Suidan Associates Publications
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Clarifying today’s marketing terminology

By Zuhair Suidan, August 2006

CMO magazine recently conducted research on marketing tactics in use today. Fifteen tactics were identified, and I can think of half a dozen more. Buzz marketing, stealth marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, keyword marketing, e-mail marketing, permission marketing, one-to-one marketing, even no-marketing marketing… these are just a few of the marketing tactics used in today’s turbulent marketing environment. Many of these were not around a few years back, some will fade away, while additional new ones are sure to follow. It seems that the marketing profession is in a constant need for innovative tactics to break through the messaging glut that consumers are exposed to, and have largely tuned out.

Here’s a quick review to help with basic understanding of these tactics.

  • Guerilla marketing relates to the use of non-traditional, off-beat, ways to get the message across. It is often an approach used by small, startup, under funded firms trying to compete against large, entrenched, well funded competitors. For example, the tactics used by Retractable Technologies to enter the safety syringe market against Becton Dickinson, which was holding over 85% share in the syringe market, included leveraging the nurses union, exposing alleged unfair marketing practices on ’60 Minutes’, lobbying Congress, suing BD for alleged fair marketing practices violations, and leveraging posts on the internet.
  • One-to-one marketing has as its ultimate objective treating every customer as if that customer was a unique segment of one. The use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software tools and mass customization production techniques have increasingly enabled and fueled this trend.
  • Imbedded marketing refers to imbedding marketing messages in TV shows and movies. There is a backlash against this from consumers as well as screen writers who envision their role not to include product placement in the scripts they are producing.
  • Captive audience marketing is the dissemination of ads / marketing messages to a captive audience, such as people sitting in theaters waiting for the start of a movie or on telephone hold waiting for a live operator to pick the other end of the phone connection.
  • Viral marketing focuses on getting early adopters to cause others to purchase the offering, in a similar way to the spread of a virus from early carriers to others. A prime example of this is Hasbro selecting 300 young ‘alpha pups’ from Chicago’s playgrounds, inviting them (with their parents) to a session downtown, teaching them about a new wireless, hand held game called Pox, and giving them 20 copies of the game each, one for themselves, and one for each of their 19 ‘coolest friends’.
  • Affinity marketing refers to sharing contact lists with other firms who are in a non-competing business, who target the same customers as you do. A prime example is (primarily online book sales) and (primarily online stock trading), sharing each others customer lists and introducing unique offers to entice trial of their services.
  • Keyword marketing / search engine marketing refers to bidding with search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo, MSN) to show you high up in a search on certain keywords that you bid on. For example, if you are in the flower business, and you want to show up high up on a search engine listing whenever someone does a search on ‘flower delivery’.
  • Buzz marketing / Word of Mouth marketing refer to creating buzz about your firm or offering through word of mouth. There are companies who specialize in recruiting large lists of people who are willing to spread the word about new offers (from books to cosmetics, to sausage…), mostly on a voluntary basis. Key among them are and Proctor & Gamble’s Tremor division.
  • Blogs (also referred to as Web Logs) are emerging as a major communications vehicle, with big influence in the spread of non-mainline news and political messages. They are also being increasingly used in spreading (good and bad) reviews of products.
  • Sound bite marketing refers to the association of a ‘sound bite’ with a brand, such as the Aflac duck, the milk mustache, the Marlboro man, Joe Camel…
  • E-mail marketing refers to getting the message by leveraging the internet. This has the risk of being associated with spam, so care must be taken to provide value in the messages and to provide an easy ‘opt-out’ capability.
  • E-Seminars and web casts are a way to strengthen the relationship with clients and prospects through the internet, reducing the time and expense associated with in-person, face to face meetings.
  • Stealth marketing refers to marketing by impostors pretending to be actual users of the offering. A prime example of the use of this technique was Ericcson’s use of actors posing as users to spread the word about their T68i camera phone at New York’s Times Square and hip bars around town. This technique caused a firestorm of controversy about its ethics implications.
  • No-marketing marketing is the dilemma faced by vendors when a dying product seems to be coming back to life through the allegiance of hard core users. This dilemma was faced by Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, who found that a small niche of loyal beer drinkers preferred their beer, particularly because it was not main stream. The challenge for the marketer is to figure whether to keep hush and be happy with this small segment, or to advertise to increase sales, but in the process potentially alienating this loyal segment.
  • Integrated / 360 marketing refers to the coordination of all your marketing activities and deliverables so they appear part of a consistent, synchronized, integrated marketing campaign with a common look and feel.

It is important to note that each of these tactics has its merits and its shortcomings. Picking the right tactic(s) to reach your audience is of prime importance. Regardless of the labels used, traditional marketing principles – such as segmentation, targeting and positioning – still apply.


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