Alfred Sloan, Internet marketer

Today, I am traveling to Michigan to meet a customer, passing through Detroit on the way. You can’t think about Detroit without thinking of the car business, and it made me think about how the roots of some of these “new” techniques we’ve “pioneered” in Internet marketing are nothing more than warmed-over ideas that great marketers already know.

I think Alfred Sloan might have been a great Internet marketer. Sloan was the architect of the GM business model who ushered the company into its heyday. (I’m honestly not sure what a “heyday” is, but maybe it is so named because people pass you on the street and say, “Hey, wasn’t that Alfred Sloan?”)
Sloan’s insight was that a single company could have multiple brands that each targeted a discrete market segment. So, Chevrolet could be pitched to the “value” consumer looking for a solid car at a good price. Pontiacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles likewise had their segments of higher-priced, higher-fashion models that appealed to more prosperous consumers. And Cadillac was, well, the Cadillac of cars, back when that meant top-of-the-line luxury.
Sloan’s brand marketers could draw you a picture of the kind of buyers they expected for each brand. Chrysler and Ford did the same thing, on a more modest scale, with the Dodge and Ford brands competing with Chevrolet and others (such as Plymouth and Mercury) that went after more upscale buyers. Procter & Gamble pioneered similar ideas for consumer packaged goods.
So, what does all this have to do with Internet marketing? (I was hoping you’d ask.) Well, these elaborate descriptions of target customers for specific products sound a whole lot like personas. Web experts tell you to create personas, describing each kind of visitor who comes to your Web site, even going so far as to give each one a name that you can use as a shorthand for that type. If you select carefully, you can design your site around those personas and appeal much more deeply to your customers.
Personas make a great deal of sense, and they do take the concept of target marketing deeper than simple demographics, focusing on needs and attititudes and testing how your Web site pays off for each distinct type. But personas are really just logical extensions of target market segments. That’s not to denigrate any of the excellent work that has been done on personas—rather, I just want to point out to marketers that they already know a lot about Internet marketing.
They just don’t know they know it.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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