Marketing Lessons From a Master

The creator of POM Wonderful shares her tricks.

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In Rubies in the Orchard, Lynda Resnick explains how she turned POM Wonderful, Fiji Water, and Teleflora into household names. As I was reading the book, I was struck by how much rested on flashes of creativity combined with hard work. (Using a heart symbol for the "O" in POM immediately told people about the drink's heart-healthy benefits, for example.)

Resnick answered my questions about her work in a recent E-mail exchange:

How do you define what marketing is -- are you convincing people to want something they don't necessarily need?

Marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them. For example, if you look at marketing as a wheel on a bike, each spoke is a specific component that can be used to sell a product or service. It could include sales, strategy, advertising, public relations, package design, customer service and event promotion. Marketing, if used successfully, can win the hearts and minds of a consumer to your product or service.

However, you can’t use marketing to convince someone to want something they don’t need. What you can do with marketing is convince that person to want something they didn’t know they needed.

What about FIJI Water -- is it really better than other bottled water, or what comes out of the tap? With the growing green movement, do you think plastic water bottles will stay popular? 

FIJI Water is the best water on the planet. Our water fell as rain before the industrial revolution, and collected in an underground artesian aquifer on the edge of a Fijian rain forest, deep beneath the earth’s surface. It remains protected from outside contaminants, is bottled through hermetically sealed pipes, and remains “untouched by man” until you unscrew the cap. It is the real deal and unique on the planet.

Nothing would please me more than to not have to bottle our product in PET plastic, but for now it remains the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to package our product. We have taken aggressive steps to be a sustainable company and since January 1, 2008, FIJI Water has offered our customers a carbon-negative product. This means we are reducing our carbon footprint by 120 percent through actual cuts in carbon emissions and an innovative carbon-offset program in partnership with Conservation International.

People may be surprised to learn that plastic water bottles only make up one third of one percent of municipal waste streams and our FIJI bottles are completely recyclable. What we need in this country are expanded curbside recycling and consumer incentive programs, such as container deposit laws that include water bottles.

How does a product become more than just a product? For example, people associate POM Wonderful with living a healthy and long life.

You have to make the jump from being an ordinary product to one that becomes integrated into the life of a consumer and reflects that consumer’s personality. People love their Macs, but I don’t hear many people talk about loving their PCs; they love their Lexus but I don’t hear that kind of passion about their Buicks. It is the love factor marketers strive for.

People love POM because it reflects their personality of living a healthy lifestyle; they even tell me “I am addicted to your product.” Addiction is good when it comes to healthy products. They know there is real intrinsic value in POM because it is 100 percent pure pomegranate juice, and those pomegranates are grown in our own orchards in the San Joaquin Valley of California, picked by us, juiced by us and delivered to the supermarket by us. Also POM Wonderful is backed by $25 million in peer-reviewed medical research.

What's the secret to successful marketing?

My new book, Rubies in the Orchard, is all about marketing and building great brands. My book reveals my belief that there are three crucial components to building a successful brand that my book reveals. Two of these ideas – Value and the Unique Selling Proposition – many people have heard before, and like old friends, we have a tendency to take them for granted. But like old friends, once brought back, it’s as if they were never gone. Being a good marketer is like being a good friend. You have to listen, you have to have empathy and compassion, and you have to give your customers even more than they asked for or need.

The third component I discuss, Transparency, is very new. And we will have to adapt our thinking – and our ways of doing business – in the digital age to accommodate it; you have to be a good citizen of the planet. You have to give back.

Do you regret promoting any of the products you've marketed?

Well, there was this pussycat plate I developed for the Franklin Mint many years ago. Yes, it generated over $25 million in revenue; but it really was bowing to the lowest level of taste. That is something I never do. Think St. Peter will overlook this indiscretion? I hope so.

How is the recession affecting branding? Is it more difficult because consumers just want the cheapest products?

Consumers are looking for value today. If you have a strong value proposition, I believe you will survive this economic storm. If you have a brand that people love and believe in, it will have a future. However, if you are just slapping a brand on a product without the three components I discussed above, you will have a tough time surviving this downturn.

But say, for example, you have a fabulous but expensive product, like a Cartier watch. Your sales may be down now right now. I don’t think this will be long-term. In the past, that consumer purchased the Cartier watch to reward himself. In today’s climate, he may not have the money to do the same. But Cartier will survive; they have real value and this recession won’t last forever.