Confused Messages Driving Catch-22 Brand Marketing

ALT="Pink  Campbells Soup Cans, Soulati"The headlines in national newspapers and trade ‘zines are a mixed bag of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Consumers are taking the biggest hit amidst the confused clutter of brands’ messages.

Let’s take a look at several finger-in-your-eye examples and see if you agree:

Price Drop Tests Oil Drillers, Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
In this front-page story, you already know the gist. If you’re like me, you’re likely ticked off about it, too. Consumers have not even realized the benefit of one week of under $3/per gallon of gasoline and the analysts that cover the oil industry are bitching. If oil being fracked in Bakken sells for less than $84/barrel, then fracking is uneconomical. What does that mean for consumers? Another squeeze in oil supplies due to the cease in fracking, the loss of jobs and a price increase.

It’s that supply and demand thing, and the consumer conundrum remains for marketers — do we continue to pinch the customer and force higher prices so we make our margins and keep stakeholders happy, or do we risk losing market share and influencing a nose dive in local economies dependent on the jobs created from oil exploration? The media love to report on oil companies emotions

Pay TV’s New Worry, “Shaving The Cord,” Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
Do you subscribe to a television provider where the most favorite and in-demand channels cost the most money? Is your bill for satellite or cable television in the hundreds of dollars monthly? YES! Consumers are looking elsewhere for entertainment to try to cut frivolous expenditures. and the pay-TV companies are none too happy. Upon further examination, consumers are not totally ditching pay TV, they are shaving dollars off the monthly fee and leaving the big channels.

What’s the impact? No surprise, it’s the brand marketers seeking the subscriber base to feed us advertisements on CNN, USA Network and ESPN. If the subscribers aren’t there, ad dollars disappear and BAM! pay TV just got pricier as there’s no one left to subsidize programming. And, who’s responsible for the story behind this headline? A research firm probably dueling as an industry analyst seeking buyers for reports like this.

Smile! Marketers Are Mining Selfies! Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
Ahh, the ubiquitous selfie soon to grace a Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook near you. And, if that selfie is a smiler complemented by a brand logo, then look out consumer! You’ll soon get more advertising messages from the brand that bought the image catching you in the happy moment.

Guess how? [Read more...]

Message Mapping: 40 Reasons Why #Infographic

ALT="Message Mapping Book, Jayme Soulati,"When you hear the words, Message Mapping, what comes to mind? In my experience with executives about positioning to external audiences, messaging and the map oriented to a suite of approved messages, is not at the forefront of strategic thinking.

In my new infographic right here, I provide “40 Reasons Why You Need Message Mapping.”  See if any resonate, and then perhaps you’ll share on your blog and social channels! [Read more...]

Message Mapping The Philip Morris E-Cigarette

ALT="ecigarette"Cigarette smoking kills an estimated 5.4 million people a year worldwide, a figure that’s risen 30 percent over the last 20 years, according to Forbes, “The Future of Smoking Lies Somewhere in Here,” June 16, 2014.

Then why is Philip Morris International (PMI), the subject of the story, interested in developing a new next-gen cancer stick with all the perks and pizazz of nicotine for the addicted?

The answer is simple. Cigarettes are a lucrative business for the global giant, and in spite of the intense taxation on cigarettes the world over, PMI paid $48.8 billion of $80 billion in revenue to the tax man in 2013, smokers are eager to adopt a new, “healthier” alternative to cancer-breathing smoke sticks.

To give you more of a sense of how widespread smoking remains, 6 trillion cigarettes are sold globally each year and “Serbia and Eastern Europe nations out smoke the competition despite having tax rates over 50 percent,” according to Forbes.

PMI is spending $650 million on research to develop an electronic cigarette (and various prototypes) with a battery heater in black that looks like an old-fashioned cigarette holder. Tobacco is heated within a paper cartridge with a filter just below the burning point. The smoker gets the nicotine and flavors with “fewer harmful combustion by-products like benzene and tar.”

