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Marketers’ Mystery: Where’s the Puck Going to Be?

One of Wayne Gretzky’s most famous comments is that great hockey players skate to where the puck is going to be, which isn’t a bad way to think about a hallmark of great businesses – they anticipate and adjust to where their customers are headed.  That’s hard enough in normal times; in times of painful and historic change, it’s even more difficult and important. 

Our president, Chas Withers, just wrote a piece advising companies that want to emerge from the recession with sales momentum to be “anticipatory and assertive in their marketing ahead of the shift.”  Research from past downturns shows he’s right.  The different nature of this recession and the evolution of the marketplace also means that anticipation has to factor in the different conditions that will exist after the recovery.  Customers – both B2C and B2B – have suffered major losses and learned hard lessons.  When things return to “normal,” it won’t be the normal we used to know.

Preparing for this recovery demands a lot of rethinking.  As McKinsey & Company said in an advisory piece on the new rules for marketers, those who just follow techniques used in past slowdowns “risk betting on the wrong markets, customers, advertising vehicles, or sales approaches.”

I agree with the counsel Chas gives that any rethinking should include brand positioning, product and service priorities and marketing mix.  I also think there’s a lot to learn from the ways individual companies see this.  What changes do you expect from your customers and – to recall Gretzky—what are you doing to be where they’re headed? 

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