Fight B.A.D.D. (Business Attention Deficit Disorder) with a Five-Point Approach to Tying PR Strategy to Business Goals

Part I of II

So many businesses suffer from Business Attention Deficit Disorder (B.A.D.D.), a condition that can strike any part of a company when inattention, poor planning, indifference or taking on too much at one time takes focus away from mission critical operations and initiatives.

One of the bigger victims of B.A.D.D. is marketing and PR. With all that those words encompass today, many businesses wrestle with the wide range of PR and content marketing strategies that can enhance their brand and visibility via traditional, online and social media platforms.

The tools at your disposal to engage your audiences have grown precipitously: social media press releases; on-the-fly video; tweeting, liking, and linking via social media; blogging; and converting via landing pages offering advice and free content. The uses and combinations are astounding.

For some businesses afflicted by B.A.D.D., PR and marketing could indeed be more than just window dressing … more than “just send out a monthly press release” … more than that thing you or your agency does by rote without much regard to “why” or “what’s next.” To effectively capture customers and the media – and make your marketing department look good in the process – you need a game plan.

Don’t we all face more “business objectives” than we can work against in 24 hours?  I know I do. I find that organizing a plan complete with objectives, strategies and specific tactics grounds my work, putting me on the right path of knowing what we’re producing  is true progress against our client’s goal.

It’s not doing for the sake of doing – it’s doing with purpose. Taking the time to think your communications strategies through can also lead to some fun, new creative ideas for getting your message out there (but that’s a whole other topic).

PR with Purpose

To deliver value, you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish (starting with the business plan) and you have to think through all the possible strategies.

Begin with your set of business goals. Most companies’ number one business objective is growth.

E.g., Business Objective: Grow business by 10% in 2012.

Business goals then translate into marketing/communication/PR goals. How can PR affect that growth? What exactly should it accomplish (the more specific, the better), and how should be measured (in website/social media visits; leads; other metrics)?

E.g., Communications Objectives: Generate greater exposure among targets with goal of 20% increase in leads.  Support sales outreach to direct prospects and influencers.

PR strategy (as well as strategies for using other communications tools) can then be built.

E.g., PR Strategies: Examine/expand on messaging to sales targets.  Establish stronger voice in the industry with proactive outreach to traditional, social and digital outlets with contributed articles, participation in ongoing editorial coverage, guest columns, blog and LlinkedIn posts, white papers, etc. 

Exposure is relatively easy to achieve via publicity, if you are committed to being proactive and available to participate in editorial coverage.  And of course, the right content is king. The kind or flavor of exposure you plan depends on your objectives and PR strategies.

Next week, see Part II for the Five PR Variables you need to consider to better tie PR to your business objectives.

Dig Within Your Organization for a Stronger Sales Story

The credit crunch is real, but according to one company recently quoted in The Wall Street Journal, “We don’t need loans, we need sales!”

Typically, marketing budgets are often reduced in a downturn.  But the need for sales – to generate demand – remains.  What to do? Take stock of your marketing messages.

Some companies are so busy trying to sell (with or without marketing support), they’re not taking the time to uncover value that might be buried within the company. The New Year is the perfect time to do some head-down thinking about how you are presenting your company.

Initially, talk to your best customers about why they buy from you. What makes them tick when it comes to your offering?  Do a deep dive to uncover all aspects that are relevant to them. Their answers may surprise you.

Also, engage your front line, the sales team. What are they communicating that resonates best with prospects? Think of several ways to get those messages out to the market.

There’s a simple Q&A exercise we often use with our clients to expand their thinking about how they market themselves.  Some of the questions include:

What value do you provide to customers outside of the product and service itself?  Do you educate and supply resources relevant to their industry?

What else are you really selling?  Are you selling trust?  Teamwork?  Faster delivery?  Excellent services?  Cost-savings? Expertise?  Make a list.  Why should customers keep buying from you?

