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Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star

Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star

By Steve Cone

Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star by Steve Cone is a solid and readable book about advertising, branding, promotion and PR. While the book has lessons for small business owners seeking to improve their marketing, the book is probably most useful to marketing professionals at larger or mid-sized companies or non-profit organizations.

Cone is the head of advertising and brand management at Citigroup Global Wealth Management. Previously, he was the head of marketing of Fidelity Investments. Cone was the one who decided to use ultra-successful mutual fund manager Peter Lynch as a Fidelity spokesperson. Peter Lynch, of course, became a quasi-celebrity. Cone says companies should almost always try to use spokespeople to connect to their customers.

Cone writes: "Most of the World's inhabitants look to a personality of some sort to explain their very existence—God, Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed, and all the other major religious figures revered over the centuries. So it should come as no surprise that a distinctive personality can make a significant impact in an advertising strategy."

Spokespeople can be celebrities or non-celebrities. Celebrities are expensive. For small businesses, the CEO will probably be the main spokesperson. Small businesses can't afford Tom Cruise or whoever as a spokesperson.

Cone discusses the importance of public speaking to successful promotion and gives tips for improving your public speaking skills. Cone says companies using celebrities should choose celebrities who are willing to be integrated into all media—TV, radio, Internet, and print.

Cone tells us if a celebrity gets into public-perception trouble—think O.J. Simpson—he/she can always be dropped as a spokesperson with little negative impact to the marketing campaign.

Spokespeople don't even have to be real. "Animated characters are the easiest of all spokespeople. They are likable, do not have attitude, usually avoid getting into personal trouble, and rarely turn off constituents with their political views…" writes Cone.

Animals are another possibility. We learn the AFLAC Duck is the second most popular advertising character, according to a Yahoo! survey, beating out even the Pillsbury Doughboy.

While animated or animal spokespeople might be "remembered fondly for generations," Cone says it's crucial the character and the company's message be integrated effectively. Cone tells us the AFLAC Duck is being downplayed, so AFLAC can emphasize their insurance services more. (Maybe the sudden success went to the Duck's head and he's become difficult to work with?)


Cone tells us branding goes way back. Cone writes: "Most brands almost always imply a guarantee of a product or service. Roman marble merchants actually deserve credit for the first brand warranty application. To advertise that marble was totally pure they would tag marble slabs sine cere, which eventually became the word 'sincerely' in English. In Roman times, it meant without wax, implying the marble you purchased was pure and free from cracks filled in with wax. Merchants who sold marble that was illicitly marked sine cere were executed."

Unfortunately, today, there is some wax in marketing. Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star touches on politics and promotion. Cone says politicians often think of people as "voters" while people seldom see themselves as "voters." Similarly, businesses see people as "customers" when people seldom see themselves that way.

Cone writes: "People truly think of themselves as voters only when they walk into the voting booth. And then their decision is: 'Do I vote for Nitwit A or Nitwit B?'"

To be successful, Cone emphasizes it's important to target the right message to the right person at the right time. He calls this "RightTime" marketing. But, it seems RightTime marketing goes too far when individual voters are told a candidate's three key issues are the same three issues the voter selected as most important during polling months before.

An interesting chapter covers sponsorships. Cone says sponsorships rarely generate measurable revenue, but can build a brand. Drawing conclusions about his work in negotiating Key Corporation's sponsorship of Key Arena, Cone shows the complexity of sponsorship agreements and considerations. Other chapters discuss building brand loyalty programs and non-profit fundraising.

Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star is a great marketing book. Marketing professionals can learn about TV, display advertising, and sponsorships. Small business owners can pick up insights into the value of radio advertising for a local business, how a question and answer format impels readership, and other topics more useful to small business marketing.

Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star
Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You A Star

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