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Are Big Brands Beginning To Market & Promote Like Entrepreneurs?

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by David Garland in David's Blog

Scott Monty of FordIn the 10 Big Marketing Predictions For 2010 I made this past November, my first prediction caught the eye of Guy Kawasaki:

“Big Brands Will Learn From Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses and Niche Brands.

In this case size doesn’t matter.

For entrepreneurs, especially those that have bootstrapped their companies with their own money and your little sister Lilly’s savings (or whatever), big budgets didn’t disappear due to the recession, they never existed.

Without big budgets, us entrepreneurs have always had to turn to whatever valuable (and relatively cheap) resources we could including opening our big mouths, forming amazing relationships on social media sites and in the real world, blogging, and straight up hustling.

Also, without a team of lawyers, accountants and a 224.3 person Board Of Directors, entrepreneurs move quickly, fail fast, recover faster, and try something else. One idea for a blog doesn’t work? Try another. One idea to draw traffic or sell a product doesn’t work? Try another.

These elements of cheap, fast and experimental are going to finally catch the attention of big brands in 2010. Instead of ignoring the little guys, a painful realization to many larger companies when 2009 ripped apart their business, is going to lead to entrepreneurs being a trusted resource and strong case studies.”

How has this panned out so far this year?

Are any big brands taking a lesson from hustling little guys and gals like us? Creating interesting, valuable, entertaining and educational content as opposed to just product pushing? Connected one-on-one with people as opposed to broadcasting to everyone? Being a trusted resource as opposed to a jerkface? Adding authentic personality and a face to the brand as opposed to blow-dried haired spokespeople? Forming real relationships with bloggers and new media sources as opposed to just focusing on the next press release?

While many big brands still haven’t gotten the memo (they have memos at big corporations, right?) some have done some great things and are thinking a bit smaller (hooray).

Here are examples of two that are doing it well:


Kudos to Ford for empowering Scott Monty to be the face of the company online. Scott is not a logo, he is a human. And on any given day you can find him talking shop, blogging, hanging out on social media and (heaven forbid) interacting with people without the filter of a “tightly controlled marketing message.” This freedom has helped build interest in Ford, and Scott Monty has also become a trusted resource in the world of new media. He speaks on new media for big brands, advertising, etc. You can find him at conferences (not just talking about how great the cars are) but educating people and shaking hands. Hard to have a car or logo shake hands for you online or off.

People get to know Scott. They learn from him. They interact with him. And what this does is not only humanize the company, but create trust. He isn’t a walking brochure. And while of course he is well paid, I guarantee Scott’s value is 100x (or more) of what any commercial could do for Ford.

American Express

American Express is looking to reach entrepreneurs and small business owners (hey, they should sponsor RISE…shameless plug). Sure they are running some ads on TV, but the real value I see is the community they have created at American Express OPEN Forum.

The Open Forum isn’t about showing small business owners and entrepreneurs how amazing American Express is. Instead, it is educational. There are resources, articles, columns, videos and other goodies that entrepreneurs and small business owners enjoy. And they have brought in some pretty heavy hitters to blog (I don’t know for sure, but I’m assuming they are paid…) including Guy Kawasaki (Alltop), Anita Campbell (Small Biz Trends), Hendry Blodget (Business Insider), Scott Belsky (Behance), Ben Parr (Mashable), John Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing), and Norm Brodsky (Inc. Magazine).

How does this generate business? In MANY ways. For one thing, the bloggers promote the articles they write for American Express on their websites (HUGE). And essentially, American Express has created a community and they are the sponsors of their own community. Meaning there are links and reminders to check out their products. But, it isn’t intrusive or obnoxious. American Express is thinking small.

Sure, there are many big (and small) brands out there trying to do it the old way. Talking about themselves. Talking about how amazing their product or service is. Product pushing. Buying expensive ads. Focusing PR efforts on getting mentioned on page 27 of the local newspaper only read by Grandma Edna. Blogging about the new office chair they just bought. Breaking out the bullhorn on social media sites (being friends with a logo? I don’t think so). But progress is progress.

Who else? Which of the big boys do you think are adapting smarter, faster, cheaper marketing as opposed to dumber, slower, expensive? Who is still stuck in in a time warp and wearing their acid jeans (or pleated pants suits)?

Image Credit: HumongoNationphotogallery

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