CBS radio interview on marketing and branding.

Steven Sessions was invited to be interviewed by Chris Kelso on Talk Radio 650AM in Houston Texas to discuss Marketing. This is the full transcript of the live broadcast on June 8, 2011.

live interview on marketing and branding

(Welcome to “The Price of Business,” I’m your host Chris Kelso, we appreciate your tuning in to “Talk 650” powered by CBS radio, right now, someone I really, really want to talk to is Steven Sessions with the Sessions Group – Steven how you doing?) “Good Chris, thank you for inviting me.”

(Let me ask you to tell our listeners who you are and what you do.) “Well, I’m an investor, a thinker, and I own a 29 year-old marketing and branding firm. We create and manage effective programs to increase sales and increase business valuation for our clients. We help businesses accelerate growth.

(I don’t know of any company that doesn’t want to increase sales, accelerate growth and increase their marketing presence. You know, considering the advent of what’s going on nowadays, having a voice, that ability to go out and market yourself is absolutely imperative, and I think sometimes companies forget that they can lose their voice real easily if they don’t engage a company like yours to refine or even modify their message because times change awfully fast.) “That’s right. And there are two kinds of marketing. Effective and ineffective. Sometimes people will complain that it doesn’t work, especially industrial companies. They believe that they know all the people who could buy their service or their specialized product and they just need to talk to them. Of course they quickly learn its not that easy. But they’ve got to distinguish between effective and ineffective marketing strategies.”

(What is necessary in building an effective marketing strategy?) “Well, the first thing a company has to realize is that who they are is determined by the marketplace. What their company is and its position in their marketplace is determined by the market, it is not determined by the company itself. A company may say, ‘We want to be number one in our market.’ And that’s an admirable goal, but whether or not that happens, depends on the marketplace. The market will place the company somewhere, the company cannot do it. Only the marketplace can give them a position, they cannot take it. Competitors in the marketplace can position them as well, and you can bet that position is not going to be a desirable one for the company. I always show companies how to think from the outside in rather than from the inside out. It just isn’t obvious to them. The best a company can do, and what they absolutely must try to do always, is work to influence those opinions and thoughts about the company that the market has, so that they can be positioned number one by the marketplace.”

(I agree, I think sometimes we forget, as companies, that we sort of get stuck in our little fiefdom right there of what we think is important to get of our message out to the market but what we forget is what you’re saying: It’s not what we think, it’s what the customer’s perception of us is and how can we influence them to make us number one instead of thinking we can do it ourselves. I want to ask you what does a company absolutely have to do to survive in today’s marketplace.) “Well, of course every business must generate revenue to survive. Most companies are trying to increase revenue. If they don’t do that they won’t survive. And it’s a terrible struggle unless you can become a buyer’s preferred choice. If you are the preferred choice, you have the pole position. You have the advantage. Apple has done it, Coke has done it, and it’s not just consumer brands: Schlumberger, Caterpillar, Cummins and IBM have done it in business to business and industrial markets. People think that if they build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to their door and buy. And almost all companies are focused on their product, on improving their product and on having the best product. But you must remember, that ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing normally only works if you have an unlimited amount of time on your side. What’s commonly called “Word of mouth” marketing is appealing because it’s free. It doesn’t cost any money. But it does cost time. You must realize it comes with a time factor. It’s great if you can wait 10, 20 years to let word of mouth make its way around the globe, but the rate of technological innovation is compressing the available time frame. Companies today don’t have 10 years. They don’t have five. They barely have one. That’s where marketing comes in. But it’s got to be effective and it’s got to be targeted.”

(Yes but with the advent of the internet and social media, etc. people want information–not just this week or tomorrow– it’s real-time, it’s interactive. And a lot of businesses, especially small businesses need to realize that they’ve got to get out there and they’ve got to be proactive and deliver their message in real-time to generate that revenue and that sales stream that they need.) “That’s right. Effective marketing will accelerate your acceptance in the marketplace and will accelerate growth… accomplish in one year what could otherwise take ten, or more, or worse, not even happen at all. But the appearance, message and tone of each point of contact with potential buyers must reinforce and support a distinctive core message that resonates in the marketplace. In order to do that, the message must be concise, aligned and focused. And developing that kind of message is not easy. And it’s priceless.”

