New York, New York – Reported by Venanzio Ciampa for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine
Boxing and marketing are two worlds I have always loved. Seeing a great combination or a well-executed campaign has always given me a special thrill. I started boxing when I was a young kid in Rome and continued when I arrived in New York. For a while I thought I was going to be the next great Italian fighter. After working out and sparring with really great boxers at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and at Jerome Avenue Boxing in the Bronx I realized that I may have had the heart but boxing is about many diverse talents and heart is only one ingredient. You need to be an instinctive thinker: Be able to strategize and in a few nanoseconds execute. Be able to conserve and at the same time explode your energy at maximum in crucial moments of a fight. You need psychological skills to get into the head of your opponent and you need to especially be able to dominate your fear. You will have fear, but as Cus D’Amato, Mike Tyson’s first beloved trainer used to say, “It’s just how you will react to fear—it can’t submerge you or you may use it to extinguish your opponent.” In marketing, where I have worked at all the top luxury conglomerates (Swatch Group, LVMH and PPR), and for ten years now with my own communication agency in New York, The Promotion Factory, I have tried to adopt some boxing techniques for marketing needs:
1. Know your skill set. As a boxer I knew my strengths, and more importantly, weaknesses. I had an excellent left hook, great stamina and a more than reputable defense. At the same time my jab was never a decisive factor. I was generally too short for my weight category and I was always open for circular punches. I focused on how to maximize those strengths both in the gym and on match days. I was beaten, but rarely because I did not do my homework or did not put enough training in. With marketing it’s similar. Know the brand you are working with; don’t adapt a one-fits-all philosophy. Read its history, talk to its people and find out curiosities. When our company was hired by a great watch brand we went to the factory and discovered that some of its fantastic watchmakers were very young. We devised a Young Watchmaker campaign that is now part of its key grids.
2. Create tempo, both with people and your brand. In boxing you need to score shots to make points—very rarely does a George Forman one-punch KO win a match. You need to create the conditions for that one big shot. You need to create a rhythm in crescendo that will allow you to attack and put your opponent off balance. It needs to be both practical and a bit operatic (hey, I am Italian) to showcase your best shots and minimize the responses from your adversary. In communication it’s also like this. Almost never rely on one single factor—the knockout punch as mentioned is rare. Several factors go into building a campaign especially in today’s multi-fluid social media world. Most people want to start their communication building the salon; it really needs to start at the basement.
3. Faking can be a virtue, but too much faking can wear you out. Faking a punch is part of the essential skills of a boxer. Make the opponent think you are going left then move right. Fake a jab and come in with a great body shot. The combinations are endless. But there needs to be a sense to all the movement and the fakes; if not you will inevitably tire out and it will become counterproductive. The mind needs to control all of it, and you cannot let the mind tire. Sugar Ray Robinson was a genius at this—his movement was an art. His fakes would put you off balance and then “bang!” In our branding world I guess you could call faking “the idea of perception” (let’s make people think that we…). If people perceive your brand as strong it will sell. That’s in part true. Perception, which comes generally from some shrewd communication, can often help a brand but it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. As a brand marketer you always should be able to substantiate your positions, your campaign and your strengths, and not just leave them to the perceptions. I always recommend to my partners’ clients to not be content with a simple exposition of their brand. Let’s deconstruct it. Let’s see what every word that we put out means and how it is truly backed up by the brand content and history.
4. Find you own fighting system. Mike Tyson and his second trainer, Kevin Rooney, devised a number system for training. A jab was a one, two jabs a two and so on. It helped make the training more fluid, fun and also made those punches quicker One-two-three is quicker than jab-jab-right-cross, no? The same goes for branding. Create a different approach, don’t follow the usual conventions. At times they may work but question them and test them. For example, a testimonial can help promote a brand, but at same time consumers have seen it all, so they are aware about this exploited convention. Don’t throw it out, but check if it really will help you. Just like Rooney used a numbers games to better exploit Tyson’s quickness, one should do the same in marketing. Find your own particular system—flexible agile and smart—and within the context of the brand you are working on, create your own convention.
5. Fight to the final bell. There are so many stories about boxers winning at the last second of the last round. It’s one of boxing’s greatest rules and rights: You will always have a shot until the final bell rings. This means put your heart and love into the brand. I believe in investing my passion for the brand partner I am working with. My approach, which may not be everyone’s, is not to have an innumerable list of clients for my agency. It’s about length of service with them. It’s about passionately knowing them, fighting for them and sometimes even losing for them. Until that bell rings we can always find solutions, execute a great initiative and create a fantastic concept. But love is key. Love makes you think about the brand even when you are not really thinking about it—even on vacation. Love can be like Cus D’Amato’s fear: If you truly invest in it you can overcome your own weaknesses.
About the author: Called “New York Marketing Maestro” by Page Six, Venanzio Ciampa is president of The Promotion Factory, a New York City marketing agency specialized in luxury goods and fashion. As the communications director for Swatch Group and international director of marketing for Omega, he was the mind behind some of their most spectacular campaigns. In 2004 he opened his own agency, working to relaunch brands like Hublot, Girard-Perregaux, Gucci Timepieces & Jewelry, Etienne Aigner, Carrera y Carrera jewelry and more.
Contact: Venanzio Ciampa, (212) 217-9065; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.thepromofact.com