5 Universal Marketing Principles

5 Universal Marketing Principles

Over the last 25 years of marketing in various cities in numerous countries, over hundreds of different brands – one question that I have been repeatedly asked by Clients and Marketers is – What are the 5 most basic ways to succeed in Marketing and Advertising today?’

I was asked this question in New York, San Francisco, Sydney Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, or even London – I thought I should watch, test and research the basic marketing principles that have helped my clients, across the board, achieve massive results and increased effectiveness and efficiency.

So, here are my Top 5 Universal Marketing Principles that will never let you down, in fact, the more you use all of them, the better results you’ll receive. Guaranteed.

  1. Focus on the Media and/or List you want to use

Having literally done thousands of marketing and advertising campaigns over the last 25 years, I have found that if you truly focus on the media you select or the ‘List’ you use or rent – it can enhance your performance/results in many cases up to 50%. So, if you don’t get this aspect of your campaign right from the start, it’s like having one arm tied behind your back and being thrown into a fight. It’s a MUST and always needs and demands heavy consideration, study and planning.

It’s easy to think of your list as simply “a list”: But, names in a ‘database’ represent probably, the best potential buyers for whatever it is you’re selling.

In the past, Direct Marketing Mail lists were compiled with the names of people who demonstrated a propensity to make certain kinds of purchases based on criteria such as location, income, and past purchasing history.

In the Digital Age, more than any time in history, it’s vital to think about your audience or target market. That means understanding all the unique questions clients, consumers or people are asking, what their issues or problems are, what they want to do or how they want to experience with your brand or product.

HINT: The best ad in the world won’t work if it doesn’t reach the right audience

  1. Your OFFER must be impactful and powerful

I first learned this principle in my early years while writing copy in Direct Marketing Agencies.

For decades many marketers regarded the offer as the “deal” or the incentive to buy. If the offer was attractive enough, it would motivate the prospect to buy. Often the offer was price-related (“25% Off!”) that was tied to a timeline (“Offer Expires July 30!”).

Today, most potential customers aren’t looking to buy initially. And they don’t like being pressured. What they’re after is information that will help them make the ‘right buying decision’—especially if the purchase they are considering is a major purchase e.g. Car, laptop, new Bank account, etc.. The offer isn’t a “deal” it’s helpful information that will allow them to solve their problem—not to make a sale.

Ralph Emerson wrote, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” But, while that advice worked in the 19th Century and up until the early 1990’s, it doesn’t work quite as well today, because the marketplace is crowded with all kinds of mousetraps, and consumers are bombarded with information about those mousetraps. (Aka Websites, mobile, laptops, etc.)

Importantly, if you add a solid, strategic offer – it can easily ensure you increase your response rates or sales by up to 30%+ – so, this is one of my Universal Principles too.


Over the last couple of decades in Advertising, I have seen way too many marketers and copywriters/art directors who have confused creative with being brilliant, clever or even skillful.

As I have seen over years, the job of creative isn’t to impress readers. It’s simply to get your message across simply, discerningly and expertly. Especially, because today you have even less time to do that than ever before.

I personally believe, after you’ve targeted the right audience and developed the right offer, the next step is to package the message so it will be noticed, read and acted upon.

When people sort through their email, mail, check their voicemails, etc. they aren’t looking to be entertained. They are looking to see if there is anything there that will help them answer questions or solve a problem. Don’t bury your message with pretty pictures and clever words.

BUT, in my experience great creative can easily increase your response and success rate by up to 10%. I will say, most Branding Agencies and many ‘creative types’ will disagree with me BUT, media/lists and offers contribute to winning and success more often!


Another key aspect you must always consider for any marketing or advertising campaign to be successful, is the TIMING. For example, if you have a product or service that is especially appropriate at Christmas time – its always best to advertise or promote it leading up to December 25 and not start marketing it in early May, Simply, it will eat up lots of your budget and not be nearly as cost effective or cost efficient as the same dollars invested in November.

Again, getting your TIMING right can push your success rate up by at least 10%.


No matter where I have worked in the world, a key Universal Principle that has been understood by most of my clients over the decades is the importance of doing a SWOT ANALYSIS prior to commencing any work. Including creative, media, production, digital marketing and PR.

What does a SWOT ANALYSIS do?  In the first stage of planning it helps marketers to focus on key issues. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Opportunities and threats are external factors.

To do a SWOT ANALYSIS, I regularly take the following steps:

  1. Determine the objective(s). Decide on a key project or strategy to analyze and place it at the top of the page.
  2. Create a grid. Draw a large square and then divide it into four smaller squares.
  3. Label each box.
  4. Add strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Draw conclusions.

Importantly, a SWOT ANALYSIS is a straightforward model that analyzes an organization’s or brand’s: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to create the foundation of a marketing strategy.

So, why is a SWOT analysis important for any successful campaign? Simple, the SWOT provides a proper look at a business’s current situation and assesses its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in a thorough manner, it plays an important part in the strategic planning process. PLUS… it focuses everyone on what’s important to consider and what’s not!


In the 1970’s – 1980’s,  you’d mailed the right offer to the right list, your goal was to get them to respond—usually by buying. Actually this is the same basic principles in DRTV today, i.e. usually either by calling an 800 number or by visiting a web site. Some of the best known clients for DRTV in the US are: Hamilton-Beach, Space Bag, Rubbermaid, P&G, Toyota, Philips Consumer Electronics and E*Trade.

Today, all marketers need to drive clients, customers back to their websites, and more precisely, to a specifically tailored ‘landing page’.

That’s where you can offer them the specific content they’re looking for. You only give it to the people who are interested enough to ask for it (which qualifies them as solid leads). And once they do that, you have a means (usually an email address and/or phone number) and their permission to contact them again.

Bottom-line: As long as the marketer’s or advertiser’s offer is a strong one, telling the truth in a simple, uncluttered way. That will give you an ‘unfair’ advantage and strengthen your odds of success.

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Thanks for your continued support, it sure means the world to me.


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