Monday, September 18, 2000

Words of wisdom from a marketing maven

Change always a challenge, he says

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When the applause ended for his 15 seconds of error-free juggling, Doug Hall glanced at the room of development specialists and gave them a you're-not-going-to-believe-what's-next look.

        It was a tough act to top. Mr. Hall, founder of Eureka!Ranch, an idea think tank in Newtown, had just juggled three Red Delicious apples and taken a bite from each without dropping an apple.

        That would be a challenge for the best juggler. Though Mr. Hall was no big-top circus act, there was plenty of grease paint and entertainer in his veins.

        A marketing swami to international conglomerates and small companies alike — 3M, AT&T and Nike are among the roster of clients — he came to the fall conference of the Greater Cincinnati arm of the American Society for Training & Development to explore the topic of capitalist creativity.

        He ended up juggling apples.

        Decades ago, an old man who used to be a vaudeville performer had watched Mr. Hall juggle some apples and when the youth was finished, he gave the boy some advice.

        Mr. Hall repeated that advice when he began to juggle again for the corporate trainers — this time letting the mashed fruit drain down his chin in a splattering shower of chunks, juice and apple skin after he chomped into the apples.

        “You gotta sell it,” the old man told Mr. Hall, who repeated that century-old perspective to the trainers in a shout. “You gotta sell it!”

        The daylong event put Mr. Hall in the front of the room for just an hour, and the former Procter & Gamble Co. creative wunderkind managed to cram what he said was an eight-hour day of training into the time.

        It's a tough world for new products, he said. About 75 percent of them fail while the breakaway success story is the result of about 3,000 ideas winnowed down to 17 product introductions.

        Mr. Hall's research though Eureka!Ranch — where companies send executives to spur new ideas — indicates that while nothing guarantees a product's success, unless there are a couple of identifiable traits, it will be a magnet with no pull:

        • Companies and people must create products or concepts that have an “overt appearance.” To make it in the marketplace, products must offer buyers a bold and obvious reason to act.

        • Give consumers a reason to believe through testimonials or with convincing evidence of superiority over the competition.

        • Minimize fear of new ideas among staff and recognize the best way to find an edge is to step over it.

        Recent developments at Eureka include a 1.2 million customer data-point research system called Merwyn Technology that offers an 85 percent accuracy rate in forecasting customer behavior. The company also offers a rating system to measure the effectiveness of corporate teams.

        Change is always a challenge for a company, Mr. Hall said.

        “It's something that destroys business-as-usual for at least one or more departments,” he said. “Somebody has to get their life messed up.”

        Even churches can measure the cost and benefits of new training — though creating a spread-sheet focused on the hereafter is likely to be a big challenge for any preacher.

        “You can look at what is the business impact: Does (training) cut down on the amount of time to produce a product? Increase the probability of a sale? Reduce churn?” said Jack J. Phillips, president of Jack Phillips Center for Research.

        “You can measure perceptions. But many companies do not do it because they are afraid of things they do not understand.”

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