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5 timeless PR and marketing strategies.

Marketers are a forward looking lot, and will always have a steady eye on the future to steal a competitive advantage over their peers. Of course, the future offers many marvels; digital communications technology seems to have irrevocably changed marketing practice, offering the kind of detail and insight that would have been inconceivable 30 years ago without very expensive market research exercises.

With all this focus on the future and its many technological miracles, it is tempting to abandon the tactics and disciplines of the pre-digital age, but in my view that is a mistake. After all, the actual purpose of marketing hasn’t changed, the fundamental principles haven’t changed – it still boils down to raising awareness and awakening interest in the minds of other people.

It will come as no surprise, then, that some of the most effective marketing tactics and principles pre-date the digital age, and are just as important today as they were 50 years ago. Taking a look back, I’ve chosen five key marketing tactics that haven’t aged a bit, and are still vital to marketing success today.

1. Research. Do your research! Whether you’re trying to reach 50 defence industry decision makers, or 5 million Tamagotchi collectors, if you don’t know anything about them, you are going to have a very hard time devising any marketing material to attract their interest. However you deploy your research, whether it’s for developing your buyer personas or estimating market size and depth, stick to data you can verify. Assumptions about your prospects and customers should always be backed up by research before placing any stock in them.

2. Choose your images carefully The power of the image has remained undiminished since the ice age, but the variety available has increased enormously thanks to digital photography and photography platforms like iStock, Adobe Stock etc. You have a galaxy of literally billions of images to choose from, so take your time and find exactly the right picture that complements, conveys or contrasts your message. 

3. Break the rules. Of course, you need to know the rules first, otherwise you’re not breaking rules, just demonstrating your ignorance of them. By trampling on the conventions of your competitors, without misleading or offending your customers, you not only garner important focus and attention on your message, you throw the competition into the shade. Just remember the difference between rules which are for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools, and laws: breaking rules could win you a marketing award! Breaking laws will win you hefty fines or a spell at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

4. Tell The Truth Truth never goes out of fashion – if you lie in your marketing material today, you will be found out tomorrow. If you’re economical with the truth, then you can guarantee that someone else will step in to fill the blanks. Even if you studiously avoid making any concrete claims for your product or service, if your implied truths are found wanting, you will be seen as dishonest. For a textbook case, consider the story of Dasani mineral water … which turned out to be ‘purified’ tap water, and bottled in Sidcup. Coca-Cola never claimed it was from glaciers or springs or arctic ice, but they never mentioned where the water did come from... and that became the story.

5. Don’t tell the truth (if it’s just your opinion). Sometimes, what you think is the truth is merely your personal view. Gerald Ratner thought he was being candid and funny when he told the Institute of Directors that his chain of jewellery shops sold “total crap”. Unfortunately, his words were then repeated across the national news media, and millions of customers who saw Ratners as good value felt humiliated and belittled. The company had £500 million knocked of its value almost overnight, 18 months later Ratner had been sacked by his own board and “The Ratner Effect” was born.


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