challenge Goliath marketers
March 15, 1999
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Do you ever feel sorry for the marketing Goliaths, what with all
of these Internet Davids running around with their technology-based
Why is it
that Amazon.com - not Sears - is the web's reigning electronic
retailing success? After all, Sears once was the greatest innovator
in retailing thanks to its interactive marketing breakthrough,
the mail-order catalogue. What does Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO,
have that Sears CEO Art Martinez lacks?
Why are so
many established companies playing-catch up on the Web? And if
you work in marketing at Goliath Inc., what do you do when young
David.com shows up?
is pretty straightforward: You write a check to David.com and
buy his company.
sports retailer G.I. Joe's of Wilsonville, Ore., did with Douglas
Spink, a 27-year-old entrepreneur from, Hillsboro, Ore. Spink,
the founder and CEO of Timberline Direct, sold his Web- and catalog-based
start-up to G. I. Joe's for an estimated $5 million. Not a bad
payday for a guy who mortgaged his house, borrowed from friends
and scraped together $180,000 to build the company (See Internet
Marketing Leaders article).
other options for Goliath Inc.'s marketing forces? Can you become
more like the David.coms of the world? You can. Consider the formula
Doug Spink followed for success:
your customer's lifestyle.
Spink is an ultra marathoner, routinely running footraces far
in excess of the marathoner's usual 26.2 miles. He lives the lifestyle
of the extreme athlete that he markets to each day via his Web
site, Athletica.com. He invested every aspect of his company with
his personal insights about the customer's lifestyle.
passionately in your products.
Spink's web- and catalogue-based products range from sports nutrition
supplements to snow boarding equipment and duck hunting supplies.
He believes in his products, uses them and tests them himself.
a brand that reaches your customer's soul.
Spink says people do extreme sports activities, like distance
running and cycling and triathlons, because they "meet some
kind of spiritual-like need. It's done for its own sake. The process
is important, not the outcome. We wanted all of our branding activity
to reflect this fact."
a buyer-driven corporate culture.
Spink spends a lot of time answering customer e-mail himself.
"I worked on the Web site, making it fun and enjoyable for
people. We over-invested in customers. "
an obsessive-compulsive at the helm.
Said Spink, "I would make index cards of every item I owned
when I was 8 years old. Every great brand has an obsessive personality
behind it somewhere. Entrepreneurs who succeed use obsessiveness
as a tool."
attention to the details.
"I care about the paper. I care about the boxes. I care about
the packing peanuts. Those things combined build an organization,
build a culture and ultimately a brand. It's not the mission statement.
It's what you actually do, it's not what you say you do,"
"Then you sit back and chew your fingernails. At a certain
point you realize if you don't come to the office for a week,
things just go on fine without you."
your own counsel.
Spink is action-oriented, saying, "Don't hesitate to make
decisions that come from the gut. Don't hesitate to make decisions
that are controversial. Do what is right, not what is in some
on Doug Spink's success as a David.com entrepreneur raises the
question of the future of the Goliaths of the marketing world.
Can you imagine Art Martinez of Sears passionately cutting wood
in his basement with his Craftsman tools? Can you envision an
emotional Durk I. Jager, CEO of Procter & Gamble Co., in the
laundry room extolling the virtues of using Cheer to do the wash?
Could you visualize Kraft Foods CEO, Robert Eckert, enthusiastically
preparing a macaroni-and-cheese dinner in the kitchen? Maybe they
But I'm sure
that today's interactive marketing Davids will continue to collect
big buyout checks from traditional marketing's Goliaths for some
time to come.
is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at email@example.com.