The Path to Profits

Svadhyaya. It’s a yoga term that means self-education. A mental process that shuts out all external noise and keeps you quietly focused on your inner path. As a new yogi, I am amazed by the power of this concept. It’s the internal concentration that aids my body through a shaky struggle with a challenging pose and helps my mind recover from the noise of BlackBerry-buzzed and Google-alerted days.

The simple philosophy and practices of yoga could also be applied to marketing, offering some fundamentally sound guidance for any business leader. Keeping it simple is particularly difficult, especially now, when even the experts in our industry are running around screaming about the chaos of technology and new media. Remaining true to your core mission, making money and an unwavering focus on business strategy are essential.

We in the advertising world are creating our own noisy rhetoric, abandoning traditional marketing paths to business growth and mistaking new technology as its own strategy — instead of a tactic to answer it. Some of us even forget that a brand serves a business, and a business is supposed to generate profit.

I recently attended a conference where Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, was touted as a visionary who has harnessed the power of the wild Web to build his business. We listened intently as he talked about single-handedly causing the demise of the entire classified advertising business. Impressed with the adoption of this new trading concept by a billion users across all demographic groups, no one dared query Newmark: “Hey Craig, does your long-term plan include making money?”

I’ve read he’s not really interested in that. So, we can recognize Craigslist as a pioneer at connecting consumers and fostering trade on the Internet, but we can’t seriously celebrate it as a new business model.

Technology is just the latest tool, albeit a powerful one, that enables the use of ingenious marketing tactics. But I question some of the choices we are making in reaction to blogs, text messaging and consumer-generated content., creator of the Diet Coke/ Mentos experiments, fueled one of the most entertaining and widely viewed viral campaigns, generating millions of dollars in buzz for Coke and Mentos. But, I doubt that considers this effort a business success. It claims that to date no money has been made on this venture. Nor has it been able to parlay this singular tactic into a word-of-mouth campaign that supports its own business growth.

Although we applaud the freshness of’s creativity, without a marketing strategy, they have not succeeded in generating business or profits — a valuable lesson for the rest of us marketing disciples.

And what more can be said about Product (Red), the wonderful, socially conscious effort created by a consortium of savvy consumer brands? How about this: After two years, I still don’t know why everything is red. I am confused.

Product (Red) is the “poster campaign” for just about every new engagement tactic. It partners with celebs. It’s global. Yet, the poor ratio of marketing dollars spent to money raised suggests that the effort has failed in its mission and the brands would have done better donating the money directly to the Global Fund.

Fundraising is a separate business with its own disciplines, but this campaign had all the earmarks of success. With great respect for all who contributed to the creation of this outreach, my humble opinion is that some age-old marketing basics were not applied. The campaign asks a customer to work to learn about the fund and, overall, it is not cohesive. Perhaps traditional tactics were prematurely abandoned. A single theme delivered by an overarching broadcast campaign with a few more of those “dying, gasping for air” TV spots could have helped eliminate the confusion.

So, svadhyaya. Let’s take a deep breath. Let good thoughts in when we think about new technology as a way to establish a one-on-one connection with an entire universe of customers. The geographic limitations of business growth have now diminished.

Exhale and let go of bad thoughts. Brand-generated messages will not be overtaken by consumer-generated content. We are not going to die in five years along with the TV spot. The only ones in danger of extinction are the agencies with business models rooted only in traditional media. Or, conversely, in new media to the exclusion of all else.

Relax. In the midst of exciting possibilities, we are and should be the agents of change, the brand stewards, separating the wheat from the chaff, and focused on one path: profit.

Linda Passante is CEO of The Halo Group, a branding agency. She can be reached at lp@the