What results are you helping them deliver to their customers? Is what you’re delivering having an impact? Are there internal results, like greater efficiencies, labor-savings, and the like?

What about their larger business environment — their problems and goals? Ask what business problems are you helping the customer solve.  Again, think about what goes beyond the product or service itself.

If any part of the value you deliver is related to real expertise, your advice and knowledge is worth just as much as your product or service.

What tips that can be shared about choosing or using your product/service?  Use proof points (read hard numbers) about your product and its users.

What staff member knowledge be tapped and shared?  Your employees are your brand extensions.  What they know can extend your firm’s visibility.

In what specific areas could education of the market be helpful?  Give your prospects a walk-through, an introductory session, or a demo on video, and capture the same content in writing for your website, social media and PR programs.

This line of thinking and brainstorming leads easily to a path of new promotional ideas you can use in any medium: online, social, PR, events and trade shows, webinars, ads, blogs, email and direct marketing, etc. And once you have your new idea(s), share them with your customers for feedback. They’re sure to make improvements.

With limited dollars, it’s more important than ever to analyze what you say, and how you say it, in all the ways you face the customer.

Digital Spells Opportunity (and Impact) for Attracting Customers

Jack Kraft talks digital marketing.

A conversation with Jack Kraft, business consultant, venture capitalist and former executive at Leo Burnett.



Note: Jack is a long-time advisor to Element-R.  Even a short conversation with him is thought-provoking — and always right on target.  We got together recently to talk about one of his favorite topics – marketing.

ER: We’re expanding the purpose of No Silver Bullet to provide insight on marketing and on other business issues for SMBs. Obviously, with the recession, all of our clients are looking for ways to build sales – even the larger corporations.

Jack Kraft (JCK): In every business, there is a gateway activity to gaining new customers.  For small firms in particular, the fundamental issue is managing resources.  That’s the bane of effective management for most companies.  And the one area that is most foreign is how to manage marketing resources.

Resources have to be managed. Clients have to be managed.  And you need strategies for managing those resources, to ensure you are doing the right things right.

The highest result from managing resources is attracting clients.

ER: What are you seeing in all of your current consulting gigs?

JCK: The biggest marketing breakthrough, digital technology, is not really new any more. But, it continues to evolve and continues to reduce the cost and speed of communicating with the marketplace.  It has never been easier.

The impact a company can have with even a modest investment is enormous.  Digitally, you can reach more people; address specific market segments and measure the effects quickly, effectively and economically.

Exponential growth can be achieved using only digital tools.  I continue to see it happen!

ER: In our B2B space, we see a fear of some of the newer social media tools – mainly out of misunderstanding. Plus, there is usually a lot of room for improving companies’ existing digital presence, so we generally start there, and add a set of basic social media tactics to get their feet wet.  It’s a real shift in how you ‘do’ marketing.

JCK: Yes, it takes special skills to use digital technology effectively, and those skill sets are still evolving so rapidly that professional input makes a lot of sense.

ER: What should companies keep in mind as they approach – or delve deeper – into the digital world?

JCK: The same basics of marketing apply to using digital tools, but perhaps to an even greater extent than before because results are instantly measurable:

  • Understanding your market
  • Knowing what you’re selling from the customer’s perspective (not the product per se, but the soft stuff)
  • Translate the sell into a compelling message that the market cares about and constantly measure results

Digital tools reach the market but produce results only if you know how to use them. If you don’t, find someone who does.

ER: Right.  You can’t just go in and start Tweeting the same commercial messages you might place in an ad.  It takes thought … listening … and planning good content.

JCK: I also see a strong need for PR planning in conjunction with social media.  The more “right things” companies have to say, the more exposure they’ll receive on the web.  The desired result is higher results in organic rankings.

So, the largest area of opportunity is how to use technology to build bridges to customers – how to create environments that invite conversations that lead to desired actions.

