Dear Manager,

American Business is collectively ready to turn the page on what have been the most difficult years in the past few decades, or at least as difficult as in my professional career. We’re clearly stronger, and have a much clearer understanding of those areas of our business over which we have control and, in turn, those areas that are indeed out of our control.

The real question becomes, are we truly better prepared? Difficult times require us to raise the bar to meet all challenges or, in fact, we won’t be around to worry one way or the other! Most all of us have taken a shot; the business climate has certainly gotten our attention. Yes, the potential for a positive transition is always within our grasp. Past avenues must now be reviewed, and adjustments are likely to be required to endure and flourish in a new marketplace.

A few issues back, I discussed the effect of the predictability quotient on managing our staff in challenging times; we can all become a bit tooooo consistent. Can it also be time to put a new face on how we communicate, not only with our staff, but also with our customers, business alliances, and the marketplace as a whole?

This, too, is worth a new era evaluation. Logos get tired, standard sales promotions get stale, advertising gets dated, and even new product introductions can begin to look like the “same-old-same-old.” My own experience suggests predictability and ones complacency can seep in long before its reality becomes obvious.


… would suggest we maximize our promotional budgets to gain the greatest potential return on investment. This is where predictability and promotional investment decisions, based on prior and successful economic scenarios, may no longer be relevant. If this is one of the most difficult climates in our professional careers, all prior marketing decisions for your company MUST now be re-evaluated relative to current climates. If marketing budgets seem to be diminishing, this further suggests that “bang for your buck” is essential in more challenging times.


… would suggest it’s time to stick your neck out a bit further. If your company’s marketing strategies are past their “freshness date,” it’s is also very, very likely that many of your competitors are unknowingly in a similar position. This can be the very best possible time to step out of the pack by distinguishing yourself as well, yes, a bit “unconventional.”

Most companies promote themselves online, through trade shows, product promotions and releases, trade advertising, via email campaigns and by word of mouth. Yada, yada, yada, – it’s more and more of the same. Are these marketing efforts inspiring the market, capturing the imagination of your clients, and creating critical mass?


Some of you may have heard of Bill Veek. He was the promoters’ promoter of baseball in both the minor and major leagues. This is the man who created a near riot at Comiskey Park for his “Disco Destruction” night in Chicago. OK, the White Socks did end up having to forfeit the game due to the unanticipated riotous level of inspired “disco destruction,” but few could deny the night set an unconventional foundation for future Veek antics. Bill’s eccentricities, and those of his son, are legendary. One promotion a few years back was to set a record for the fewest fans to watch a professional minor league baseball game. The fans were locked outside the gates until the seventh inning, when the game became official, then let in to celebrate the accomplishment!!

When was the last time you entertained a marketing meeting with the sole intent of being different, creating true innovation, being willing to take some risk, let alone thinking upside down? In all my years of business, this type of “extravaganza,” properly orchestrated, can truly be one of the most exhilarating business “happenings.”


It’s essential that only those individuals who thrive in this eccentric environment be in attendance. You’d never invite your mother to a wet t-shirt contest! One of the easiest ways for an event of this nature to self destruct is for the mix of individuals in attendance to be in conflict with your true objective: intellectual chaos. It’s a rare breed, those who are unencumbered by “conventional wisdom.” They have the self-confidence to visualize, express, and assume partnership with unconventional thought. All it takes is one myopic personal agenda to quash the inspiration of other individuals, not to mention the whole group.

Begin by establishing the ground rules. The first rule is that no individual thought will be ridiculed or diminished in any way. The second rule suggests the objective is to create total innovation and substance to the eventual, and totally unknown, outcome of your meeting. Egos must be checked at the door if the sole objective is to foster communication and “ultra innovation.” If need be, participants should be “red flagged,” and possibly excused, in order to protect the inspiration and innovation of the whole.

While seeming drastic, this clearly sets the stage for unencumbered, unbridled thought and dialog. I’ve participated in meetings of this type yet, on occasion, the guest list was poorly thought out and the effort’s potential was ultimately diminished.


Review the current marketing efforts in place and their historic cycles of execution. Which of these cycles will continue to provide significant return, and which of these cycles are in place out of simple redundancy or unjustified industry standards? What will ignite an “industry buzz” and generate conversation? Will it be further extended word of mouth: your least expensive form of marketing potential?

Would (or should) it be possible to launch products or promotions prior to the current industry expectations? Is it possible to stage a promotion over a period of days, weeks, or months that would build anticipation and excitement to an otherwise more predictable introduction? This could be accomplished with daily/weekly emails, or in faxes providing expanded promotions and recognition.

Are there products, or categories of products, whose sales are so spectacular that a totally “no risk” guarantee promotion is in order? Are there one-time discounts, terms, or incentives that can be easily justified in order to gain placement and momentum? Can you find some “free stuff” or “cash” that holds more value as a promotion than in its current form?

Now, let’s fall even further off the cliff. Are there one-time, or a series of “upside down” marketing strategies or incentives that, to your knowledge, have never been tried? This is where off-the-wall inspiration will begin to serve the group well. One “ridiculous thought” after another will bubble to the surface. I’ve found that each of these thoughts serves as a springboard for second and third generation thoughts that may indeed be the gem with truly amazing potential. The scenario goes, “Gee that’s a great thought, but what if we used it in this context? Yeah, and we tie it in with this product category to maximize its potential.” Once momentum takes hold, you’ll be amazed with where it leads you. Be sure to have someone taking detailed notes for further review in a smaller forum!

Finally, are there any strategic alliances with companies who share a similar agenda to yours? One of the best promotions I’ve seen was a national office supply store’s offer of a 5% donation of all purchase amounts to be given to the school of a customer’s choice. Tell me a parent who wouldn’t be motivated by such an offer during their back to school shopping. The incremental sales growth was substantial, effectively negating the additional discount. Additionally, this corporation established themselves as being very supportive of the community. And where do you think all of the schools and teachers shopped for supplies this past fall? Brilliant, unconventional, and very effective.

May these thoughts inspire and propel you, and your company, into an outrageously spectacular outcome.

Personal Regards,


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