The Philip Morris Quandary

This Forbes story grabs you from the first paragraph. How many nonsmokers gag when confronted with the offensive exhalations from peers who smoke? And, how many smokers secretly wish there was an alternative to their bad habit and the opportunity to be welcome in public?

That puts Philip Morris International (and its industry peers) in a particularly challenging global position. Does it continue to output cancer-causing smokes to the tune of 6 trillion annually, or does it do the right thing to try to find a healthier alternative?

PMI is well on its way to the latter; however, hold your applause. In the last 10 years, 540 million people have died from cigarette smoking (do the math from the first sentence).

Still, it’s a intriguing public relations challenge with high levels of complexity. Let’s see how a PR team would craft a message map for Philip Morris and its new e-cigarette. I don’t work for any company associated with cigarettes; however, this is the recommended approach to a message mapping challenge for the global behemoth.

ALT="Message Mapping book by Soulati" E-Cigarette Message Map for Philip Morris

The first step in developing a message map for PMI about its new smokeless cigarette is to look at the categories required (there may be others):

  • Research
  • Product
  • Investment/Earnings
  • Consumers
  • Competition
  • Health
  • Industry

What we’re going to do is work backward from what’s been published in Forbes to map the messages within each of these categories. As I was reading the article, I circled the relevant facts that were obviously obtained from PMI and other industry sources and competitive data.

While the published article does not match the message map PMI would create for its e-cigarette, it’s pretty darn close. You’ll get a solid sense of why message maps are important for your own business, product or service.

What I’m doing below then, is to highlight the themes and the associated “messages” from the published article in Forbes about Philip Morris. All of these statements are taken directly from Forbes; the attribution and wording are exact and credited to Forbes. For the sake of length, I’ll only include a few in each category. Ready?

Research

  • Studies in various countries show that e-cigs have close to 100% consumer recognition among smokers and 20% to 50% have tried them at least once–but less than 10% use them regularly.
  • Filters, says Calantzopoulos, simply can’t remove the dangerous by-products of burning tobacco that cause lung cancer emphysema and heart disease.
  • PMI is conducting tests in Petri dishes and on human cells using the cutting-edge technique known as systems biology to try to assess how the new devices affect known pathways to cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

The Product

  • The first new model is an electronic device that looks like an old-fashioned cigarette holder, which heats tobacco to just below the burning point to release the nicotine and flavor of tobacco with fewer harmful combustion by-products like benzene and tar.
  • Consumers will try a thin black device that holds a paper tube, while a software-controlled, rechargeable heating element raises the temperature to almost 400 degrees, creating a vapor from the tobacco to release nicotine and flavors. The smoker exhales vapor that quickly dissipates in the air.
  • In 2002, PMI gave up on developing a safer version of the combustible cigarette.

Investment/Earnings

  • Six trillion cigarettes are sold globally each year; if PMI’s tobacco heater attracts even a 5% share, that would boost profits, already a hefty $8.6 billion, by more than $1 billion a year.
  • PMI has invested$650 million with the current expenditure ramping up past $200 million annually to try to help the world’s smokers.
  • Of PMI’s $80 billion in revenue last year, $48.8 billion went to taxing authorities.
  • PMI has doubled earnings every 10 years since Andre Calantzopoulos, CEO, joined the firm in 1985, and investors have earned 122% since the spinoff in 2008, compared with 67% for the S&P 500 index.

Consumers

  • PMI is betting that smokers prefer the taste of real tobacco.
  • PMI is trying to prove to regulators that its great new product won’t actually attract new customers.
  • Consumers buy 6 trillion cigarettes worldwide each year.
  • Serbia and Eastern European nations outsmoke the competition despite having cigarette tax rates over 50%.

Competition

  • Lorillard is all-in on e-cigarettes, having purchased Blu, now one of the largest U.S. brands, for $135 million in 2012.
  • Altria, PMI’s former U.S. parent, is test-marketing MarkTen e-cigs.
  • Reynolds American introduced Premier in 1988 but withdrew it months later after the American Medical Association urged the FDA to ban it. Reynolds tried again with Eclipse and was sued by the Vermont attorney general.