Social Media Explodes Intimidation Factor for Pleasure (and Business)

Dance and Poetry Slams let anyone show off their talents via digital and social media

As a writer, I’ve watched with interest the spike in popularity, of all things – poetry – as seen in “Poetry Slams” at venues across the country – and made accessible to all on YouTube.

The strength and power of the authors performing original poetry on stage – to wildly enthusiastic crowds of young adults—is remarkable to see.  The creativity and energy is inspiring to any word lover.

Along this vein, I recently came across a similar forum – this time for dance – individual, short dances again featuring amazing talents, in a format that makes it easy and fun to enjoy.

Contrast both of these examples with poetry books gathering dust … with intimidating theater performances, and you can only conclude: social media is opening up new modes of personal expression.

The relevance to business marketing is obvious: out with the old, company to customer line of marketing communication.  Each of us as professionals, and each of our companies, has a bold new set of tools for self-expression.

The ability for potential customers to find us – and relate to us – through media that may alert, inform, even entertain is proving very successful for those willing to express themselves.

If you’re not doing so already, explore your own personal interests and business niche, and go online to find how they are being played up in social media.  Then find your voice.  Let your business communications reflect your personality – or a personality for the company. Have fun (gasp), and you’ll find you are connecting to audiences as never before.


Measuring Against “No”

Talking about a new campaign, a client’s sales director recently said to me, “I’m the guy you call when the customer says “no.”

It got me thinking … this guy’s on fire!

We proceeded to have a productive conversation about all of the ways the company’s product solved problems, and provided ROI, for the customer.  Manna from heaven for a marketer!

And, an instant and provocative perspective to apply for evaluating content and promotional ideas – even brainstorming new ideas.

The first question to ask yourself:  How TRULY hard-hitting are the reasons you have for how your product or service fits your market?

If you were to use “no” as the answer to your company’s main pitch, where do you go from there? (A great question for sales training!)

To probe further:

  • How well are you appealing to your customers’ pain?
  • What about the ROI they can expect from buying your product or service?
  • How are you DIRECTLY addressing the real-world issues they’re facing?

Taken one by one and measuring against “no,” do all of your marketing and communications with your target stack up?

My guess … there is always room for improvement.

The Passion, or Human, Element

The purpose of what we marketers do each and every day is to find the most effective ways to educate, inform and persuade.

What I got from this sales director was passion, pure and simple. Passion and enthusiasm are almost as important as the facts we can present to support our sales pitch.  Passion comes from knowing our subject – not just the skinny about our own products or services, but our knowledge about the customer’s reality.

Passion also comes from personality.  We’ve all interacted with some really tremendous sales folks, and some not-so-tremendous.  How our pitch is presented, whether in person or some communications vehicle – can also convey that passion and personality.

So, what’s your company’s marketing personality? Is it coming across?  Can you better leverage it … capture a single rep’s passion … make it more interesting or fun … make it better than it currently is?

Apple Vs. the Evening News: Lesson in Re-Defining a Category


There’s a ‘shock & awe’ quote for you.  I use it frequently in client meetings and presentations because it puts the importance of both into a light that many just don’t consider.

Every company markets to one extent or another; but not every company is innovating.

Innovation, especially for legacy organizations, isn’t easy.  Competition on a worldwide scale brings the perpetual better mousetrap. Those that don’t keep up lose market share and eventually go by the wayside.

Not News Directors; “Funeral Directors”

Take the network news shows.  I was amused by a former newsman’s remarks about the decline of network news, and the rise of cable. “News Directors should instead be called, Funeral Directors,” he said, explaining that the viewership decline was due to the fact that the shows continue to broadcast the same thing: the same format, the same programming, that they did three decades ago. 

“They’re no longer relevant.  They’re not managing ideas — they’re not even coming up with any.”

Contrast the networks’ dilemma with the top tech firms – all continually re-defining their categories in one way or another.  With Google’s sudden rise and massive success being first to market with internet search ads (one of many possible examples), Microsoft, Apple and others race to re-define their own services.

