One-to-One Marketing and the "Shot Heard 'Round the World"
Bobby Thomson, the New York Giants' third baseman, stands poised in the batter's box. In the bottom of the ninth inning, in the final game of a playoff, his team trails the Brooklyn Dodgers 4 to 2, with two men on base. Dodgers' pitcher Ralph Branca's fastball hurtles toward him. Mr. Thomson swings, he connects, and the ball sails over the left-field wall and into history.
That home run capped an unprecedented comeback by the Giants, propelled the team to the 1951 World Series, and secured Robert Brown Thomson's name in American lore. Months shy of its 50th anniversary, Mr. Thomson's "Shot Heard Round the World" echoes ever louder ...
—Joshua H. Prager,
The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2001
At a direct marketing conference several years ago, I heard a Peppers and Rogers Group MBA go on about taking care of customers' needs on a one-to-one basis. When it came my turn to speak, I quoted the late economist Herbert Stein who said: "I never forgot what my old professor Frank Knight said. 'People don't want their wants satisfied. They want better wants.'"
I said direct marketers don't deal with needs. We create wants. I need gas for the car. I want a Jaguar. The Jaguar people, however, have not made me want a Jaguar badly enough to figure out how to either pay for it or convince my wife, Peggy, that having one would be a neat idea. The fact is, product managers satisfy needs; direct marketers create wants.
Following my talk, the Peppers and Rogers MBA unctuously gushed that she had never heard anyone articulate the difference between wants and needs. The Peppers and Rogers marketing premise is summed up in the subtitle of their publication 1 to 1: "Using technology to manage customer relationships."
The implicit promise in those words: Create a detailed database of information about each customer, whereupon it's a no-brainer to create sales, loyalty and profits. What's missing from the premise: computers and technology don't create sales, loyalty and profits. People do—specifically, savvy direct marketers and creative wizards who know how to make an offer, ask for an order and create wants.
I thought about this a good deal when I read Prager's article about the 1951 Giants team that, it turns out, didn't win fair and square after all. They'd devised a system of reading the opposing team's signals during home games. A spotter, peering through a spyglass from a perch in manager Leo Durocher's locked office, would read the finger signals the opposing team's catcher was giving to his pitcher. Next to the spotter was a button that rang a buzzer in the center-field bullpen. Sitting in the bullpen was backup Giants' catcher Salvadore Yvars, easily seen by the batter just off the pitcher's left shoulder. One buzz meant a change-up, whereupon Yvars would cross his legs.
Two buzzes signaled a fastball, and Yvars would sit motionless, which is precisely what happened at 3:57 p.m. when Ralph Branca-—who was 13-12 for the season with 118 strikeouts and a 3.26 ERA—unleashed that historic pitch.
In the words of announcer Russ Hodges on WMCA:
Branca throws. There's a long drive. It's going to be—I believe! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands. They're going crazy! Oohhh-oohhh!
Under the Peppers and Rogers scenario, that home run was a slam-dunk because Thomson knew everything about the forthcoming pitch. However, it must be remembered that Thomson had to hit a Branca fastball. If the bat had connected with the ball by as little as one-eighth of an inch off the sweet spot, it would've resulted in a hot grounder or a high pop-up.
In short, creating databases is not the same thing as creating sales, loyalty and profits—or creating wants.
Denny Hatch, consultant and freelance copywriter, founder of Who's Mailing What! (now Inside Direct Mail) and former editor of Target Marketing, is the author of "Method Marketing" and "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success." He can be reached at www.methodmarketing.com or email@example.com.