From the Trenches

A Winning Bracket Resembles a Winning Marketing Strategy

Will Davis | March 19, 2009

This time of year, talk inevitably turns to March Madness and filling out your bracket.  While putting my bracket together, I started to think about some similarities between a winning marketing strategy and a winning bracket:


Your Strategy is Crucial

No surprise here, if you’ve read this blog at all you knew that would be the first point.  If you have the right strategy and stick to it, you’ll be surprised how far it can take you.  Whether you are the dominant brand in your category or a challenger brand, having the right strategy is key.  Think Princeton upsetting defending champion over UCLA in the 1996 tournament.  Despite facing a higher rated, more highly regarded and more physically talented team, Princeton created a strategy and stuck to it to pull off the upset.


You Need the Right Coach

Even if you have a smart strategy, it’s not effective unless you have the right coach in place.  On your marketing team that’s the person calling the plays – whether their title is Director of Marketing, CMO or something else.  Interestingly, according to a recent Ad Age survey, the average tenure of a CMO is 28 months, which just adds to the challenge.  Look at how many “best coaches to never win it all” have been able to take that off their resume recently, from Gary Williams to Jim Boeheim, from Roy Williams to Bill Self.  What they had in common is a commitment to their strategy and support from their programs.  While a basketball coach gets more rope than the CMO, having the organization’s commitment is critically important. 


Look for Great Guards

Guards win in the tournament – this is an old adage but holds true.  Your guards are an extension of the coach on the court, helping implement your strategy on each play.  On your marketing team these are the folks that are implementing your strategy on a daily basis.  It doesn’t matter if this is an internal team, an agency, or something in between – the coach on the sideline and the guards on the court need to be on the same page.


It Doesn’t Hurt to Get Some Luck

Many teams that go deep in the tournament get a scare early.  Last year’s national runner-up Memphis survived an early scare by Mississippi State. Think of Tyus Edney taking it end-to-end against Missouri to save UCLA or Maryland needing some last second baskets to beat George Mason in 2001 or a fall away buzzer beater over UNC Wilmington in 2004.  A little luck is helpful, whether in your bracket or your marketing.

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