Apple – always positioned with that edgy difference – perhaps best exemplifies successful re-definition with the Mac®, the iPod®, the iPhone®, and now, the iPad®.

Apple is admired on many levels.  But what makes it a true bellwether is how masterfully it embodies, and proves, Drucker’s sage words.

 More on Re-Defining Your Product or Service to come in Part 3 of this Series

Driving Innovation in a Threatening Economy

Business Wisdom from C. Richard Panico, President, Integrated Project Management Co., Inc.

IPM President C. Richard Panico

Note: This is the first in a new series of interviews with Element-R clients, associates and friends.  Here, IPM President Rich Panico elaborates on comments made in a mid-2009 company newsletter, beginning with an article excerpt.

“This is truly an exciting time, one ripe with opportunities, as our clients and prospective clients, like us, are faced with unprecedented challenges. Any tolerance for inefficiencies, mis-steps, and protracted and failed execution will lead to magnified negative consequences in an unforgiving market.  Business as usual will not be an option for those who expect to rise above the competition and maintain or grow their businesses.

I happen to believe that ’normal’ will be redefined over the next several years and our new reality will render many past trends and reference points meaningless.

Even further, established business models long associated with market dominance will prove to be debilitating and unresponsive to the new competitive landscape. The need for change will be an understatement. Leading organizations will realize that progressive transformation is essential. They will have to create an evolving capacity to add greater value, differentiate, innovate, and address anticipated market opportunities faster, better, and cheaper. Progressive transformation will require processes, discipline, and leadership (emphasis on discipline and leadership). It will also require companies to engage in a cultural evolution and, in some cases, a revolution.”

Element-R (ER):  Rich, I found your point that every business must create “an evolving capacity to add value, etc.” particularly compelling, even in 2010, since so many firms are struggling with the economy, and as you said, with a truly new competitive landscape.  How does IPM guide its clients to achieve this “evolving capacity?”

IPM:  We apply an approach we refer to as Transformational Project Management (TPM), which integrates change management into the essence of getting things done.  The key to effecting sustainable change lies within the company’s culture.  The culture must be evolved and continually nurtured to enable people to initiate, accept, and expect change. This begins by cultivating a mindset that views change as a significant competitive advantage and requisite to security and opportunity.

As part of executing game changing initiatives, we become acutely aware of a company’s culture, its enablers, and inhibitors.  Project strategies are developed that incorporate cultural considerations, so we are not just focused to executing an initiative and meeting an objective, but also creating a motivating dynamic that becomes the benchmark and catalyst for ongoing collaboration, continuous improvement, and innovation. Our goal is to infuse a high performance psychological dimension that influences attitudes and behaviors.

Transformational PM is essential if a company is facing a point of inflexion that requires adaptation to new competitive influences and/or market shifts.  In these situations, change requires employee support and commitment that cannot be solely and readily elicited through the communication of strategies and plans, new processes and procedures, or consequential considerations.  Transformational project management is designed to convert transactional interfaces to collaborative relationships, tasks to personal commitments, and objectives to sustainable improvements.  It is equally impactful on existing processes and procedures, as on new strategic initiatives and projects.

The whole Transformation process is ultimately about creating an environment of synchronicity, one where functional organizations energize rather than interfere with each other.  Organizational objectives have to be meshed to produce a desired outcome … achieving them requires more than designing protocols and  processes.  The objectives require acceptance, and acceptance in its highest form recognizes meaningful value.  Organizational members need to understand and envision the benefits to themselves, and to the company.

ER:   Where do you begin with a client in generating Transformation?

IPM:  First we make sure that there is management buy-in, real buy-in to the transparency that is required to identify and accept that the root causes of resistance to change often stem from leadership tendencies, politics, and displayed priorities.  Additionally, we identify the end goal, the objective, and ensure its clear understanding.  Beginning with an ambiguous destination is suicide.