(That’s right. But how about all those business people who will tell you they’ve tried marketing and it just didn’t work. What’s your message to them, because I tell people that just because it didn’t work at that time doesn’t mean there isn’t an effective strategy today in today’s marketplace.) “Well yeah, the market has changed in the last few years, tactics have changed, in marketing. What companies need to do is sit down for a minute and recognize that their respected consultants, namely attorneys and accountants, are focused on protecting the company assets. Only a marketing consultant will be focused on growing or increasing those assets. If a company wants to grow they’ve got to focus on marketing. Effective marketing.”

(I agree and you make me think of something very interesting: I always tell people everyone has a role and I ask people “Who sells in your company?” and the answer is “Everyone sells in your company. And its the same thing, “Who markets in your company? Everyone markets in your company.” Because whether you be a warehouse manager, a welder, a company is only as good as what the employees project out there. And a good marketing strategy is not only getting your message out there, but also into your employees so they can accurately deliver an impression consistent with what the company wants the message to be.) “Thats right, employees are one of your customer’s touchpoints if they come in contact with them. And it’s critical that companies identify and evaluate all of their touchpoints with the marketplace. This includes their business card, their website, their reception lobby, their receptionist, their recorded phone message, their brochure, advertising, trade show display, etc. – all the points of contact they have with customers, potential customers and influencers – and coördinate the messages they are sending in each point of contact to align them with the intended company marketplace message. What is your business card saying, what is your website saying, what is your trade show exhibit saying about your company? Are those messages and impressions aligned with a core message that resonates in the marketplace, or are they dysfunctional, confusing or even contradictory? Do they look like they are from the same company? It’s very common that they are not aligned, especially in industrial companies. Often executives don’t take the time, or don’t think it’s important enough to pay attention to all these details. But they all add up, and it’s true, we all make purchase decisions not on a logical basis. Even if we don’t want to admit it. If you remember the “Pepsi Challenge” in the early 80s, Pepsi believed they had a better product than Coca-Cola and were frustrated that they could not gain marketshare and unseat them as number one in the soft drink category. So they initiated a well publicized head-to-head, blind taste test of the two cola drinks. Coke, then number one in the category, lost the taste test. Tasters preferred Pepsi 3 to 2 over Coke. That surprised everyone. But 30 years later, who’s number one? Still Coke. You could even say that since Coke lost the taste test, they have the inferior product. But 30 years later they are still number one. Coke even changed its formula to imitate Pepsi and introduced “New Coke.” Did that result in increased sales? No. On the contrary, the market was furious and forced Coke to immediately reintroduce the original formula. They dubbed it “Classic Coke.” New Coke disappeared. Does it make sense that an inferior product can be the market leader for so long? No. But is it a fact? Yes. Perception is stronger than reality. Be number one in your market. It’s more important than being the best product.”

(Its marketing.) “Yes and it’s evidence of the fact that, two things: Our purchase decisions are not necessarily logical and market perception is market reality.”

(You mentioned that executives don’t have the time and in many cases don’t have the skill to evaluate all the touchpoints a business has in the marketplace. How does your firm help them evaluate and put together an effective marketing strategy?) “Well, we’ll develop an overall brand strategy and within that, a marketing communications plan based on the realities of the individual company and their markets, and the dynamics of their markets. All businesses and markets are different so it’s a customized process tailored to their specific situation. And it has to be in order to be effective. Templates don’t work. We then are responsible for executing the strategy. We don’t just hand over a plan and say good luck. Because my reputation is on the line. I like being accountable for results. And I can’t be accountable if I’m not executing the strategy. This is one reason why we’ve been successful for almost 30 years. There are a dozen reasons why companies, especially small companies, do not execute marketing strategies well, so I always emphasize the importance of us leading the effort. We have the experience and the necessary skill sets that don’t exist in the client’s core business expertise.”

