Yup, Yes, Yikes, You & Yao!: Why the “5Ys” Beat the “4Ps”

Inspiration strikes at strange times.  In the past, when marketing teams faced a particularly difficult challenge (e.g., positioning a new solution category that stretched beyond the boundaries of a company’s traditional product mix), the response was a pretty traditional drill:

  1. Declare (loudly) that the new product requires a new marketing approach (rather than leverage the method that already works well for you).
  2. Gather a team of top marketing talent – including folks from completely different areas   — for a 2 hour brainstorming meeting.  Bring coffee and bagels for energy.
  3. After 2 hours of passionate dialogue and debate, leave the meeting more confused and frustrated than you started, having just traveled the same path again and again (like Frodo and Sam finding their way into Mordor in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring).
  4. Call in the cavalry: a top-level positioning professional (my favorite is Geoffrey Moore) to work with the team for 2-3 sessions
  5. Come to a collaborative position that smacks of verisimilitude when you leave the room and gives you night sweats later that evening .

Facing a creative block, what is a marketing professional to do?  My approach is jump onto my road bike to flush my mind and take a fresh crack at a challenge.  The allure of an oxygen deficit at the top of a 1500-foot climb usually does the trick; suddenly, I realize my error.  All of my prior experience as a marketer held me back, chaining my psyche to the rock of an unfinished assignment.  Sound familiar 🙂 ?

Let me back up.  Classically trained product marketers are suckers for the marketing mix, known colloquially as the 4Ps: product, place, price, and promotion.  Indeed, some of the greatest teachers and practitioners of the marketing arts — including Ted Leavitt, Bill Davidow, Jack Trout & Al Ries, and about 100,000 MBAs — built empires on the back of this framework, originally conceived in the 1960s.   The key premise behind the 4Ps strategic marketing framework is that a good product is the sine qua non: get that part right, tune the pricing and channel strategy, and execute the right advertising, PR, and communications levers, and market dominance is just a hop, skip and a jump away.  Think Mad Men:  a hot car (Camaro), gaming platform (Wii), or phone (Droid) are the magic clay for a marketer to mold.

For tech marketers, in particular, the world is flat (thanks Tom Friedman) and the playing field tougher. In the overheated world of Internet communications, getting through the message pollution, to most buyers of business-to-consumer or business-to-business products and services is daunting.

So I would like to offer a new marketing mix: the 5 Ys.

  • Yup:  The customer instantly acknowledges the solution addresses their problem
  • Yes:  I like the answer.  It will do the trick.
  • Yikes:  I have to deal with the situation now.
  • You:  You can help me.  I believe in you.
  • Yao!:  It is big: senior management wants to invest.

Yup is like the line in Jerry McGuire, “you had me at hello.”  For Apple, it was the iPod.  Sometimes, getting to yup takes time.  The faster you do it, the faster you win.

Yes turns awareness into consideration, known these days fondly as “now that is why I am talking about!”  For conferencing it was Webex.  Millions of people see it as the way to instantly meet and interact with tens of millions of others.   It took a while to get started.  Now it’s indispensable.

Yikes is about speed – speed to inquire, speed to purchase.  The Prius was an interesting and odd-looking car, until gas hit $4 gallon.  Necessity is the mother of a closed deal

You is akin to Robert DeNiro’s line in Analyze This: “You, you are very good.”    You is recognition from the buyer that the seller is the THE company  from which to buy.  Customers can smell the right company.  They know it immediately (and if your company does not have it, you cannot fake it).  It’s who they want to be associated with.

Yao: this is very big. For several years, Yao Ming was the biggest basketball story in the world (I have a picture standing next to the man at the 2008 All Star game: he is a mountain).   The difference between a bug fix and changing the world is the Yao factor.

While you can always attend an executive education session at Stanford or Kellogg Schools of Business, you can also calibrate your marketing program against 5 short words that begin with Y.    Marketers: ignore them at your peril.


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