How Marketing Fails during “Prime Time”

Dennis McCafferty
McCafferty: “There’s a glut of brand positioning posed from other marketing teams that all sounds, well, the same. As a result, it gets ignored. At a ‘prime time’ conference like RSA, this amounts to a major failure.”

(This is the first of a two-part blog about creating brand distinction. If you like this blog, please share it. Thanks!)

Security Experts founder Winn Schwartau stirred much discussion earlier this year with a controversy-charged column on the RSA Conference. Now, it isn’t often that a respected leader such as Schwartau inspires such a lively debate based upon what amounts to an industry trade show. But he wrote that he was “highly offended” by much of what he saw on the floor, initially calling out the wealth of “booth babes” that vendors hire to attract traffic.

Of course, we can debate the merits – or lack thereof – of this attention-grabbing strategy forever and, frankly, never come to a consensus. So let’s table the topic for now. I’m more interested in a bigger-picture issue that Schwartau flagged: How so many marketing professionals fail in attempting to present their brand messaging in a meaningful way. Our high-tech PR firm has attended RSA for years to support our clients, and we’ve constantly landed great placements for them in top publications which send journalists to the event. Among the outlets we successfully engaged during the most recent RSA: Network World, CRN and Information Security.

Apparently, however, there’s a glut of brand positioning posed from other marketing teams that all sounds, well, the same. As a result, it gets ignored. At a “prime time” conference like RSA, this amounts to a major failure.

“I mean, seriously,” Schwartau wrote. “How many companies are ‘The Leader in… (technology of choice).’  ‘The world’s leading supplier of …’ and ‘The recognized leader in…’? Please stop boring me and offending me with such clearly unsupportable swagger. Yes, there are a few leaders. We all know who they are and, at least, they avoid such public false bravado.”

Tough words, huh?

Still, he’s right on the money. All marketing communications professionals out there – whether representing tech, finance, retail, insurance, health care, construction or, heck, even the toy industry – should keep Schwartau’s column on a bookmark and call it up regularly to remind themselves of why they’re in the business.

After all, it takes little to no effort to churn press releases, brochures, blogs and other marketing content that trots out the same, tired buzz phrases and uninspired descriptions of what a client does. It’s easy to rehash familiar but ultimately meaningless summaries touting a “leading edge” solution with “robust, end-to-end architecture.”

Sure, this is what some clients may initially prefer. But at our firm, we realize that a winning marketing communications team will (tactfully) convince these clients that such content marketing does them no favors. It fails to distinguish them from a crowded field of competitors. Whether attending an event like RSA or trying to land an editorial placement with an editor who receives literally hundreds of pitches before lunchtime, it’s critical to define and effectively convey such distinction. The “floor” here is crowded, folks. And I’m not just talking about the convention floor.

Like Schwartau, editors and influencers like tech and IT people. They really do. But they’re absolutely overwhelmed by the crush of the marketing communications crowd that floods their in-boxes every day. If you can’t describe why your client’s products and/or services matter immediately – I’m saying within the subject header, and supported up high in the pitch as opposed to the third paragraph – your effort will quickly land in the “deleted” bin.

As Schwartau observes, there’s a glut of “useless and meaningless marketing triteness” out there. So how do you push your messaging beyond this? In Part II of this blog, I’ll offer some takeaways. Meanwhile, if you’d like to take your communications campaigns to this professional standard, contact us.


Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for W2 Communications.