Avoid Olympic Marketing Perils, Embrace Olympic Community

August 19, 2008

Like many folks, I've been spending some of my spare time over the last week watching the Olympics. Every four years, I say I'm not going to get caught up in it all; shortly after the opening ceremony, however, I find myself awake at 3 a.m., intently following the women's handball finals.

And I'm not alone. It appears the 2008 Beijing games are quite popular around the globe—with consumers and marketers alike. But after sitting through ads featuring beer, soft drinks, credit cards and, inexplicably, busloads of sumo wrestlers hawking laptops, I'm wondering if the sheer size of the Olympic audience alone warrants the herculean marketing expense. Does this investment really have that great a return?

Granted, this is a red herring for most businesses, as the budgetary requirements for that kind of advertising are astronomical. However, almost every business will face its Olympic moment; at one point or another, you'll have to decide if spending a good portion, if not all, of your marketing dollars on one big idea will have the greatest impact. Many businesses don't see any options or, worse yet, they think it's wiser to put all their eggs in one basket, which often leads to spectacular failure.

These historic games we're watching, however, provide a great metaphor for a more appropriate modern marketing strategy. The Olympics has a long heritage of being a venue for competitive spirit, but the greater accomplishment has always been in the brotherhood and fidelity shared with other nations and peoples. Communities and conversations are created.

Likewise, the most effective marketing strategy for your business is to open honest communications with your customers. Because online communications tools have matured so rapidly, implementing that strategy is easier than ever—and won't break or, in some cases, even bend your budget.

Web-enabled, modern consumers expect quick and reliable service from your business, and they'll let the world know when you don't measure up. But instead of a letter that might reach a few dozen people over the course of a half-year, they'll voice concerns in a blog or forum that will reach millions of people in an instant. With the right tools in place, however, your business can respond rapidly and with authority. Better yet, if your customers know you're readily available to address issues or answer questions, they'll let the world know.

The tricky part is knowing where to start, and we can help with that. Just give us a shout.