A Handy Guide for Effective Marketing in Any Situation

Published May 29, 2015

Review of Marketing Big … by Thinking Small: How Anything You Sell Can Be Helped by the Greatest Marketing Achievement of the 20th Century, by John L. Gann Jr., CarpeHoram, 2015, 64 pages, $59.75 at http://salesjobsandtaxes.com/thinksmall1.html.

In any business, marketing is a factor that determines success or failure.

In Marketing Big … by Thinking Small, author John L. Gann, Jr. explains how to market without spending big bucks using several brilliant strategies.

Many advice books urge businesses to spend a significant amount of their budget on marketing efforts, but when marketing departments carry out their plans, the results are often disappointing. Products often do not sell as much as expected. Gann says there are substantially better ways to improve sales.

Marketing as Sales

Gann says selling ideas and items involves the same strategies and that marketing can range from selling a product to filling a room to capacity at an event.

Gann describes how “selling the unsellable” has been done in the past successfully and can still be done if handled strategically. For example, selling the Volkswagen (VW) Beetle to American consumers was difficult because of its unusual size and design. Despite its challenges, however, the Beetle became one of the most popular cars in modern history.

“Despite ten sell-the-unsellable challenges and almost no friends, VW succeeded in ways that could never have been predicted,” Gann wrote. “‘We’ll never make it big’ was the promise of an outdoor advertising poster referring to size of the … Beetle. But while they did keep the car small, they did make it big. Very big.”

Gann says the point of the Beetle example is size and lots of money do not guarantee success in today’s world. By responding wisely to numerous challenges, Volkswagen succeeded in creating an effective marketing strategy.

Gann quotes marketing authorities Al and Laura Ries, who said, “Marketing is 90 percent strategy and 10 percent execution.”

Investing Efficiently

When applying those challenges to any other event, idea, or product, Gann says thinking small and spending less creates a better return on investment. He calls overspending “marketing malpractice.

A specific kind of marketing malpractice is overspending on media. Instead of overthinking and overspending, Gann encourages marketing departments to be careful with their money. Instead of throwing it away, they should think of clever, small ideas to get their events, ideas, and products out to the public.

Gann says marketing departments hinder their own efforts by relying on buying media, spending a particular budget, and winning awards while skipping the thinking and evaluation process.

Gann’s book shows there is much time and money wasted on marketing and not enough spent on actually thinking about the small steps that make for successful marketing. Taking a product like the Volkswagen Beetle and using small, inexpensive tools to drive its message home is a practice businesses big and small should adopt. 

Veronica Adkins ([email protected]) is marketing manager at The Heartland Institute.