When it comes to marketing, someone can develop knowledge in multiple ways. Some people learn about marketing in a scientific way, mastering theories, mulling over data sheets, and taking a cool-headed approach. Others learn marketing in a way which more resembles an art form. Some people learn purely through trial and error, testing the viability of a strategy and then, over time, carefully refining and revising that strategy as feedback is integrated. In my sales journey, I haven’t reached a point where I can say that one of these ways is definitively better than any other. But, I can say that, throughout my career, I’ve found that clear, concise insights on marketing are often extremely valuable. It’s interesting how a short, penetrating insight can spur a whole range of activity. Great insights can lead to powerful actions, and this is just as true in the field of marketing as it is in other fields.
One of the more useful marketing insights I’ve learned is the following: always know your product. The more you know what it is that you’re selling, the better you’ll be able to present your product to the consumer. In some cases, selling a product isn’t just about how it is presented, it is about what the product actually is of itself. This may not seem like a revelation, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize what this really means.
The Ferrari Sportscar and the Toyota Camry
Let’s look at a quick example to show how knowing your product can translate into an effective marketing campaign. Consider two different cars: a Ferrari and a Toyota Camry. This example may seem extreme, but sometimes extremes can be useful to illustrate a general point. Have you ever noticed that you see many, many more television commercials and other advertisements for the Camry than you see for the Ferrari? If you turn on your television set, you’re very likely to see a commercial for the latest Camry model, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll see a commercial for the latest Ferrari sportscar. But why is this? The Ferrari is more expensive, contains more bells and whistles, has better materials, and so forth. Objectively, it’s superior to the Camry in nearly any category you care to think about. If you didn’t ponder the situation, you might easily be baffled as to why the Ferrari isn’t marketed more aggressively.
The reason that the Camry is pushed more aggressively is because Toyota knows its product, and knowing your product involves being aware of its competition and target buyer. A brand new Camry is a nice vehicle, but it certainly has its fair share of competition. In reality, there isn’t too much about the Camry which can clearly differentiate it from one of its competitors, such as a Honda Accord or Chevrolet Malibu. The Camry might have a few extra features, or be slightly less expensive, or have a configuration which is arguably more attractive, but on the whole, it is markedly similar to these competitor products. The way that Toyota deals with this reality is to seek new, innovative ways to aggressively market the Camry. The goal is to make the Camry “appear” to be markedly different from its competitors, even though this appearance is at odds with reality. This is because Toyota knows that if it succeeds at convincing its target buyer about this appearance, this will lead the buyer to select the Toyota over the competition. The products are so similar that the decision between one or the other often depends on appearances, even if the appearances don’t really jive with reality.
Now, the reason that the Ferrari sportscar isn’t pushed as aggressively as the Camry is because the Ferrari sportscar doesn’t really need to be pushed aggressively. The target buyer of the Ferrari doesn’t really need to be convinced by any sort of sly gimmick or elaborate advertising scheme. The buyer simply takes a quick look at it and knows that it’s a top quality product based on this simple observation. Simply put, the product sells itself, even though it carries a very hefty price tag. As a brand, Ferrari has built such a fantastic reputation that its buyers don’t even need to see a commercial or other advertisement to know about and desire its product. It’s not uncommon for a person to go out and flock to a Ferrari dealership without ever seeing a commercial or ad. We’ve seen this plenty of times in films and other media. Someone suddenly comes into a bunch of money, and among his or her first big purchases is a Ferrari. The buyer goes to the seller, and this has a lot to do with what is for sale.
What this means is that marketing is dependent on the product, at least to some degree. No one would deny that a slick, attractive piece of marketing can be effective in moving a product, but this doesn’t mean that the marketing can be unglued from the product. Even if the marketing team at Toyota were to come up with the best advertisement seen in years, Toyota still wouldn’t be able to sell the Camry for the price of the Ferrari. And even with a fantastic piece of marketing, there would still be a chance that the Camry would lose to its competition. There would still be a chance that the appearance wouldn’t be enough to convince the buyer. When you know your product, it allows you to market more effectively to your target buyer, and have a sense of how aggressive your marketing campaign should be.
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