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Our industry is teeming with great leaders and visionaries, people from whom we all have much to learn. Bill Weintraub is one such person. After all, he’s been BrandWeek magazine’s Marketer of the Year and was named Outstanding Chief Marketing Executive by Frohlinger’s Marketing Report. He’s served as Chief Marketing Officer at Tropicana and Coors Brewing, and prior to that, he managed brands for the Kellogg Company, where his leadership fostered new success for Kellogg brands and marketers alike, when he championed efforts to allow food products to make health claims and thus ushered in a new era in food marketing. Before that, he managed iconic brands such as Scope, Prell, Sure and Crest for Procter & Gamble. Bill is currently a faculty member at the University of Colorado and an executive mentor to M.B.A. students at the University of Denver. We caught up with Bill last week and — not surprisingly — he had plenty of knowledge to share from his own storied and successful career in marketing and how it relates to current trends in marketing and popular culture.
Blogging Out Loud: You’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. How do you identify passing fads from lasting trends? Is there a secret?
Bill Weintraub: I really don’t think the underlying principles of communication and persuasion have changed that much since the times of Aristotle. Too many people — in the media, especially — get hung up on fads. Fads, or fashions, they come and go. For me, it’s the underlying principles of communications and strategy that matter:
— Understanding your product and/or service
— Identifying the consumer group for which its benefits are important
— Utilizing communication to demonstrate that
Some people don’t understand these basic principles. They get hung up on the fad.
BOL: What are your go-to resources — whether they are on the streets, in print or online — for keeping up on trends?
BW: I’m a big believer in magazines, whether I’m reading them on my iPad or physically. I read AdAge, Adweek, Business Week and Fortune. But I’m also a big believer of keeping track of pop culture, by reading magazines like People and US Weekly. That’s what people are interested in, so for me, it’s more important to keep in touch with pop culture.
BOL: When teaching, how do you balance new platforms, such as social media, against tried and true tricks of the trade?
BW: I don’t think social media — or, any one medium — is that important. Social media may work for some brands, and it may not for others. Television is still the dominant medium of our time — it accounts for two-thirds of spending among major advertisers — and the reason why is you can tell a story and dramatize something on television that you can’t in other mediums. That’s not to say social media, outdoor media, radio, and newspapers don’t have a place.
The key point is what advertising causes you — as a consumer — to switch to another brand from your current brand. That’s what effective marketing is about; it’s no more difficult than that. What causes brand switching? Does that advertising give the consumer some inclination to say, “You know what, I’m going to switch…” Does it provide some motivation? It’s mundane stuff. You have to understand pop culture, and a little bit of psychology. Think out how real people act. That’s how people make decisions.
BOL: What social media platform do you find most exciting and why?
BW: I go on Facebook and I follow some Twitter [feeds], but I don’t think it’s that important. If there’s a strategy that communicates some advantage to some group of consumers for whom that message resonates — that’s what important. Being cool isn’t that important. Look at what Pepsi did last year when they tried to be “cool” and shifted monies from television to social media; they really screwed up…
BOL: What marketing and promotional campaigns/tools are you excited about now?
BW: I don’t consider myself a dilettante of what’s good. If it builds business, it’s good. For you or I to judge advertising before we know the results, it’s very risky. There’s no correlation between what consumers like and effective advertising. It might be a little different in terms of promotions because you have the element of price, particularly in this economy, when people are more concerned about price. I think PR works the same way. In a sense, social media can be a vehicle for good PR, as long as there’s a strategy.
“5 Questions For” is a new and occasional feature in which Blogging Out Loud interviews influential industry leaders on current and future marketing trends.