Climbing the ladder of product fame

I rarely use the term brand because the meaning of the word brand has been forever watered down by people using it as a synonym for product. To me, calling your product a brand before it’s famous is like an unknown person calling themselves a celebrity. It makes you look silly. In our agency’s vocabulary, we have replaced the world brand with fame. Product fame is what we are all about at Media Relations Agency: We make products famous. 

For me, thinking about making a product famous is an exciting experience. Lately I’ve been thinking of fame as a ladder with thousands of rungs. Each rung of the ladder of fame is an opportunity to bring your product one step closer to celebrity status. 

Like people who become celebrities, a product’s climb up the ladder of fame can be a long and arduous journey. At the age of 64 and having run my agency for over 30 years, I’ve watched hundreds if not thousands of clients work their way up the ladder of fame. There is a common thread among the people who become celebrities and the people behind the products that become famous. That common thread is relentless drive. 

Relentless drive defies logic. I’ve always said it’s better to be a little stupid if you want to be successful because smart people know when to give up. I experienced this when starting my agency. After 3 years of not being able to pay myself I thought: Maybe I’ll be able to pay myself in year four. How dumb is that? 

People without that burning desire are picky about how they spend their money and time. On the surface that seems prudent. But it’s at odds with relentless drive. For example, I can remember my agency scheduling a 2 a.m. radio interview in a podunk town for Dr. Dan Cohen and his never-before-heard-of-product called Breathe Right nasal strips. The chances that interview would make any sort of impact were slim to none. Dr. Cohen didn’t flinch. He set his alarm and did the interview. No media interview was too small or inappropriate for him. For years he did interview after interview in obscurity. But rung after rung I watched him carry Breathe Right up the ladder of fame. Breathe Right is a classic example of a five-year overnight success. It was a long slog in the early days.

Thinking of fame as a ladder where every rung is an opportunity to bring your product closer to fame, rather than expecting every opportunity to be a slingshot that will propel you to the top, helped me to realize I had been making mistakes while promoting a book I wrote called, “The CEO’s Guide to Marketing.” While the book quickly became an Amazon bestseller, that’s not as impressive as it sounds. Sales are a long way from where I want them to be. So what did I do? I started skipping steps on the ladder of fame because I thought I was smart.  

COVID hit shortly before the book was slated to appear in airport stores. It costs thousands to be in 200 airports for 2 months so I decided to wait and do that program later. So, I cleverly skipped that rung. 

I skipped another rung by not responding to negative reviews. Some marketers are teed off because the book tells CEOs that marketing teams know a lot less about marketing than they let on. It’s obvious that it was entry level marketers, not CEOs, posting the bad reviews because they complain about $29 being a complete waste of money. So, I ignored them. 

Here’s another rung I foolishly skipped. One media interview scheduled for me was a podcast that only offered 5 minutes of airtime so I turned it down. I was put off by the brevity of the interview and besides that, the audience was probably small. You’d think that after watching products become famous all my life I would have known better.

Fortunately, thanks to my ladder analogy, I’ve mended my ways. The book is now in 200 airport stores, COVID or not. We have changed the copy on “The CEO’s Guide to Marketing” Amazon page to mitigate the bad reviews, and I told our publicists to reschedule the 5-minute podcast. 

Will any of these slingshot my book to fame? No, I’m sure they won’t. But I’m going to climb every rung for my book just as I did to make my agency a 5-year overnight success. 

So how about you? Have you been puffing up your product by calling it a brand before it’s famous?  Have you been skipping rungs on the ladder by thinking the only opportunities worth pursuing are the ones that will slingshot your product to the top? Maybe it’s time to stop looking for the easy route and get to work climbing that thousand-step ladder of fame.

Written by Lonny Kocina

Lonny is a visionary who is passionate about marketing. He believes that to be a truly great agency, our professional advice and deliverables must be based on a solid marketing foundation. He has made it his mission to ensure that everyone on our team knows and understands the basic marketing concepts and the SAM 6 process. Lonny pioneered the concept of our nationally trademarked Pay Per Interview Publicity® business model which enables clients to purchase publicity by the story. “It’s a familiar concept. If you pay for a pizza, you get a pizza; if pay for a car, you get a car; and with us, if you pay for media coverage, you get media coverage,” he explains. “Clients come to us because they are tired of paying hourly retainers and getting little tangible return.” When the Internet was in its infancy, Lonny also had the business foresight to quickly reserve portal web addresses such as publicity, media relations and checkerboard, and advised clients to do the same. Nearly 30 years since launching this agency, Lonny’s still finds great joy thinking about, talking about and writing about product promotion. He thrives on expanding our ability to help clients tell their stories to the masses.

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