Then we undergo a discovery phase that includes an analysis of the culture.  We look for degrees of separation on philosophies and values at all levels – are the executive and functional leaders all aligned? Then we look at leadership styles and priorities.  If there is not harmony among them, it is likely that employees are confused or at minimum, are facing cross-functional inefficiencies.  We work with clients to help create alignment of purpose and a sustainable and continuously improving ability to execute projects that evolve the business.

ER:  How, specifically, does IPM help its clients drive the innovation that is so desperately needed?

IPM: Innovation at its core is a product of the company’s culture.

ER: That’s an interesting take – usually you think of innovation as an outcome of R&D.

IPM:  Exactly!   Innovation is not just about the science or other skills that are behind a product or service.  Systemic innovation requires a culture that is continually seeking to outdo itself and pre-empt competitive challenges and market opportunities.

Many companies lack this aggressiveness. You see examples of this everywhere, especially among firms servicing a market with products/services that have been very successful over a long period, and are in their sunsets. The common way companies acquire innovation these days is by purchasing it – they attain it (inorganic growth), versus generating it (organic growth).  Inorganic growth as the sole source of innovation eventually leads to an eroded market position.

ER:  So how does IPM help them get on the path to organic growth?

IPM: Again our work starts at a high level with the company’s mission, vision and purpose.  We ask our clients about the focus of their businesses and the markets they are pursuing.

IPM legitimizes that vision (does it still apply?), then looks at other companies with the same purpose, and how value is being delivered by each competitor, including how cost enters the picture.  This allows us to baseline where a company stands compared to its competitors, and, where it stands with customers.

We then review the needs of their customers.  If the need is being fulfilled to the full extent, to innovate beyond it could be a waste of time.  Value must be perceptible to the end buyer.

Then we ask, is there an ancillary market need?  Do the company’s talents allow it to develop a derivative, adjunct or separate product or service that either fulfills an additional unanswered need; or, creates an entirely new market by satisfying a newly identified need with a breakthrough product or service?

ER:  Yes, finding and filling an unanticipated market need has always been the name of the game.  You see it most obviously with Apple, and its tremendous success creating entirely new capabilities in products the market has not even asked for.  This whole subject is covered in the book, Blue Ocean Strategy – Cirque de Soleil is one of its many case studies, showing how a new service category was born from the combination of ‘circus’ and ‘theater’ for an adult audience.

IPM:  Right.  In order to enable success on either path (better fulfilling an existing need, or creating a breakthrough product or service), companies have to create a participative and engaged culture!  Many innovative ideas have been spawned through the active idea generation of an organization that understands the leadership vision and is inspired to contribute.

The most overlooked innovation capacity is that which resides internal to an organization and remains as latent potential.  It is imperative that companies heighten all employees’ awareness of the urgency of innovation in all forms, in all functions (not only the delivered product or service).   The best way to create innovation in products and services sold externally is to inspire innovation within the internal functions, processes, and structures.  This helps establish a natural tendency to improve.

In every initiative and project, it is important to identify:

What is the objective?

What are the expectations?

Why are we doing this?

What are the collective and individual benefits?

What is happens if we maintain status quo?

What are the consequences of failure?

Innovation, or the lack thereof, can be a major threat to a business.  Today, it’s not just about surviving or sustaining – it’s about growing and evolving.

The beauty of this economy is that it is extraordinarily challenging.  Companies have the opportunity to use the current situation to rally the troops to new objectives, and a new common cause: SURVIVAL.

In conclusion, an innovative environment is not a simple recipe.  There are practical, systemic, philosophical, and other components that are part of, and individualized for, any business model.  There are the mission/vision/values, the people, the processes, the facilities, etc., all coming into play.

