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How Marketing Focus Groups Could Have Saved These Companies Some Green

Vick Condecion

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As Earth Day approaches this Sunday, the concept of “green” becomes a red-hot topic. When you think of green and business, chances are you envision B2C eco-friendly consumer products that have eliminated the use of harmful additives and employ sustainable methods. And when you associate green with B2B companies, what comes to mind? The common perception is that these corporations focus on growing their revenues and reducing the toxic waste from their bottom lines.

Often, they start with their marketing departments to see if they can cut costs on programs that aren’t performing or launch new campaigns to generate additional profits. Let’s take a look at some B2B companies that could have ridded their marketing campaigns of pollutants and un-sustainable ideas, and how a marketing focus group could have saved them some green.

Campaigns that Don’t Hold Water

Unfortunately, some companies soil their marketing campaigns with claims that are easily refuted. Take Cisco for example. They put a heavy marketing push on stating that customers would experience operational and financial benefits by adopting their single-vendor, end-to-end solution over a network that incorporated two or more vendors.

On the surface, it may make sense. Theoretically, by streamlining their networking, companies would benefit from operational consistency, leading to higher levels of service quality and better overall reliability. However, their claims simply weren’t true according to Gartner. In November 2010, the IT research and advisory firm poked sizable holes in their claims. In the report, they showed the results from hundreds of interviews that they performed with nine public- and private-sector companies who were using Cisco products. These organizations ranged in size from 1,000 employees to more than 10,000 users across thousands of locations.

While Cisco claimed that their solution was more reliable, simpler, and cheaper, the Gartner report stated that most companies would experience at least a 15% to 25% reduction in their total cost of ownership by introducing a second vendor. It went on to say that a high percentage of the organizations they interviewed enjoyed a “lasting decrease” in the complexity of their networks as “compared to an all-Cisco network”. Unfortunately, Cisco polluted their message with claims they couldn’t substantiate.

Campaigns that Are Contrary to Popular Perception

In an attempt to gain new market share or draw attention through controversy, some companies launch campaigns that play against their brand instead of enhancing it. Even if the campaign is otherwise sound with excellent images, graphics, frequency and calls to action, it will fail to convince the market to change their perception about the business if it goes against the grain.

In 2010, Infro, a supplier of ERP solutions, ran a Big ERP campaign that in many ways was clean. Here is a collage video showing highlights. Their message discussed the dilemmas many companies face when dealing with a big ERP firm and positioned themselves as the alternative. So what went wrong? At the time Infor ran this campaign, they were a big ERP firm, the third largest. So although the campaign was enticing, it wasn’t something their audience was willing to buy into. The campaign proved to be unsustainable.

How Could Marketing Focus Groups Have Saved Them?

An effective marketing campaign connects with a target audience’s perception and their experience with the brand. The campaign’s goal is to cut through the clutter, tap into an emotion, and get the target audience to take action. However, when companies launch massive campaigns like Cisco and Infor that are speculative or diverge from the brand perception, they muddle the message and create a pessimistic emotion.

How could these companies have missed the mark? Apparently, they lacked insight into what their target markets perceived and believed about their brands. This is where marketing focus groups could have made a big difference.

When companies include a marketing focus group as part of the process for developing a campaign, they can gather essential information about their customers’ perceptions, so they know how to create an effective marketing strategy. If Cisco had engaged a focus group, they would have known that their customers didn’t experience benefits from a sole-source networking solution. A focus group would have informed Infor that their market wouldn’t buy into the idea that they were the alternative to Big ERP companies when they were one.

For more information about how we can help properly position your business and craft effective messages through the use of a marketing focus group, go to our Contact Us page, or call us at (410)-366-9479 ext. 2#.


Dina Wasmer is President of Incite Creative, a marketing and graphic design firm that provides and services and strategies for small-to-middle-market businesses and non-profit organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Additionally, Dina is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore teaching typography and graphic design principles. For more information, log onto or contact


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