Health

  • “These products can bring the biggest single benefit in a short period of time, in terms of public health,” said Andre Calantzopoulos, PMI CEO.
  • Cigarettes smoking kills an estimated 5.4 million people a year worldwide, a figure that’s risen 30% over the past 20 years.
  • If PMI proves successful, the new products will surely save the lives of tens of thousands of their customers. But they could also make smoking less scary to those who don’t smoke, creating new nicotine addicts.
  • If the product is 80% safer and used by the 20% of U.S. adults who smoke, that’s a public health win.

Industry

  • The tobacco analyst at Wells Fargo believes consumption of e-cigs and other delivery devices deemed safer could eclipse conventional cigarettes by 2030.
  • Past president of the American Lung Association supports e-cigarettes as a way to wean smokers off their favorite smokes.
  • Anti-tobacco activist with University of California thinks the FDA should block new tobacco products until cigarette manufacturers remove traditional cigs from the market.
  • American Lung Association says,”The most heavily marketed brands by the major tobacco companies are the most heavily used ones by kids.”

The Message Map

  • I can only imagine Philip Morris International has about two dozen message maps for the categories and business units it serves.
  • In your company ensure you have one! Get the first corporate map done to help fuel your communications strategy. Not only does a message map bring clarity for the entire leadership and marketing teams, it forms the basis of factual storytelling, just like the exercise above.
  • As you grow and announce new initiatives, a message map should be the first tool developed to help map out strategy and message from the outside-in.

About the Author

This article originally appeared on Soulati.com, “Soulati-‘TUDE!” by Jayme Soulati, a message mapping master and public relations marketer.

Politicians Need Message Mapping

Soulati-Message-Mapping.jpbDuring election season, I usually get a call from several attorneys seeking marketing services for their bid to become a municipal judge or other position as an elected official. When the call came in recently for this same circumstance, I informed the caller I would consider adding my hat to his ring only after we executed a message mapping exercise.

Politicians need message mapping just like other business leaders do, too.

Message Maps Are Critical Tools

I always say, every company needs a message map. That goes the same for solopreneurs and especially politicians.

When a politician is running for an office associated with a party, a message map is the critical first step to ensure everyone in the campaign tracks with the views of the candidate.

Imagine if a candidate steps in front of a camera for an interview and answers a question with something out of left field no one was prepared for? Enter damage control! Call out the crisis communications team!

Executives of companies are no different than politicians when it comes to media interviews. They, too, require a message map, media training (with the map), and role playing to prepare for tough questions from journalists. If the CEO of a company does not heed counsel from the public relations team and goes off on a tangent that is off message, a lot of damage can be done with comments out of context. We have all seen how politicians fare in these circumstances, and it ain’t pretty. [Read more...]

What’s Your Marketing Value Chain?

In a 20-minute presentation I gave yesterday…do you know how hard it is to deliver merely 20 minutes of value?…to some small business owners, I spoke on two cogs in the marketing value chain.

I delivered a caveat that this marketing value chain was of my creation with a PR core. I have no idea if there is such a thing as a value chain for marketers, but it sounded good enough to put into a diagram.

The Soulati Marketing Value Chain

Soulati-Marketing-Value-Chain.png

Soulati Marketing Value Chain

Because I have 30 years as a public relations marketer,  I know this hybrid approach to a blend of public relations and marketing is spot on. It’s what I do for my clients, and it’s what I listen for when speaking with businesses that may need my services.

Thus, in my presentation, I said that message mapping was the most critical aspect of the marketing value chain. Not only have I rebranded myself as a Message Mapping Master, I firmly believe this exercise is highly required by everyone who makes business happen. If you want to ask why, I have a new autoresponder series in the sidebar of my blog on top. Please sign up, and I proudly admit writing these myself (it was a true feat).

Get A FREE Message Mapping Book

If you stop by my site, you’ll also see the opportunity to download my free Message Mapping: Why You Need It & How To Do It ebook.

Promoting myself in this post is NOT the goal; however, I’m so excited with my new site and rebranding (it’s just been a short week!) that I had to plug a bit. [Read more...]