Reasons to look beyond your industry when marketing your business

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen evaluating marketing strategy and tactics, executives need to emerge from their silos and seek out and draw analogies from other industries. My latest example of this inter-industry inspirational technique was a set of case studies in my marketing class, where students presented service-related issues encountered by a company or industry. By happenstance, both presentations made last week focused on firms that, following high-profile negative incidents, launched marketing campaigns that sought to bring consumers back to basics. According to the presenters, Carnival Cruise Lines refocused on onboard fun while JetBlue emphasized customer service.

Immediately, I saw applicability to the retirement income industry, particularly the variable annuity industry.

In early 2010, while working at Cerulli Associates, I authored a research report called Evaluating Your Variable Annuity Product Line. Among the findings were that, in the wake of the financial crisis, the industry had entered a period of “stabilization and rationalization” and a return to basics would emerge gradually in the years ahead. These findings met with some controversy, as the prevailing belief was that, despite data to the contrary, the presence of comprehensive guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits (GLWBs) increased sales. Yet, let’s fast-forward three-and-a-half years: many insurance companies reduced benefit levels or increased the costs, some discontinued the GLWB, and some firms exited the business altogether.

That said, the annuity industry—primarily the fixed annuity industry, however—has started to return to basics with the introduction of the deferred income annuity (DIA), a lifetime annuity variation that provides an income stream that commences a couple of decades from the time of purchase. Beacon Research estimates that sales of fixed annuity market DIAs have increased during each of the past six quarters, culminating in a 40% increase during second quarter 2013. At the same time, however, several insurers continue to tweak VAs by offering new products in which both parties share any losses the policies might incur. While this makes the VA more palatable (to both consumers and insurers), it is also a complex notion, yet one can argue that it is a way to preserve the traditional function of the GLWB.

While it is too soon to measure the impact of Carnival’s September 2013 campaign, my classmate related that JetBlue had success with its You Above All™ campaign in 2010. Nostalgia? Perhaps. Yet it also showed how companies can, or can hope, to rebound from a disruptive event by returning to their roots.

Back to school: Books that revitalized my marketing career

Among my cherished hobbies is reading. My bookshelves are filled with volumes representing various genres, including the classics (Jane Austen is my favorite), ocean liner history, travel, business, and professional development. Additionally, I have a collection of contemporary literature on my e-reader.

I enjoy, as well, sharing my thoughts on the books I’ve read. I am a regular contributor to Goodreads, from where I also find recommendations for other books I might enjoy. (And, those are almost always spot-on.) Since returning to school to obtain my professional certificates in copyediting and marketing and branding, I’ve read some very helpful (and, at times, fun) books that are pertinent to my career.  I share my reviews, originally published on Goodreads, with the hope that others may find them useful.


Mobile Marketing: An Hour a Day (Rachel Pasqua, Noah Elkin ~ Published December 26, 2012 by John Wiley & Sons)

I learned a great deal about mobile marketing from this book, some of which I am already putting into practice. Although this text was assigned reading for a college course I took over the summer, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this essential, emerging business and how to develop actionable plans for marketing through mobile media.


eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Digital Marketing (Rob Stokes ~ Published 2011 by Quirk eMarketing (Pty) Ltd.)

This book was assigned reading for a university-level continuing education course in Internet marketing. The price could not be beaten; it was a free download from the publisher. The material was organized well and included useful charts for planning and measuring marketing goals. My main issue with the book, however, was that it could get confusing for the American learner as the book was published in a different continent. Many of the Web sites mentioned were not familiar to me and, as a trained grammarian, I found myself distracted by a form of written English with which I was unfamiliar. I’d consider this book a decent resource (especially that it is available at no cost), but not the only resource for those who wish to learn about eMarketing.


Integrated Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Communication (Kenneth Clow, Donald Baack ~ Published December 27th 2010 by Prentice Hall)

Integrated Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Communications was assigned reading for a recent class in Integrating the Marketing Message — and was an excellent choice by the instructor. The chapters were organized in a way that made sense, particularly for a student like myself who had been away from the classroom for many years. I found the lead-in vignettes, integrated campaigns in action features, and examples of advertisements very helpful in expanding my understanding of the material. The only negative was its price — a used copy was going for roughly $140 at the time of my purchase. Still, in retrospect, it was a decent price for such an informative text that I know will serve well as a reference book for years to come


Special mention: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Lynne Truss ~ Published April 2006 by The Penguin Group (first published 2003))

I don’t have to admit to being a stickler. Everyone who knows me is already aware of my grammarian tendencies. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation on and off during a period three months, each time with a grin as I realized that I was not alone in my love of punctuation. And, that’s exactly what this book is about — the evolution of punctuation. Author Lynne Truss takes us on a journey from the early printed form of language to today’s emoticons while combining historical references with a bit of humor. Note that this is not a book about grammar; nor is it a definitive guide on how to use punctuation (as conventions vary between countries). Yet, for those of us who cringe at the misuse of the apostrophe or appreciate how a comma can change the meaning of a sentence, this is a wonderful read that will keep you entertained.

Have you read any good business books lately? Please share in the comments section, below.