(Yes I agree, execution is where things will fail.) “Absolutely. Because it’s all about the details. How much time can you spend focusing on this element and that element, coördinating all the different components, etc. It’s time consuming and not part of a client’s skill set. They are much more comfortable making widgets so they gravitate away from the marketing stuff. It’s abstract and intangible. Too difficult. But as I said, the truth is, it’s priceless.”

(Absolutely. Look at Apple. It’s very expensive compared to it’s competitors. Yet they’re the most valuable company in the world. Their brand alone is worth billions and billions of dollars.) “That’s a good example. They’ve got a communications strategy. And they perform. There are three components to effective marketing and branding: The first is Performance. The company or product must perform… to, or beyond… the market’s expectations. No amount of marketing will overcome poor performance. With performance in place, effective marketing will accelerate acceptance in the market and accelerate sales growth. But again, the appearance, message and tone of each point of contact with potential buyers must reinforce and support a distinctive core message that resonates in the marketplace. In order to do that, the message must be concise, consistent and focused. And developing that kind of message is not easy. Finally, that consistent and focused message must be repeated frequently. Every time you come in contact with a potential buyer. In other words your business card, website, office reception area, vehicles, packaging, advertising, sponsorships, etc. must all be coördinated, focused and aligned. Once you have that, you can increase margins, introduce new products, enter new markets and weather storms with ease.“

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35 Responses to “CBS radio interview on marketing and branding.”

  1. Pangilinan says:

    I never realized that what a company “is” is determined by the marketplace. Thanks, very insightful.

  2. Rita says:

    Distinctive core message — preferred choice, touchpoints, pole position, effective marketing, time factor, intended company marketplace, perception stronger than reality, market perception is market reality — templates don’t work! PRICELESS!
    BRAVO!

  3. Weimann714 says:

    Words and pictures that support Performance. Well put.

  4. S Dupouy says:

    I just graduated from the art institute of chicago in graphic design and we did not discuss these things. but I think we should’ve and wish we had. do you have any job openings? Thanks!

  5. Dueck979 says:

    A company’s job is to occupy the top position in customer’s minds. It is a mental exercise. Your interview is right on.

  6. Sofia says:

    I wish more people would write blogs like this that are educational to read. With all the fluff floating around on the net, it is rare to read a blog like this. Thanks. Keep it up.

  7. Tennie Marshall says:

    never thought about our purchase decisions not being logical, interesting…

  8. Mia S. says:

    i’d love to share this posting with the readers on my site. thanks for sharing!

  9. Norman Tokarski says:

    From “inside out” to “outside in” approach. Great insight. Thanks!

  10. JJ says:

    You Have a lot of intriguing ideas. Cheers

  11. sail00013 says:

    I found your posts helpful and picked up some new insights and I thank you for that.

  12. vikram919 says:

    I help companies develop high margin products and lower development risk by finding unspoken customer needs. (More or less my value proposition.) And your posts have been very enlightening. THANKS!

  13. Spencer T says:

    keep up the good work, great insight especially for professionals like me who usually a great in providing their services but not necessarily in promoting them.

  14. AG Thompson says:

    Great interview. Clear and concise on a topic that is so challenging for people to understand – even some of us that consider ourselves seasoned marketing professionals.

  15. BoneHead says:

    This is a great summary. I’ve been in sales and marketing since the early 1980s, and your blog posts show exactly how it is done. In the 1980s and 90s I sold printing and direct marketing. Today I provide broadcast email marketing. The tools are new and different, but the basics are still the basics. Good post!

  16. Parco5 says:

    Branding is especially valuable in a parity business, you have to create a strong brand in order to compete. Strong branding is a must for businesses that are being outspent by the bigger competitors.

  17. Mushroom says:

    Awesome piece. Saved on StumbleUpon :)

  18. Berkey says:

    I like your comments on Coke and Pepsi. Professor Nicholas H. Pronko and colleagues at the University of Wichita, Kansas, conducted a series of experiments in the 1940s and 1950s. They wrote five studies that brought rigor, sophistication, and cachet to the testing of Coke/Pepsi taste– discrimination that support your position.

