Magic Johnson Dominates the Marketing Game

 

With myriad events, town hall meetings, and information sessions at DMA2014 came a wealth of knowledge this year for data-driven marketers. Presenters, speakers, and attendees seemed to touch on everything, from identifying industry-wide problems and sharing proven strategies to revealing some of the year’s most innovative solutions.

One of the more notable sessions was Monday’s keynote featuring basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson—now a superior businessman who has transformed his passion on the court into a hunger for entrepreneurship since his retirement from the LA Lakers in 1991 after revealing he had HIV. The sports legend said it was far from magic that allowed him to move past those challenges and build the formidable Magic Johnson Enterprises.

“Marketing is so important,” Johnson said as he moved about the large floor of a captivated audience at the San Diego Convention Center. “The message that goes out is so important. It’s important that [when we market] we send out the right message.”

Magic Johnson Enterprises has a variety of holdings, from several Starbucks locations to hotel properties and movies theaters. Much of Johnson’s efforts have focus on developing urban areas and underserved communities. He says choosing to serve and market in those communities can foster some of the most dedicated customers and brand advocates. “When you over-deliver to the urban community, they become your brand ambassadors,” Johnson explained. In fact, he says it’s in those communities that he learned—and still uses—a paradigm for good business and marketing. “You have to over-deliver to your clients and customer base. Then you get the retention that you’re looking for. Over-deliver to your clients.”

The sports legend said to a packed convention hall that feeding campaigns with the right information is essential to success: “Of course you have to use data,” Johnson explained. “You have to know the trends that are going on.” And he added that identifying the business needs and culture of other companies—even competitors—enables marketers to craft business plans and marketing strategies that will prove to be solid, effective, and profitable.

“Know the core values of the company [that you want to do business with]. Recognizing the core values of that company is important,” Johnson continued. “Understanding the values and vision will get you far. When we started doing that our success rate went up as we went after [several business] contracts.” He said having a profound understanding of an audience, an industry, and even of a particular CMO makes all the difference: “So ultimately, you need to know what they’ve done in the past—and what they want to do—so that you can meet their needs.”

As Johnson wrapped up the session, he encouraged marketers to be willing to change and transform their plans—and even themselves—to create the most successful strategies. “I reinvented myself three times. I’m a sponge,” Johnson said. He noted that as marketers reinvent themselves and their strategies, they should always learn from the success, and failures, of competing companies: “Remember, your competitor can make you better.”

And in his final words to the crowd, Johnson encouraged everyone to continually push for better—both in their professional and personal lives. “Always take your game to the next level,” he said. “When you do that, that’s when you’ll be successful.”

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