Innovation, as a product of culture, becomes a function of inspiration.  Many can recite business school approaches to innovation.  However, what makes the recipes work or fail is the greater or lesser commitment to creating an engaged and inspired workforce bound by  pragmatic, value-generating objectives and enduring values and philosophies.  In short, companies have to engage  the minds and the hearts.

It follows that companies can put the same processes in place in an effort to innovate, yet one succeed and the other fail.  The key to establishing a culture of innovation lies in establishing a strong psychological affinity to this endeavor. In its highest form, the organization will achieve an unprecedented spirit of collaboration and performance.  Culture is the result of leadership and innovation is the result of culture.

ER: Fascinating insights, Rich, into how companies need to think about moving their businesses to a higher level. Thank you!

Where Are You Listening?

big-ears-front-150x150The gurus of social media are talking a lot about how the rules for communicating with customers are changing, and major marketers are starting to apply them.

The crux of the new perspective shared in a seminar given by Chris Brogan and Peter Shankman was this: Companies must switch from asking themselves, “where am I advertising?” to “where am I listening?”

Companies should listen more than they talk.  Because customers are starting to listen to their “human web” or online network more than they listen to what companies themselves are saying.

This blog has already addressed (at length) the need to take a what’s-in-it-for-me (the customer) approach to putting together their marketing materials; to hear and use what the customer is saying about why they buy; and, to share valuable or useful, versus sales, information.  All of this pertains to relevance — and being heard above the din.

Scanning the web for brand-related conversations is the newest tool in the research arsenal.   Interestingly, in Web Chat can be Inspiring (see article pdf ), listening via online videos has brought IBM to the “discovery” that “potential customers tended to care less about its technologies themselves than what those technologies could do for them.” (I.e., people were talking about meetings and conversations, not VOIP and cloud delivery models.)

This should not exactly be a shock to the system (should it?!?).

The point of the article is that IBM, as well as Harrah’s and Microsoft, are starting to base their ad campaigns in part on web chatter, using what people are saying in their ad themes, content and even photos.   Then, they’re using the same Web tools to measure reaction and further hone their campaigns.

The Human Web

Back to the human web concept … and enter Customer Service.  If customers are starting to believe more in their own networks, then every company’s job is to figure out what it can do to make people like it and talk about it. Improving customer service to the point of creating evangelists is considered key to this.

The second key is interaction. If customers are talking and asking questions, they are engaged and ready to buy.  Being part of that conversation is a better sales opportunity than any ad, according to Mssrs. Brogan and Shankman.

Companies can begin to improve their interaction immediately, in many ways, even without using social media tools like blogging, Tweeting or Facebook fan pages: very simply by asking customers to engage on existing web sites; or by creating user communities or customer forums; or by commenting in online industry forums and other blogs, for example. Every touch point can be a potential means for interaction.

See What They See

There are free ( and and paid listening tools.  Starting to listen via simple search tools puts you in the customer’s shoes.  You see what they see.  This will inevitably lead to a self-evaluation, and questions like, “how strong is my own brand presence online?”  Or, to the realization that “gosh, my competitors are everywhere!”

Yes, says guru Brogan, your brand presence online is a competitive tool.

He reminds us that Google is a machine that cannot share emotion.  A basic search can never express the human element of an “I just got dumped” tweet.  Think of your own personal searches for say, hotels.  I know the first thing I look at are the reviews.

“More and more people are asking others first,” note the gurus. A new part of our mission as marketers must now be to listen, engage, and build fans that do your PR for you.

Faster on Your Feet for 2010 with Scenario Planning

From JISC infoNet, a JISC Advance Service

From JISC infoNet, a JISC Advance Service

What could America’s companies have done to fare better in the economic downturn?

Scenario Planning a strategic method for preparing responses to imagined changes in conditions. 

 The art of scenario planning is making a comeback from its early days as a military tool, to a popular management practice in the 1970s.  Addressing different scenarios as part of the annual planning process enables companies to be ready with identified action steps before a crisis or opportunity hits. 

