The nebulous universe of "out there."

People seem to go there a lot. Does it do them any good?

For some reason, we have heard the phrase "getting your name out there" with surprising frequency lately. In this market, we're concerned that it's not enough.

We admit that "getting your name out there" is a common expression (Google it and you'll be surprised at how flexible it's used). But for those of us who like to plan and measure the results of marketing communications, hearing companies use it is like the sound of fingernails being dragged down a chalkboard.

Because especially in today's market, getting your name out there may not be enough.

Right now, ever marketing dollar has to count, and it has to be used efficiently. Smart marketers are already taking long looks at line items that don't yield a good return on investment, and they're setting them aside. Honda Motorcycles, for example, has cancelled the 2009 "Honda Hoot," an annual motorcycle rally that brought 15,000 riders from all over North America and generated millions of dollars in revenue for its host city. The "Hoot" was labeled one of the "Top 10" motorcycling events of the year by enthusiasts magazines. By all accounts, it was a major success.

Except for sales. Most of the people who came had already bought upscale Hondas and equipment from the factory. So Honda is looking at different ways to connect with riders who don't already own their motorcycles.

But isn't any publicity good for you? Isn't one of the best things that can happen is for something about your company to go viral and be passed along (for free) to thousands of others?

It depends.

If it is notoriety without a specific purpose, chances are that it doesn't do you as much good as you might think. Take Paris Hilton and Hardees/Carl's Jr. The restaurant chain spent $8 to 10 million to have the heiress hold a hamburger and wash a car. It was a sensation. There have been millions hits for the commercial on YouTube and other websites. The spot created lots of controversy and generated tons of publicity. It could be considered a textbook example of taking a paid commercial and leveraging news coverage and viral interest to get the name of the burger joint "out there." (We know a lot of you want to see the spot--again--so here's a convenient

But as a marketing tool, the numbers say it was a flop. It only generated about $1.1 million in increased sales. Hardees/Carl's Jr. certainly got their names "out there." But it cost a lot of money with very little measurable return.

Hardees/Carl's Jr. made several mistakes with the idea. For more, see our postings "
Sex doesn't sell" and celebrity spokespeople. What makes promotion worthwhile is when its done for a clear marketing purpose with results that can be measured and evaluated. That doesn't mean you're limited on your creativity or tools. It just means that you should concentrate on things that can truly help your business.

What makes promotion worthwhile is when its done for a
clear marketing purpose with results that can be measured and evaluated. That doesn't mean you're limited on your creativity or tools. It just means that you should concentrate on things that can truly help your business.

For an example, we'll go back to blonde bombshells for a moment. Jessica Simpson was an also-ran in the world of pop princesses behind Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Unlike her counterparts, she didn't make the Mickey Mouse Club roster. Her albums fluctuated on the charts. An Esquire magazine article explained how one of her music videos had to be completely rescripted because she showed up on the set 15 pounds heavier than what she told the director. In the world of blonde starlets, where the typical half-life is remarkably short anyway, Jessica looked like an early fadeout.

But she changed all that. By becoming the ├╝ber blonde.

When the world discovered that Jessica thought that Chicken of the Sea tuna was really chicken, word spread like crazy. Here was a girl that defined dumb blonde, and we had the proof in a web-friendly format. A career that had been on the rocks suddenly became part of the pop culture pantheon and Jessica has since earned millions.

Was the Chicken of the Sea incident planned or an accident? We're guessing that there was strategy behind it. But in either case, it worked because it wasn't just getting Jessica Simpson's name out there--it was defining who Jessica is in a way that could be marketed.That's the key. You are not conducting marketing communications:

  • To be loved. Some of the most despised ads of all time are the most effective.

  • To simply get attention. The Tennessee Valley Authority has gotten plenty of attention for the last couple of weeks thanks to a massive ash spill. It's not something they wanted.

  • To just "get your name out there." Publicity and promotion with purpose can work wonders for you. Without the purpose, though, you could be wasting a lot of time and money.

When we quizzed some of the folks who told us they were "getting their name out there," we (and sometimes they) discovered that often what they were doing was indeed sound marketing. But "getting your name out there" is not a starting point. Deciding how marketing can help your business (and how to measure it) is.


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