Brands have used the game of golf for marketing via advertising, athlete and tournament sponsorships, hospitality suites, and prizes. However, the game of golf also provides strategy to marketers in ways they may have never thought of before.
As avid golfers know, the game is broken down into two main parts: the long game – consisting of driving and fairway shots; and the short game of pitching, chipping and putting. Many golfers excel at one of these parts, but to be truly great, you must master all components of the game.
Case in point was the Masters this weekend. Danny Willett’s first major win and Jordan Spieth’s unfortunate collapse demonstrate the importance of a complete game from long to short. Willett hit a flawless round of golf to finish 5 under par and earn the infamous green jacket. This was contrasted with Jordan Spieth’s error-ridden back nine during an otherwise excellent tournament. To win against a competitive field like the Masters, all components of the golfer’s game need to come together.
Indeed, the game of golf offers lessons that are applicable beyond the links. Marketing can also be broken down into the different components that make up marketing strategy and campaigns. But mastering only one part, for example television or search, will result in limited success for a marketer. Only, instead of missing out on the green jacket, it’s market share that is lost.
Extending the two practices of golf to marketing reveals opportunities that can help anyone trying to improve his or her “game”:
- Driving – On most holes, the first shot is a driving shot. Here the golfer’s goal is maximum distance and accurate reach. It’s not uncommon for the shot to veer off twenty yards or so, but this is not too concerning for the player. The driving shot is less about precise targeting than about gaining as much ground as possible with approximate placement that will maximize the success on the next shot. Driving is analogous to a marketer who wants to achieve broad reach and frequency with part of a campaign. Initiatives focused on brand awareness and capturing consumer mind share will often take this approach. Traditionally, television has been a marketer’s driver of choice.
- Fairway Shot – The next shot on a golf course is across the fairway. Here the player is trying to get onto the green, or as close as possible, while avoiding any hazards in the way such as a water or sand trap. Depending on the distance, a player may choose to use a wood or iron club, understanding that the right tool will make all the difference. For a marketer, this part of the long game becomes more targeted than the broad stroke of driving so it requires careful selection of tools. Here, digital marketing – including social – often comes into play enabling marketers to reach large, but more targeted audiences.
- Approach Shots, Pitching, and Chipping – The first stage of the short game is focused on getting the ball onto the green to set up the putt. Now the player must go back to his or her bag for clubs that are designed for accuracy with little margin for error. Understanding the lie of the ball and positioning of the pin is key to selecting the right club and teeing up for success in the final stage of the hole. In marketing, the short game demands setting specific objectives that engage specific consumers based on their affinities. Social advertising is often a powerful channel for this stage of the marketing game because it activates the richest collection of behavioral and interest data ever amassed for targeting.
- Putting – Often the hardest to master, putting is the final stage of the short game. It takes a skilled player to gauge the exact amount of power to put behind a putt, understanding the lay of the green and other minute elements that could prevent the ball from going into the hole. Because it’s so precise, this aspect of marketing is often achieved via sales or a direct marketing campaign. It’s all about putting a particular product or service in front of a specific customer at the moment they’re ready to purchase. Search or commercially-oriented social platforms like Pinterest are powerful ways to take consumers the rest of the way to the cup.
In many ways, a great brand is like a great golfer – a master of the whole game. From broad reach campaigns to finely tuned, highly targeted ads that motivate consumers to act, a brand has to optimize all aspects of marketing to make the most of the game.
Successful marketers know that only excelling at part of the game won’t be enough. An exceptional TV or broad-reach advertising program paired with a lackluster social media campaign will always diminish overall results. Instead, great marketers use all fourteen clubs in their bag always with the goal of making the best choices for each part of the game. As great golfers and great marketers know, it’s the only way to win. #GoWin