Pepsi marketing and the performance coach

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Steve is a performance coach. So of course before he left his employers to set up his own business he prepared diligently.

One of his preparations was to find the most successful businesses to model his marketing on. He studied the Top Ten performers in the Fortune 500 (why aim lower?) and easily came to the conclusion, “I need to be seen by as many people as possible.”

Accordingly, he had a thousand posters printed that said Steve Gibson: Performance Coach and pasted them up in all the highest-traffic areas of town. He bought radio ads and made plans for TV when the budget improved. He spent his free $75 Adwords voucher and another $300.

His total new clients? Two.

*sad trombone*

So THAT didn’t work.

Steve, always adaptable, tried a new tactic.

A number of clients had followed Steve over from his employers to the new business, and he asked if he could interview them. He asked, “What do you like most about our work together?” and “Why would you recommend me to others?”

“I love the way you discuss the mechanics of what I’m doing and the underlying science of it!” said one. “I love understanding the process, not just improving it.”

“You don’t patronise me and you always explain.”

“I feel like I’m part of the work, and it’s not just happening to me.”

Steve put this all together and then asked one follow-up question to his clients: “So you really enjoy the way I demystify the work and put you in charge of it?”

The response was an overwhelming YES. (And one, “Also, you’re cute.”)

Steve thought about this for a long time. The number of people who decide they want a performance coach AND enjoy taking most of the responsibility for their work is… small. Of the ten thousand people passing his posters maybe a hundred would fit that profile. (Maybe less!)

Steve thought ruefully, “And all hundred of them are probably jogging past with their iPod on and not looking at the posters anyway.”

So what now, Steve?

One of Steve’s mantras: When conditions are adverse, change the playing field.

Steve got some shirts printed that said, “You know you can do better.” on the front and “Steve: your secret super-power” on the back. He started wearing them to chess tournaments, triathalons and competitive sports of all kinds.

Those shirts started up some interesting conversations. They also led to ten new clients in the first month.

High five, Steve!

Steve isn’t Pepsi. And neither are you.

Pepsi is in dire straits if only 100,000 people buy their product, so Pepsi wants to be in the mind of the entire world. To achieve this goal they use mass-broadcast multimedia advertising: it’s expensive, wasteful, and not very effective. (It only works at all because the numbers are so large.)

We know this, but we don’t always know the alternatives. Steve is an adaptable and creative guy and was able to think up a clever way to redefine his audience and how to reach them.

He’s rare: you and I both know business owners that have refused to change what isn’t working, and watched their businesses go slowly bankrupt.

But you can do something Pepsi can’t.

Pepsi (and every other mega-brand) needs so many customers to stay afloat that they have to be generic and impersonal. (They do use targeted branding, but “geeky students” is still a very large group.)

Big companies find it almost impossible to do one magnificently effective thing that you can do easily: making their customers feel special.

If like Steve you say, “I’m only looking for clients who want to understand the process, and take responsibility for their own growth”, how appreciated and delighted and welcomed will your clients feel if they’re one of those people?

Everyone wants to be celebrated for who they are. If you can provide that experience, your clients will praise you to the skies and love everything you offer them.

This would not have worked if Steve hadn’t gotten very specific about who he wanted to attract. No-one feels particularly excited about being part of a huge group. (Which is why demographics suck.) You have to make your definition of Bestest People tight enough that it feels meaningful to the people who are in it.

If you’re thinking, “That sounds great. But how do I DO it?” Goddamn Radiant is here to help. In just three hours, you will be able to describe who your Bestest People are, where they hang out, and so much more. Stop trying to act like Pepsi, and start acting like the most effective version of yourself.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Mark Sadowski

9 thoughts on “Pepsi marketing and the performance coach

  1. You can do explaining the process to a mass market. There was an American beer (Schlitz?) that did this.

    I don’t really see how “You know you can do better” relates to involving people in the process. It seems it is about Steve’s change in strategy rather than involving people in the process. Would the slogan “Ask me how you can do better” have worked better?

    I agree entirely with your point about individual attention.

  2. Hey Catherine, I just wanted to let you know that my confirmation emails (the one where you click the link, and also the one confirming that I was added to the list) both got sent to the spam folder, I’m guessing ’cause of “cash” in the subject. I added your email to my address book so I should be good, but I just thought I’d let you know so that you might be able to give people a heads up, ’cause I would have totally missed it if I hadn’t been checking out my spam folder for something else.

  3. “Everyone wants to be celebrated for who they are. “


    Still getting comfortable with the reality that a thousand screaming fans can give you a nice life.

    Lovely idea, tho’, and one I’m quite willing to embrace.

    Btw, speaking of learning how, is the above form the sign-up for the same newsletter that’s on the front page, or is it a sub-segment?

    Reminder: daily-e-mail sign-up. πŸ˜€

  4. Hi Catherine. Your post really speaks to core of what I want to do in marketing: really engage and educate customers in a personalized way and really convey the message that I really do care how [insert brand/product/service] really rocks their world and solves their problem! Now, to figure out exactly how to do that!

  5. Awesome story, Catherine.

    I agree – the personal connection is everything, and no matter how hard the big corporations try – they will NEVER achieve that kind of relationship !

    Really like the energy on this blog, Catherine. The size of the font, the colors – it’s in your face, but in a goood way !

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