Timeless marketing insights

A collection of quotes with fundamental truths about marketing success and business growth.

1. Build enormous customer value before you invest in advertising

Lush Cosmetics’ Ethical Director, Hilary Jones, spoke with TNW about replacing traditional marketing labels such as ‘organic’, ‘ethical’, and ‘eco’ with plain action. For example, the US requires animal testing on sunscreen products sold in the country. That breaks the ethical code Lush holds itself to so the company refuses to sell sunscreen in the US (a $400M market).

The article by TNW is worth reading where Jones also rethinks another traditional marketing tactic: advertising.

“[We learned we could grow by word of mouth] if we ensured we offered great products and first-class customer service that people wanted to tell their friends and family about…and of course, if one is really honest about what advertising is, it is charging extra for your products so that you can use your customers’ money to attract new customers to yourself. We prefer not to have to do that and instead to price our products based on the real costs, like the ingredients and packaging.”

—Hilary Jones of Lush Cosmetics, quoted by TNW

Without spending millions on traditional ads (e.g., TV, sponsorships, celebrity spokespeople), Lush managed to grow sales 13% year over year from 2013 – 2018 (source). And the brand today generates sales of over $1B per year. Not bad for a marketing strategy that heavily relies on word-of-mouth.

Similar to the Lush example above, Jeff Bezos also talks about doing things that build customer value rather than talking about them. If you're doing the right things, people will talk.

“Attention is the scarce commodity of the late 20th century. One of the ways we captured attention is by doing something new and innovative, by building something that has real value for the customer. That’s a hard thing to do. But if you do that then newspapers will write about you and customers will tell other customers. You’ll get a huge word-of-mouth fan out and that can really drive and accelerate a business. That’s what happened with us. In the first year of Amazon, we didn’t do any paid advertising; all of our growth was fueled by word-of-mouth and media exposure.”

—Jeff Bezos (1997)

2. The buying experience (e.g., transparency, easy-to-follow messaging) sways buyers more than features, price

The following two quotes are essentially saying the same thing: it's not enough to build a set of features, attach a price, and tell yourself that's enough to be in business.

Adele Revella talks about the buying experience itself, that it's out of touch with customer expectations...

“Here’s the dirty little secret about these ambitious strategic marketing plans. Even the planners holed up for weeks and months creating them detest the process, probably because they foresee their eventual fate in circular files everywhere. By and large they’re doomed from the outset for one simple reason: Either they start and end with solely company-focused goals (“let’s boost market share 25%”). Or the customer and the customer experience are secondary, if addressed at all. This approach is lethal, in the negative sense. Consider this data harvested by Salesforce in a recent quantitative study of 8,000 buyers in 16 countries. Think your buyers are interested primarily in the capabilities of your products and services? Think again, because a whopping 84% of buyers polled said their buying experience outweighs the importance of capabilities, speeds and feeds, even price. And most buyers – 51% – told Salesforce that vendors don’t understand their needs and expectations.”

Adele Revella

I also agree with the following insight from Hubspot. We're too quick to blanket ourselves in the conventional—but misleading—wisdom that customers won't respond if we give 'too much' choice.

“Today on our pricing page visitors are given multiple ways to connect — they can book meetings, email, call, or chat. Old-school advice about conversions tells you that choice breeds hesitation and that you should reduce the number of CTAs on a page, but we experienced something quite different. By providing interested visitors with the freedom to choose their preferred way of connecting with us, we actually increased our conversion rate by 170%.”

Hubspot Blog

3. Positioning is the missing piece in the growth puzzle

Erik Torenberg: What is one of the biggest mistakes enterprise founders are making today?

Hiten Shah: In one word: positioning. Really being able to identify who cares about your product, what they care about, and having some framework thinking about that. So, thinking about the customer a lot more precisely and how to position the product.

Venture Stories (by Village Global)

I think Hiten touches on something important. We also know from this quote presented at Salesforce.com’s flagship conference, DreamForce, that…

51% – told Salesforce that vendors don’t understand their needs and expectations.

Customers of Salesforce vendors surely don’t speak for all B2B customers. But, if 1 in 2 customers, or some high percentage of customers, say that vendors don’t understand their needs and expectations, that leaves a large gap to be filled by those who do understand what customers truly care about. This is where positioning can be your greatest asset.

Positioning is powerful because customers need it. Customers need to know what problems you help them solve, how, and when.


Here's an example of a product that would have utterly failed if the marketing team didn't find the right positioning. That is if they couldn't find a good fit for it in customers' lives and how they approach the problem of cleaning.

Today, the Febreze brand is worth over a billion dollars but the product would have failed if P&G didn’t get out and talk to customers.

When Febreze was positioned as an ‘odor-fighter’, customers wouldn’t buy it. Then, they switched the product’s positioning to something you do ‘after you clean your room’.

Here’s the full story why customers wouldn’t buy the product’s old positioning and how P&G turned things around:

P&G originally tried to sell the spray as the cure for America’s foulest stenches. But that flopped.

The problem was that people got used to the odors in their homes, so they thought their houses smelled fine regardless of any lingering stench. That eliminated the “cue” to spritz Febreze (the psychology behind all of this is covered in Charles Duhigg’s genius book The Power of Habit).

So P&G hired a researcher to interview customers on how they used the product. That person spoke to one housewife — who kept an immaculately clean home — who said she sprayed Febreze as part of her room-cleaning habit.

Not as a way to combat nose-pummeling odors.

“It’s nice, you know? Spraying feels like a little mini-celebration when I’m done with a room,” she told the interviewer.

That priceless nugget of insight triggered an analysis that made P&G realize it had to position Febreze as part of an existing routine. It needed to be the reward for cleaning a room.

The company added perfume to the bottle and launched new ads showing women spritzing freshly made beds with Febreze.

Within two months, sales of the product doubled.

Dustin Walker (on Crazy Egg)

4. Avoid vague buzzwords

I love how WhatsApp uses simple, everyday language to explain that privacy is their key value proposition and how they achieve it using ‘end-to-end encryption.’ Even a 5-year old (or someone like me) can understand:

“That is why every private message sent using WhatsApp is secured with end-to-end encryption by default. Strong encryption acts like an unbreakable digital lock that keeps the information you send over WhatsApp secure, helping protect you from hackers and criminals. Messages are only kept on your phone, and no one in between can read your messages or listen to your calls, not even us. Your private conversations stay between you.”

WhatsApp Blog

No buzzwords. No exaggeration to sound more persuasive.