Slam Dunk March Madness Marketing

Friday afternoon across the United States there was a resounding chorus of “Ugggg! There goes my bracket!”. The social media channels lit up with posts, tweets, snaps and memes! Even my 9 year old lamented “There goes my Lambourghini!”. How could the numbers have been wrong? How did 15th seed Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders defeat #2 seed Michigan State in the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament? It’s March Madness at it’s finest!

For weeks leading up to “The Big Dance”, fans are consumed with analysis of players and teams. There are endless discussions of statistics, game theory and bracketology. Everyone has a theory on how to use the numbers to predict the outcomes. The odds, the overs, the unders, the spread, the best bets, the dark horses, the Cinderella stories…. and in the end 9.2 BILLION DOLLARS will be wagered.

All of this number frenzy is in pursuit of the perfect bracket to win money, prizes and bragging rights. This year, Warren Buffet upped the anti in his company pool to give the winner one million dollars a year for life! The Car Lister Bracket Challenge is offering a new Lamborghini. DraftKings, Yahoo, CBS, ESPN are each offering cash prizes and, of course, everyone wants to dominate the office pool. Truth be told, however, the odds of picking a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

The odds of picking a perfect #MarchMadness bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. Click To Tweet

Upsets like the one on Friday are not uncommon. My family will never forget the 2012 game when 15 seed Lehigh University beat #2 seed Duke University. The big upset was even immortalized in a YouTube video. In 2006, 11th seed George Mason won game after game and shockingly made it to the Final Four! How could these upsets happen? It’s totally inconsistent with what the numbers predicted. The numbers!?!

Perhaps, THIS is the fun of watching March Madness each year? The games are fast and exciting. These basketball teams are comprised of players who are playing the biggest game of their lives or, in many cases, the last game of their basketball career. They play with heart and give 150%. Here we encounter the most important number and the reason why the other numbers aren’t consistent predictors of the outcomes.

This got me thinking about numbers and outcomes. The effectiveness with which numbers CAN predict outcomes in digital marketing is what makes THIS GAME so exciting. In business, however, WE are the teams and consumers pick us. The good news is that we can easily define the selection criteria based on data and then use specifically targeted and placed content to seal the deal.

So let me simplify it in basketball terms. It just takes a little bracketology. Here’s what I would put in my Final Four winning marketing madness data bracket. Measure these and use the data to predict the winning game outcome.

shoot & score

Yes, it is all about conversion, isn’t it? Be the team everyone wants to pick. Consumers in the end will go for the team that will do the most for them. Use your data to outline your company’s Customer MVP. Once you know who your MVPs are you can identify how to best fill their needs, overcome hesitations and be where they are to get them to engage and convert. Slam dunk!

5 Killer Marketing Lessons From House Of Cards

After spending an embarrassing amount of time binge watching House of Cards this past weekend, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is a lot to learn about marketing from the Underwoods. Really, it’s not a stretch. Look at the powerful image Frank Underwood was able to build. Ok, I concede it was built upon a foundation of lies, manipulation and murder but let’s overlook that for now. He SOLD himself.

Killer Marketing Lesson Number One

Create a Consistent Brand

Frank Underwood knows who and what he is but has created a strong, consistent brand to the outside world. He chooses his words carefully. He undertakes public appearances strategically. He makes sure to be seen when and where it matters. The same applies when marketing a company or product. A brand must be consistent in image and message across medium. What would it do to the brand if all of a sudden Nike started creating sweet touchy feely ads mixed in with the powerful “Just do it” athletes?

Killer Marketing Lesson Number Two

Have A Vision 

There is no question here. Both Francis and Claire Underwood have a vision for themselves and their brand. I think it is clear to viewers that they entered marriage with this vision and saw the other as his or her strategic partner. Every decision, every “ally”, every initiative, every relationship became a card placed carefully on the house that is their vision. A marketing plan is one piece of the strategic plan for a company and/or product. Marketing is a tool, nothing more and nothing less. Marketing is nothing without a vision. As marketers we use the vision of the company to determine where to go and how to get there. Then we design a marketing strategy to execute. Achieving steps on the path are the measurables for marketing success.

Killer Marketing Lesson Number Three

Stay Ahead of the Pack

For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: Hunt or Be Hunted. Frank’s words ring true in my world and the world of all marketers for sure. We need to differentiate our company from the competition. We need to differentiate each client’s product or service from their competition. That IS WHAT WE DO. We study the competition, we study our clients, we figure out how to craft a message to fill a need. No obvious need to fill? Then, it comes to us to create a need. If you are marketing food, make people hungry. If you are marketing a beverage, make people thirsty. If you are marketing SEO, make people see that what Leann Harvey said to Clair Underwood is true. “If you know what people are searching for you know everything.” - CobaltDigital.Marketing Click To Tweet

Killer Marketing Lesson Number Four

Create Change and Break the Rules

If you dont like how the table is set, turn over the table.

Right now, today, we sit in a world full of marketing potential…. more then ever before in the history of time. We have more data availability about consumers than ever before. We have intimate access to consumers in a way that never existed before. Marketing success right now rests in the hands of those who can harness the data and innovate how to use digital marketing tools like social media and search experience optimization to maximum advantage.


Of all the things I hold in high regard, rules are not one of them.”

There are no hard and fast rules in this new era of digital marketing. This is our challenge and our opportunity! Several years ago, Dove broke all the rules with their “Campaign for Real Beauty”. A photography exhibit inspired a new discussion about how women view beauty and evolved into one of the most successful marketing campaigns of the last decade. The Real Beauty Sketches clip from 2013 became the most watched video ad of all time! As I write this blog, the 3 minute version has been viewed 66,719,903 times and the 6 minute version has been viewed 6,175,784 times!

Killer Marketing Lesson Number Five

Invest Thoughtfully for Maximum ROI

Thats how you devour a whale one bit at a time.

Inevitably when I meet with a client to talk about Search Engine Optimization I hear the question “How long will it take until my website is on the first page?”. This one question is the main reason I am trying to change the conversation from Search Engine Optimization to Search Experience Optimization. It takes time not only to improve organic search rankings but, more importantly, to create a digital marketing program that will convert site viewers into actual customers. Return on investment from any marketing program is ultimately measured by conversion.

Ah, yes, season after season we see the Underwoods progress, moving ever forward step by step. We see unbelievable restraint and patience as they methodically plant seeds, one  by one, inching closer to their goals. I’m halfway through season four at this point but I marvel at the Underwoods calculated moves and I sit on the edge of my seat knowing their commitment to the killer marketing of the Underwood brand. They will do anything to achieve their vision. Will you?