10 companies with insanely great marketing

Geico Guinea Pig ad: "Such a simple word. Row." Geico

COMMENTARY Marketing is like sex -- everyone thinks they're good at it. In reality, of course, very few really get it. So few, indeed, that I had to struggle to come up with 10 companies that really know what they're doing and deliver the goods, year in, year out. Oddly, coming up with 10 companies with insanely bad marketing was far easier. Go figure.

Keep in mind that just like with sex, everyone has a different definition of what marketing's all about and what constitutes great marketing. Here's my definition: Marketing creates and promotes products and services customers will pay for. Great marketing does it consistently better than the competition.

What makes my definition right? Absolutely nothing. I'm not even saying it is. But once upon a time, I was in charge of the function for a few technology companies. And I've always found it to be a fascinating, if not highly subjective, discipline. Also, it's my blog -- so here's my list of 10 companies with insanely great marketing:

Apple. Apple (AAPL) stands as the one technology company that truly gets marketing. It defines the next big thing and creates game-changers in existing markets before people themselves even know what they want. It doesn't use focus groups or research; Apple is its own focus group. It controls its channel and message better than any company on earth. Not to mention the 1984 Super Bowl, Think Different, and iPod silhouette ad campaigns.

Nike. Let's face it: Nike (NKE) is a sneaker business that somehow became the world's largest sports footwear and apparel company, one of the top brands in the world, and a $48 billion S&P 500 component. How? Great marketing: the swoosh logo, "word of foot" advertising, and, of course, sponsoring athletes. I don't know, I guess Nike Just Did It.

Geico. The road from the niche Government Employees Insurance Company to 10 million policyholders, $28 billion in assets, and one of the most widely recognized insurance brands in the world, is all about two things: Warren Buffet and marketing. Geico also has some of the best ad concepts on the planet: The Gekko, the Caveman, the little piggy, and my current favorite, the electricity-generating guinea pigs in a rowboat: "It's kind of strange. Such a simple word. Row."

Budweiser. There's simply no other way to explain how such a horrendously bad product -- in my sole and humble opinion and with all due respect to anyone who actually likes the stuff -- became an American institution and perhaps the most powerful and successful alcoholic beverage brand of all time.

FedEx. Commentators are forever saying how dumb corporate name and logo changes are. Well, they're clueless. As with anything else, name changes range from dumb to brilliant and everything in between. Adopting the viral conjunction "FedEx" allowed Federal Express (FDX) to capitalize on its leadership in express mail while diversifying into ground and other business services. It was brilliant. And its advertising has been groundbreaking, as well.

Shattering 10 branding mythsMarketing is dead -- long live "real marketing"Marketing is like sex: everyone thinks they're good at it

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