Can Great Marketing Save a Bad Business Model?

January 11th, 2010 by | Print


Unless this post is your first experience with my site, you know I am a solopreneur business consultant and copywriter. My consulting work thus far runs a 75 / 25 split of curing the ills of troubled businesses versus assisting solopreneurs in the start-up phase. There are a couple of common themes amongst these troubled companies – a primary illness is the dreaded “launch quickly then figure out what to do” disease.

Often, sinking solopreneurs ask me to help them with new marketing ideas. After a series of questions, my instinct is to focus our combined efforts on the research and analysis of marketing instead of communications.


Marketing consultant, Greg Digneo, put it perfectly in his interview when I asked if good marketing can save a bad business model. His response, “I believe in the opposite actually – good marketing will make a business with a bad model go bankrupt faster.” I believe he is right.

Want some examples to clarify the point? I’ll give you three. Some of these you may not remember because they came and went in a flash (supporting Greg’s point), but not without burning up a substantial stash of cash first.


Fashion Café

Mentioning a collaboration between Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Ell Macpherson and Christy Turlington is an excellent method for getting the news sources buzzing. Add in famed Italian restaurateur, Tommaso Buti, into the recipe and how could the Fashion Café flop?

Who doesn’t want to eat like a supermodel with tummy tempting delights like the Naomi inspired $20 salad – a pack of cigarettes, a flute of champagne, two tomato slices and a leaf of iceberg lettuce? Kicked off in the mid ‘90s with plans of world domination through multiple locations and bloated marketing, go figure they went belly-up.

Honorable mention:       Planet Hollywood. Sure it’s still around, but when was the last time you or anyone you know ate in one? It’s a far cry from the hype when they first launched it.



McDonald’s Deluxe Line

Any product launched under the golden arches is like being born into the Walton family (Wal-Mart founding family, not John-Boy); you instantly have a bank full of cash to do as you please. The McDonald’s execs brought in an executive chef and forked over a $100 million to an ad agency for this alternative line for “grown-up tastes”. Sources online indicate the final price tag for this flop was $300 million.

Honorable mention:       New Coke.



The Adventures of Pluto Nash

Hollywood is a business built on buzz. A studio gives the instant greenlight to a project including funny people Eddie Murphy, Randy Quaid, Jay Mohr, Peter Boyle and John Cleese. However, this epic flop saw nothing but red. With a reported total budget of $100 million, after separating out payroll and production costs, the marketing whizzes still had roughly $40 million to play with for marketing and distribution. The results? A $95 million loss.

Honorable Mention:       85% of all films produced in the USA.


So if your business is faltering, don’t immediately jump to marketing campaigns (aka marcom). Take a step back and remember the other two key elements of marketing  – research and analysis.

  1. Do you have a well defined UVP (Unique Value Proposition)?
  2. Do you have a well defined target audience?
  3. Is this audience growing or shrinking? Are they large enough to support your goals?
  4. Is your UVP properly aligned with your target market?
  5. Do you have the right mix of products and services at a fair market price?


There are a number of other solopreneur soul-searching questions to ask before seeking out a marketing expert. If you don’t know how to answer these questions, seek out a business consultant before funding more marcom programs.

All the Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide 


One Response to “Can Great Marketing Save a Bad Business Model?”

  1. Paul Says:

    Great article as always Doug. It is easy to focus on the wrong thing in your business.

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