It is credited with many seemingly prescient decisions – including the New York Board of Trade’s 1990s decision to build a second trading floor outside of the World Trade Center.

This year, companies that saw the warning signs early and prepared in advance fared better, some even continuing to generate cash despite double-digit sales declines.  Those that are suffering lament that they made changes later than they should have. 

Regardless of how well they weathered the storm, many companies are now reporting increased productivity, despite fewer employees, with a relatively low percentage planning to re-hire anytime soon.  That’s a negative for the unemployed, but a positive for the companies.  It means they’ve found ways to work smarter not harder (a silver lining?).

How Well Do You Plan For the Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

Scenario planning is a world unto its own, with complicated methodologies and potential dangers (such as constructing scenarios based on too simplistic a difference, i.e. optimistic and pessimistic, according to this Scenario Planning Corporate Strategy Model*.  

Having survived 2009, you may decide to do more future thinking.  Here are some quick questions you’re likely already asking:

• What’s working, and not working, as a result of any changes made this year?

• What should be continued?

• What could use further improvement?

• What wasn’t looked at, that should be?

• How about new opportunities or market trends on the horizon?  Can your company get ahead of the New Year with aggressive effort now?

Planning of any kind takes time and focus.  Planning for multiple scenarios, even more.  But this is planning season.  Whether the business climate improves as predicted, tanks further or stays the same, prepare to act quickly!

* For more detailed reading on the subject, see:

How scenario planning can significantly reduce strategic risks and boost value in the innovation value chain

Future-Proof Your Organization, CEO Journal, Oct. 2008

The Secrets of Successful Scenario Planning, Forbes Aug. 2009

Unlikely Inspiration: Hyundai Reinvents Its Products, Marketing (With Great Success)

The Genesis, 2009 Car of the Year

The Genesis, 2009 Car of the Year

In recent Wall Street Journal reports, things are looking up for one auto company.  But you guessed it: not an American one.

Beating last year’s worldwide decline, Hyundai’s sales rose five percent, and last week, reported that Q3 profits tripled.

What Hyundai is doing right is “a sustained corporate effort at reinvention,” notes columnist Paul Ingrassia.  Among the steps and wins he details:

– New QC initiative

– 10 year, 10,000 mile warranty to allay quality concerns

– Second-place tie with Honda in 2004 J.D. Powers Initial Quality Survey

– Genesis, its first luxury vehicle, voted 2009 Car of the Year, Detroit Auto Show

– Marketing Assurance Program allowing buyers to return their car if they lose their job with a year of purchase.  This initiative, part of its Hyundai Momentum campaign, led to Hyundai Motor America’s VP of Marketing being named Brandweek’s 2009 Grand Marketer of the Year.

Ingrassia points to several lessons for GM and Chrysler, recommending that both “make their marketing more relevant,” given global competition. (GM has recently done so with its 60-day money-back guarantee.)

A second Journal piece, Advertiser Banks on Blank Look, again features Hyundai, this time with a few bold advertising decisions:

– Buying all of the ad space in a newly-built subway station, and at three adjacent to it, plus in most of the trains, near their Seoul headquarters.

– Leaving most of that ad space blank, except for a small service icon and company logo; in other areas, “giant white panels have a pink eraser in the lower right corner and a short explanation: ‘The world is flooded with too many ads … For a short while we wanted to leave it empty for you.’”

The ads are the culmination of a 2004 identity campaign for Hyundai Capital, its consumer loan arm. Started by the company’s then-new CEO in 2003, the identity campaign helped the company re-position and grow its share from two to its current 16 percent.

This success “gave Hyundai the confidence to try its largely-blank ads,” according to Hyundai Capital’s CMO.

Inspirational?  Yes, and proof that a sustained internal effort to “reinvent” itself in response to market perceptions, plus the fortitude to produce thoughtful, relevant and remarkable (read very different) marketing, not only gets noticed, but builds the brand and impacts sales – even in tough times.