwide Insurance, who has dropped their “Life comes at you fast” campaign and gone back to the long running theme, “Nationwide is on your side”.

3. Marketers must be careful not to sacrifice long-built brand equity or long-term strategies for achieving short-term gains. Everyone is offering discounts and deals never before seen in order to create the added value consumers are demanding (see #1 about listening to the consumer). But remember, value is not just about low prices. Added value can be achieved by providing more than what is expected. If a consumer feels they have received more than they paid, they’ll keep coming back and tell others!

4. There was a lot of discussion around the emerging role of social media and how it has affected other traditional media. The big take-away was probably this – consumers are still consuming media. Most importantly, consumers have changed the types of media they are consuming, and they’ve changed the way they consume all media. Again, less mass and more personal.

5. Ideas still matter – a lot. Bring people ideas (consumers, customers, clients) and you create value.

Do you have more ideas or suggestions worth sharing? Add to the list. This is new territory for all of us. The more we share the more we evolve.

The Masters and Augusta National Golf Club – A Marketing Lesson Unlike Any Other

I played Augusta this week. Well sort of. I did not play golf, but if walking around admiring the magnificent beauty of the single most defining atmosphere of any sport can be considered playing, then that’s what I did. That’s right. I said it. Let the debates begin. I absolutely believe no venue defines its sport more than Augusta National does for golf. Fenway Park. Daytona. The Brickyard. Actually, old St. Andrews of Scotland is pretty darn defining. But I still place it behind Augusta National.

From a marketing perspective, there are actually some strong lessons we can learn from Augusta National (and a few of the other sacred venues in sports). Here are three of them that jump out to me:

1. Exclusivity matters. Imagine if your company delivered an experience so strong that customers would be thrilled to pay a premium for it. There’s an aura of privacy to Augusta National that builds on its lore. Marketers use membership and loyalty clubs to create this very reaction.

2. Don’t erode your identity for profits. Often we see companies salivate on their own success so much that they attempt to capitalize every way possible. Many of us call this a “sell-out”. Augusta National has two sponsors for the most important golf tournament of the year. Why? They have always felt commercialization of the tournament would lessen the golfer and spectator experience. An easy call to make 50 years ago, but in today’s multi-million dollar sponsorships it’s tempting. Augusta National maintains its elite status by standing to its low commercial content rules today (56 minutes of every hour broadcast on TV is commercial free).

3. Aesthetics matter – a lot! What do you think of when you think of Augusta? Here’s my list: golf; azaleas; pines; Masters; green jackets; greatness; tradition; a theme song (I can hear it now); perfectly groomed fairways and greens; caddies wearing white jump suits; the 13th hole (Amen Corner). That’s quite the profile. Was there any question where I was talking about? Their consistencies behind the elements that give them their identity are the reason why Augusta National has such rich imagery.

I’m sure the list could be longer. If you have any extras let me know. I’m off to leverage the inspiration of Augusta into a better golf swing.