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MarCom Matters

May 2014
Issue: #55

A Master’s in Marketing

Finally, spring is here.

Before you roll your eyes and ask yourself, “Where’s he been?,” I should explain.

For me, the season has little to do with the equinox, or daffodils, or Punxsutawney Phil’s courage.

And it isn’t even because today is May Day.

It’s because the Masters Golf Tournament was played a few weeks ago in Augusta, Georgia.

One of the things that’s special about the event is that it takes place when the azaleas and magnolias are in full bloom. It’s also what motivates me to wipe the winter dust off my own set of sticks and get me believing I’ll play better this year.

That is the beauty and hope of spring!

Now the Masters is not your run-of-the-mill tournament. In addition to being the first major U.S. championship of the season, it is home to some pretty unique traditions. Like green jackets, pimento sandwiches, a par-3 competition, and white coveralls for the caddies.

Then there’s this one: The folks who organize the Masters control what’s on TV. Not the network.

Among other things, they require certain terminology be used (like “first cut” instead of “rough”). They don’t allow roving announcers on the course. They limit the amount of commercial time to just four minutes per hour.

And they select the sponsors. This year it was IBM, AT&T and Mercedes Benz.

Watching the commercials, I was drawn to how each company presented its theme. The result was a mixed bag for sure.

Here’s a summary…

Mercedes Benz: “The Best or Nothing.” Too bad they didn’t follow their own directive when picking this one. There is nothing here that connects the theme with the product or a related concept. I mean if it read Dunkin’ Donuts instead of Mercedes, would you notice?

AT&T: “Mobilizing Your World.” While this double-entendre slogan may be a tad subtle, it does establish AT&T’s vision: connecting people and machines on the move. And it’s certainly a cut above its predecessor, “Rethink Possible.”

IBM: “Dispatches from a Smarter Planet.” IBM continued to build on its Smarter Planet theme by broadcasting this series of 40 segments during the four-day tournament. Each one told a story from around the globe in answer to the question, “What’s being made in the world today?”

“Hold on,” you say. “I can’t afford to pay an ad agency to come up with a huge campaign, much less throw six or eight million at a golf tournament.”

True enough. But thanks to the millions these three companies spent, we can all learn a few lessons about what an effective communication theme can do.

For example, it can…

The bottom line: A good communications theme helps audiences understand what you do by getting them to envision what is possible. That’s true whether you are part of a two-person accounting firm or a Fortune 50 enterprise.

The key is that your content and positioning need to work together to (1) reinforce that vision and (2) demonstrate why you are the go-to company in your industry or profession.

So take the time to consider a theme that you can stick with and build on.

And don’t forget to keep your eye on the ball.