'Testosterone-Based' Thinking & Other Faults In Decision-Making

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Many business decisions in America are made hastily, with a reliance on either poor or unreliable data, or, in some cases, gut feelings and intuition, warns Kevin Clancy.

Clancy, chairman and CEO of Copernicus Marketing Consulting, gave the opening keynote on the second day of the CUES Marketing, Operations & Technology Conference here.

Many pundits have said marketing is the engine that drives business. According to Clancy, that engine is broken at most companies. With consumer confidence down, along with revenues, profits, and investments in research and development and marketing, "these are tough times for American business," he declared.

On the positive side, he noted, the financial services industry is doing slightly better than most companies. "Customer, or member, satisfaction-knowing what members want-is the forte of credit unions," he said. "For financial institutions, brand equity equals goodwill. For credit unions, this is exemplified in the way they are perceived as being different from other financial institutions.

A Serious Problem

Clancy is the author of a book titled "Counter-Intuitive Marketing: Achieve Great Results Using Common Sense."

"The book could have been called, 'How Testosterone Drives American Business,'" he quipped. "It is a serious problem."

"The people who perpetrate this problem have an MBA. Except it doesn't stand for 'Master of Business Administration,' it stands for 'Murderer of Brand Assets,'" Clancy continued. "And these MBAs use their IT departments to do their dirty work for them. Except IT doesn't stand for 'Information Technology,' it stands for 'Intuition and Testosterone.'"

Clancy said his wife calls it the "men-at-work" syndrome: which includes such behavior as not stopping to ask for directions when lost, not looking at recipes while cooking, and not reading the instructions when putting together a child's new bicycle at Christmas.

In the business world, Clancy said symptoms of testosterone-based thinking include: making decisions based on intuition rather than knowledge of real customer needs and problems, a focus on brand "juice," not brand equity, and using entertaining, not informative advertising.

"Companies that want to use 'Death Wish Marketing' will become fixated on focus groups. Some of them go so far as to hypnotize their focus group members, believing they are getting true and honest feedback," he said.

Focus groups do have a role in business research, Clancy clarified. He said they are fun, easy to do, cheap and sometimes take place in interesting places. However, they should not be relied upon to make a big decision, he insisted.

Instead, businesses should use focus groups as part of the first step of a counterintuitive "positioning" program. Clancy defined positioning as one, two or three words, phrases or sentences about the company's brand that it wants to imprint in the heads of key stakeholders.

"It should be so clear, so succinct and so powerful, that once launched, it begins to move people toward your new, evolving brand," he said. "Powerful positionings lead to powerful brands."

Once focus groups are done, companies should move on to detailed quantitative research. Clancy acknowledged this step is difficult, not as much fun as focus groups, and sometimes expensive, but he said it is necessary.

When a company knows its target and its positioning, it is ready to roll, said Clancy.

"The people know who they need to talk to and when, as well as what they need to say. All marketing communications, including advertising, direct mail and promotions, simply fall into place," he said.

Strategies For CUs

Many credit unions talk about making big users-members with multiple accounts-their focus. Clancy said there is a flaw in this strategy. "These are the 20% of members who generate 60% of the credit union's profits. The problem is, these are everyone's favorite targets. "It is better to do your research and look for what people will be looking for tomorrow," he added.

Credit unions are in competition with banks, so CUs must find characteristics where they are better than banks and, more importantly, make sure people find those characteristics highly motivating. That is what marketing a successful brand is all about, Clancy said.

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