  19. Daphne B says:

    Hello to the one who wrote this! Great work! I spent a month researching for the topic of marketing. I’m actually a graduating student. And thanks to you for making my study a lot easier since you compiled the overview i need in this interview. I’ll bookmark your site and am looking forward for more of your posts. — Daphne Bodega

  20. S-tron-UK says:

    I appreciate you taking time to share this information on marketing. I had no idea that what a company “is” is what the marketplace thinks they are, thanks!

  21. Crew-uk says:

    who owns the brand?

  22. Della Davenport says:

    To expand on your Coke-Pepsi comments, in a 1949 study by N.H. Pronko and J.W. Bowles, 60 subjects tasted samples of Hyde Park Cola, Kroger Cola, and Spur Cola. No correct identifications were made. Almost all responses identified the beverages in order as (1st) Coca Cola, (2nd) Pepsi Cola, or (3rd)Royal Crown Cola. Sipping three kinds of cola that they had probably seldom or never tasted before, almost everyone nonetheless said they were drinking Coke, Pepsi or Royal Crown, the USA’s three most domestically popular cola brands at the time.

  23. Marissa77 says:

    Branding” often suggests a top-down effort undertaken by a corporate marketing group to create a singular and consistent consumer/client experience across a global enterprise. Yet many organizations require a much more decentralized approach, and the only path to success is an effort that can engage a disparate group of stakeholders to drive cultural buy-in and adoption throughout the organization.

    There are any number of powerful organizing concepts to choose from but without strong internal support and validation, they’ll be little more than ‘lipstick on a pig,’ offering as little real value as a fresh coat of paint on the corporate walls. Not to discount the role of superior strategy and design, but the most important component of a branding initiative is often the initiative itself — the process, the growth of understanding, the participation, the appreciation — as much as it is the result. Good interview Mr. Sessions.

  24. Learn Ed says:

    Nice web site , bookmarked it for later use, you bring out some ideas i never realized about marketing, logos, etc., thanks.

  25. Horace Kreiman says:

    I switch on C.B.S. and rarely discover something worth listening to. The mass media is usually a manipulated business, they merely present us what they want us to find out. But your interview was some decent content.

  26. Naida Paratore says:

    This is really good for all. Thank you very much for this informative post. I am student of marketing at university and very much appreciate your insight. Very helpful.

  27. Leanne Tiffner says:

    Can you believe it, I have a Coca-Cola pinback button, “I picked Coke in the Pepsi Challenge.” Remember those?

  28. Deetta Gazzillo says:

    Thanks for the highly useful article, most of us could benefit from a lot more blogs like this. And like some other comments, I agree I never thought about how the marketplace owns the brand. Thank you.

  29. USA Today says:

    Love your blog. We like your writing, posts and the comments you’re getting. Nice colors too. Distinctive. Elegant. Professional.

  30. Mayurika De says:

    How are you, I would to let you that I have found this article to be very helpful to me. I also have a simple question for you, would it be Ok if I were to submit some of my own interesting posts for other people to comment on. Please get back to me, regards Jake

  31. SupraSail says:

    I never thought branding and marketing was particularly useful for industrial companies. Interesting.

  32. Marsha Reynolds says:

    I heard you speak at our school years ago, nice to find your website and blog! Great reference.

  33. Adena Mathis says:

    The simple 1st rule of branding & marketing: Not a secret, but OFTEN overlooked: “Keep your promises.”

  34. Sandra Kleif says:

    Very good blog post! In today’s highly competitive marketplace a strategy that provides a consistent approach to offering your product or service in a way that will outsell the competition is critical. And you’re right, in conjunction with defining the marketing strategy, you must also have a well defined methodology for the day to day implementation. Having a strategy is not worth much if you lack either the resources or the expertise to implement it.

  35. The Harris says:

    Wow, you’re right– Pepsi won the Taste Test back in the day but are still #2 in the soft drink marketplace.

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