Is your marketing like a World Cup penalty shoot out?

The world has been gripped by the spectacle of Fifa’s World Cup 2014 taking place in Brazil over recent weeks. As we enter the knock out stages of the competition, months of meticulous preparation for most of the remaining teams will actually come down to successfully navigating a football past a goalkeeper from twelve yards.

But it’s ok, isn’t it? After all, every guy picked to the squad is there because he is one of the best footballers from his country. Kicking a ball into a 8 x 24ft net should be a piece of cake for all of them.

Some players thrive in high pressure situations like this. Most, however, don’t. [Some teams and their coaches even see the randomness of a penalty shoot out as their best opportunity to progress.]

Planning replaced by randomness

The planning, strategy, tactics and playbook that got the team out of the group, through 120 minutes of football have, at this point gone out of the window. They have been replaced by the lottery of a penalty shoot out and a game of focus and nerve.

If this poorly played out metaphor resonates with you, maybe it is because you see a similar trend in your business marketing. Surrendering to randomness is a dangerous play at the World Cup, and so to in a business environment too. Why would you not do everything in your power to try and keep control of your own destiny?

Avoid an early exit with your potential customers by considering the following five steps:

  • Kick off – did you spend all that time planning, researching, drawing up plans, working out how to implement them to then not understand what success ultimately looks like for you? Have a very clear visual picture of what your success is going to look like. How does it taste, feel, sound, look? Qualify what success looks like with numbers that matter.
  • Putting your best foot forward – play to your strengths rather than worrying about the opposition [read competition]. If you spend all your time monitoring, analysing, obsessing over and reacting to them, you won’t achieve anything. Maybe, you can even give them a few things to think about. (Isn’t the best defence, offence?)


  • Playing for penalties – leaving things to chance by not making the most of your available resources means you won’t do your best work and won’t impact the people you want to influence most. Conversely, diligently executing a goal based plan increases the likelihood of that plan being successful.
  • Dealing with the fear factor – the human body deals with fear and stress with very recognisable physical conditions. Stepping up to take a penalty is a lot like making that difficult call or getting ready to make that important presentation. Take the sting out of it by keeping in mind all the successes you’ve had to this point, remember you’re an expert and how they played out.
  • Remember, you’ll miss some time – realise that you won’t hit the mark every time. Come back stronger. Ascertain why you missed and make sure you don’t miss again, for the same reason. Incidentally, missing over and over is fine as long as you continually learn. You might even get to a position where you never end up in another sudden death penalty shoot out!

In reality, you don’t want to leave your marketing to any kind of lottery, luck or chance. The analogy of the penalty shoot out is that of a randomised last chance saloon. Sure, some players are naturally very good at penalties, but you don’t really want to be relying on a single punt to assure you of success.

Better to plan carefully, construct messages and design products that solve problems and make customers lives better, more productive and less wastefully. Communicate value, offer education and information willingly. Plan to succeed. Avoid the lottery.

Have your say on the blog; A gratuitous topical mixed metaphor. Or a blog post with a message? 

Don’t believe the hype

Apple iPhone OS 4 upgrade with the antennae covering, hand grip design flaw. Messi, Ronaldo, Torres and Rooney, the world’s top footballers failing to ignite the World Cup in South Africa. The Sunday Times going down the paid content route.

What do they have in common? Hype.

Hype generates interest. Hype gets you headlines. Hype sell dreams. Hype is immediate, short lived, quickly forgotten. Hype though, built around most products and services (if we remove all emotional bias) frequently disappoints.

Substance, on the other hand, engages.  Substance attracts, informs, educates. Substance excites customers, lands business, delivers respect. Substance is standing for something and devoting yourself to being the best, fastest, quickest, pioneering, easiest or most widespread. Substance is the route to building durable, sustainable business relationships and life long customers,

So, building marketing campaigns with substance must be the only credible approach in this, the era of choice.

Scoring a World Cup own goal

The Fifa World Cup kicking off on 11 June in South Africa offers incredible promotional opportunities to brands of all shapes and sizes. In doing so, it brings out the very best and very worst in marketers.

The advertising is kicking in and the level of World Cup / football related email is increasing in volume. But recent research by atmAd suggests that a significant group of consumers within the target demographic will only respond to campaigns from main sponsors. These valuable consumers, will they say, fundamentally mistrust guerilla attempts from other brand marketers.

Why? It’s to do with relationship and permission. The 13 main tournament sponsors pay millions for exclusive access to the tournament and the ability to promote their wares as an official sponsor. In some cases these relationships have been built by brands like Coca Cola and Mastercard over the last 3-4 tournaments and a 16 year period.

Some brands like Nationwide and Pepsi claim a justifiable indirect relationship through their tie-ups with related and aligned parties such as being official suppliers to the England team or The FA or by running campaigns involving particular footballing personalities.

What is obvious is the World Cup is a clear consumption occasion opportunity. Snack, food and beverage, barbeque, televisions and furniture brands will all position around watching the match as a social occasion.

But how does this translate to b2b? I’m not convinced it does. Even the most creative business marketers will be hard pressed to justify exploitation of the event – but it won’t stop them trying.

But be warned. Official and indirect sponsors take a dim view of attempts to sabotage their official relationships. And they, and Fifa, could come down hard legally on businesses that try to do so. Critically from a marketing perspective, a lazy campaign leave customers and prospects feeling you’re a lazy company.

Taking advantage of the World Cup in your marketing is a high risk strategy. Before cashing in on a tenuous association, consider how that one email, mailer or advert could damage your reputation and the years of investment you have already made.