How to Market the ‘Difficult’ Companies


Those who think that companies difficult to market are limited to startups and virtual unknowns are sadly mistaken. Actually, it may be even more difficult to market well-known products and brands that are trying to make a comeback because they lost ranking to newer, and now bigger, companies along the way. Whether you are a marketing professional with difficult companies to market, those referred to as the ‘hard sell’ in the business, or simply an SME trying to market your own brand, here are a few pointers based on what real companies have done to gain an audience. These are the ‘difficult companies.’

Apple Back from the Dead

One of the biggest comebacks in history was what Steve Jobs did to resurrect Apple after it fell through the floor and down several layers in the basement during the 1990s. At the time Microsoft owned the world and Windows was the reigning digital king. After having lost over $700 million dollars in the mid-90s and little to market due to a limited R&D budget, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy.

It’s pretty hard to market a company that was once on top of the world and currently having nothing of real new and innovative value to offer, but together with an investment from Microsoft ($150 million) and the brilliance of Steve Jobs, the world now has iPads, iPhones and iPods which may never have been. So how did he do it? He partnered with the enemy of course!

As Jobs quickly recognised, you don’t always need a winner and a loser. For Apple to get back on track to its former place of glory, he had to literally eat humble pie and tell the world that both Microsoft and Apple could come out winners. For Apple to succeed didn’t mean that Microsoft had to fail and Jobs did this brilliantly. By renouncing the previous competition between the two market giants, he, in effect, set off a new round of competition at which Apple now holds the lead. It’s an amazing way to market a difficult company. Join forces with the competition to set the gossip mongers buzzing and get the reenergised players in the competition lined up at the gates!

Sun Bingo Takes to the Air

In the UK, or anywhere around the world for that matter, it is particularly difficult to market an online game site in today’s gaming mentality. There are tens of thousands of them out there, each vying for players who ‘pay and play’ with cash prizes being awarded. Each site has their own variations of a game, slight differences in prizes and various features meant to be attractive. The problem is, how to get players there to see just how easy it is to join and get a good look at the prizes being awarded.

The Sun Bingo site is a perfect example of how a difficult company turned their business around from growth to mega-growth. While others were using the Internet to turn their failing television shows around, Sun Bingo went for broke. In order to instil excitement in the eyes of the viewers, they regularly pointed to online games which anyone could win and during the show, viewers could take part in live chats on the Sun Bingo website while also playing real games of bingo for real cash awards. What could have been a difficult company to market if left to traditional online approaches became one of the biggest successes in a hard-sell market.

The General Motors Comeback – Triumphing on the Tails of ‘Bad Press’

Perhaps one of the most interesting of ‘difficult’ companies to market and their return to former glory would be the American automaker, General Motors. Having filed for bankruptcy in in the late 2000s, and laying off tens of thousands of workers, the federal government of the United States stepped in and issued bailout money, earning the new moniker for GM – Government Motors.

With a few strategic moves and some brilliant marketing, GM turned all that bad press to their advantage. Playing heavily on the ‘Government Motors’ marketing slams from critics and rivals, GM dropped several of their losing makes and models including Hummer, Saturn and Pontiac. Then the marketing went into full swing and GM went public on the exchange, picking up over $20 in investments. Within a short time during this open season on GM stocks, the government was able to quickly sell off shares for a tidy ROI and GM, once again General Motors, laughed back in the faces of the Government Motors scoffers.

This is one of the all-time examples of how bad press can be good press if marketed in the right way. GM found just the right approach and now have not only earned back their former place of glory, but have surpassed even where they stood in previous incarnations. A major feat for a difficult to market company!

In the end, all it takes is an unusual slant on a time-tested strategy and a difficult to market company can literally skyrocket to fame. Whether a new startup as a virtual unknown, or a former market leader fallen from glory, marketing is key to almost instant, but assured fame. Bad press (GM), reverse marketing (Sun Bingo) and the controversy of partnering with the enemy (Apple) are three amazingly innovative ways to market a hard sell. These strategies do work, so if you are a difficult to market company, learn from the pros.