Everyone has his or her own choices for the top marketers of 2007, so I don’t expect you to agree with me. And my choices are not the result of any scientific study — I did that a few years ago when I wrote The Marketing Mavens — they are informed by my experiences and biases, just as I’m sure that yours are.
Regarding my first choice, it might help you to know that a quarter century ago I bought a Macintosh, and then a Mac Plus, and I’ve probably bought every other Macintosh product since. Indeed, I’m writing this blog post on a MacBook Pro, and in customer lifetime value terms I’m just the sort of customer that any company would love to have.
But that’s not why Apple is my first choice. I’m choosing it because Apple, more than any other company, exemplifies what Peter Drucker said about business: at root, only two things really matter — marketing and innovation. Apple excels in developing offers that customers love to purchase, and it has not been afraid to diversify away from its home base in personal computers. The iPod is quite a distance from the Mac and the iPhone is even further, but they are still electronic products; the successful iTunes service represents a quite different growth vector. And then consider the Apple Stores. The received wisdom was that Apple was crazy to go direct to consumers through retail. How wrong was that wisdom? The revenues per square foot from Apple Stores are the highest of any U.S. retailer, in large part because the service is out-of-sight. Just check it out for yourself and, while you’re at it, see what happened to Apple’s stock price in 2007.
Years ago I was pretty good at Pong and Pac-Man, but I haven’t touched a video game since. My image of the game player is male, 16 to 24, the high school or college student locked in his room alone for hours on end, while the affairs of the day like schoolwork and family meals just pass him by. He may connect with someone online, but it’s a pretty lonely existence.
Over the years we’ve seen the competition — Nintendo, Sega, Sony and Microsoft — each developing ever more complex games to keep the player glued to his screen even longer. But now there’s the Wii from Nintendo. Sure it’s a video game, but so different in concept and with a value proposition that speaks to the entire age range. Forget the solitary game player — the Wii is for the whole family, and lets baby boomers and older relive their youth.
At Thanksgiving, I played tennis for the first time in years. Sure, my 10-year old relative played like Roger Federer in giving me a drubbing, but the sense of family was exceptional. So, Nintendo is my second choice for top marketer of 2007; it figured out a customer need and used its technological resources to make an unbelievably compelling market offer.
But not all great marketers address consumer markets. My third choice is quite different and may be controversial. In the past several years Monsanto has run into considerable public relations trouble in Europe as consumer–based movements have worked to block its genetically modified seeds. But around the world farmers know only too well the damage caused by a wide variety of bugs: crop yields go down and their earnings suffer. Monsanto has targeted farmers in the United States, Latin America and Asia — regions that are increasingly using the company’s seeds to grow their crops. Of course, Monsanto has had some luck — as oil prices have risen and the demand for organically based alternative fuels has grown, the pressure on crop yields has increased. Monsanto has the products to make that happen and, as with my other choices, the stock market has rewarded its efforts.
So there you have it — Apple, Nintendo, Monsanto. What unites these firms is a fierce focus on delivering customer value and securing differential advantage.
Now, take a look at your own corporation — is your CEO leading a similar drive? When your senior leaders understand that all that really matters is marketing and innovation, then your firm will be a candidate for my top three marketers of 2008.
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