This blog first appeared as Steve Wunker's piece for Forbes
By Steve Wunker
What can marketers learn from Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow titans in the new wave of tech start-ups? Unfortunately, the bazillionaires aren’t offering classes in how to join their elite club. But we can look at the marketing practices their firms used to rocket from irrelevance to dominance, and we can examine how an old-line company outside of tech has adapted those approaches successfully.
The new-tech playbook features some common themes. The companies’ marketing has been:
These lessons aren’t just for Silicon Valley-style start-ups. American Express, a company 161 years old, has used these principles to great effect. Its famous charge card first got traction in restaurants, an inherently viral environment where it was easy to observe how the person picking up the tab chose to pay. It has used monthly statements to make time-limited special offers to Cardmembers, giving them reason to look closely at the mailings and to engage with the brand. It has a clear target – in an industry often chasing people who carry big credit card balances, it pursues high spenders and has created benefits like special concert seating with this audience in mind. The company doesn’t spend much time with consumers comparing itself to Visa and other rivals, but rather has been tackling card usage occasions like fast food restaurants or car rental insurance. It maximizes the value of partnerships, such as working with Ticketmaster to promote a new service allowing people to buy tickets for a group and get paid by each individual. The company has also been smart about public relations. Its recent announcement that Cardmembers can use loyalty points to buy Facebook ads may not win many takers, but it definitely made news.
Do the new tech giants deserve their massive valuations? It doesn’t matter. Unquestionably, they have attracted huge numbers of customers fast, with modest marketing cost. That’s a feat any company should love to accomplish.