It’s time for a radical change in strategy

It’s time for a radical change in strategy. Yelling the same messages louder and keeping your product mostly the same isn’t working. For radical change to happen, you have to radically change your strategy.

A group of people in suits sitting before microphones waiting in turn to speak
“Debate 10.4.12” by Southern Arkansas University, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Imagine you are a marketer and a business comes to you for advice.

This business has been in a competitive struggle for years with another business. Neither is gaining significant market share against the other. They seem locked in a war neither can win.

You look at their product and their promotion strategy, as well as that of their competitor, and you find that neither has made significant product changes or messaging changes in years. But, they both continually increase their ad spending year after year. This all keeps their consumer bases happy and loyal, but isn’t changing their market share positions.

What would most marketers tell the business at this point?

For radical change to happen, you have to radically change your strategy. It’s time for a new approach.

I’m looking at you, special interest groups seemingly locked-in an endless battle with one another. As a citizen, I value your advocacy on both sides as a means of finding balance for our society. But if I was your marketer, I’d be making a strong case for radical change. Yelling the same things, only louder, no longer works.

Sometimes the small things in your business really do matter

A Mistura watch with a white band, wooden casing, and colorful flowers and the accompanying gold and black box
My very own Mistura watch.


My understanding of the importance of little things in a business began with Western Michigan University marketing professor Ed Mayo bringing in his…soap collection.

He had stayed at a wide story of hotels over the years and was demonstrating to us that sometimes the little do things do indeed matter; the shape (sadly a lost art) and packaging of soap can denote a wide variety of things about the hotel, including luxury and quality.

This past week, my Mistura watch arrived from Columbia.  The packaging was impeccable and the watch was perfect, but the “soap” moment came when I went to set it, and realized they’d already done it to my time zone for me.

It may seem like a little thing, but like Dr. Mayo’s soap collection, it “signals” a lot to me about the company and the products they make. 

Take a moment and stop and think about your business. What small thing about your business could really mean a difference to your customers?

Lifetime Fitness model too thin. This billboard needs to come down.

A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says "I can do it all in my lifetime"
A Lifetime Fitness billboard with a model that is too thin, anorexic-looking. The copy says “I can do it all in my lifetime”

Dear Lifetime Fitness,

Normally I don’t use this blog to openly criticize advertisements and the companies that put their brand on them, but I find the above billboard for your fitness centers in Houston, TX absolutely appalling.

This woman is not fit, she’s anorexic-looking. Particularly, her arms are the size of small twigs. They can’t be real; they must be graphically modified. At least, I hope so.

We’ve done a lot of work as an industry to get away from using too-thin models and, instead, using models that are fit AND healthy (for examples, see Shape Magazine or Oxygen Magazine). Advertisements like this that show someone who is simply too thin to be healthy are a step in the wrong direction and outright harmful to the impressionable.

Please take it down immediately, replace it with a model that is a true portrayal of health and fitness, and figure out a way to do so in all future ads.

Nicole Finkbeiner

P.S. If you are wondering why I chose this venue to bring this matter to your attention, it wasn’t my first choice. I was planning to send you an email and/or talk to you via your Facebook page. But, after reading comments on your Facebook page about unhappy consumers not being treated well by your customer service staff and seeing how Facebook complaints are handled on your page (most responses from your company are of the “We are sorry, but you, Mr, Customer, are wrong” nature), I decided to utilize my blog instead.

Household income is not a good measurement of discretionary income

dollar bills with scrabble pieces on top that spell "spend"
Photo from Flickr: 401 (K) 2013

This month, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American housing survey will begin. As part of this survey, census workers will be collecting demographic data including household income.

Household income is a staple in marketing for selecting areas where people are most likely to purchase products or services as well as other uses. For example, if you own a luxury car dealership, you probably want your dealership located in or near an area with a high household income.

Although household income is a quick way to assess an area, it doesn’t really tell the whole story. Consumer discretionary income can vary significantly based on a wide variety of factors that are unmeasured by the simple household income measurement.

Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Number of people in the household factors greatly in the amount of discretionary income

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000. The house consists of a husband and a wife, two children, and a live-in mother-in-law.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000. The house consists of a single female with no dependents.

Example 2: Other monetary factors such as debt play a huge role

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a young married couple. They have no debt.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a married couple. One attended a private college and now has student loans plus other debts (car, credit card, etc.) totaling $150,000.

Example 3: Cost of living is a major factor

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a retired couple. They live in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a retired couple. They live in Chicago, IL.

According to CNN’s cost of living calculator, the equivalent of $75,000 in Kalamazoo is $98,539 in Chicago.

In each of the examples above, do we really expect household 1 and household 2 to have the same amount of discretionary income available? It just isn’t the reality. There are additional factors that, coupled with household income, can give us a clearer picture. But then, of course, there are behavioral factors to consider. My point is, household income is a start, but the only way to get a true picture of discretionary income is in-depth market research.