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Thinking Critically with Lonny Kocina

By August 8, 2018February 12th, 2020Interviews

In The CEO’s Guide to Marketing, Lonny Kocina outlines a six-step process called Strategically Aimed Marketing, or SAM 6® for short. In these six steps, he speaks to both CEOs and marketers alike. The steps are easy to implement, fun to follow and amazingly effective. It reduces confusion around marketing initiatives and helps to create a unified team that’s laser-focused on producing campaigns that get results.

We recently spoke to Lonny about his perspective on marketing, PR and what he’s learned in his 30-year career since founding Media Relations Agency.

Q: You have spent a career in marketing. How do you feel it has evolved in the time since you began your career?

Lonny: Marketing is so stressful now! It used to be so easy: ads, direct mail, speaking to people on the phone: now it’s so much more complicated. The internet came along, and it was like throwing a hand grenade into the mix. The media used to have a hold on things with licensing, but now anyone can jump in and claim to be the media. The bar has been lowered and everyone’s in the mix. Frankly, marketing has always been a tension-filled profession because of the odds of success in businesses are weighted toward failure. If selling products were easy, everyone would be rich.

Q: What do you think is the biggest mistake or oversight that businesses are making with regard to their media relations strategy?

Lonny: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why so many companies ignore what I believe is the most powerful marketing tool on the planet: media placement. There are two main factors to this: lack of control over the message and the PR industry’s pricing model of billing hourly. It goes back to the fact that [businesses] don’t understand marketing principles and the different channels you can use to promote your company. Most companies don’t even scratch the surface. Imagine how tiny the pizza industry would be if you priced pizza by the hour with no guarantee of delivery. For controlling messaging, it goes back to marketers not understanding basic marketing concepts like the promotional mix: ads, publicity, websites, social media and personal selling.

Q: Your book aims at marketers of all levels, including CEOs. How did you manage the fine line between writing for CEOs and the general marketing population?

Lonny: That’s a really good question. I’d like to think of CEOs and marketers as two very different groups: CEOs are all about numbers and processes and creative people want visuals without the heavy reading. I think the book itself is a nice bridge to that by connecting these two groups and giving them a common language. Being in marketing my whole life, it’s the biggest embarrassment when people [in the industry] don’t get marketing. You don’t just put thoroughbreds out in the pasture and say go nuts. There’s tension between the racetrack and the horses, but it’s good tension. Same goes for a kite and a string. Both groups benefit from principles and process. It’s easy to see why CEO’s would like a clear process but what might surprise you is creativity is not born of freedom, it’s born of constraint. A good process also means creatives are given good direction. No one should ask a creative person to bowl a strike without showing them where the pins are located.

Q: What do you think the relationship is between sales and marketing and why’s it so important?

Lonny: The relationship between sales and marketing departments is often contentious. The sales staff needs to realize that marketing is always casting a wide net, so it needs to focus on primary markets and messages. The salesperson, on the other hand, has the luxury of understanding an individual’s specific reason for purchasing. Marketing should bring in leads and sales should serve as an information resource for marketing.

Q: In your 30-year career, what do you think was your most successful campaign and what made it stand out?

Lonny: One of our first campaigns, Breathe Right Nasal Strips, was a really good campaign in a lot of ways. It was a five-year overnight success. We walked through the swamp to get it off the ground. We revolved it around a product’s life cycle: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. When we introduced the product, we used reach and teach, which is reaching out to the media and educating them. Once the product gains recognition, we reach and remind.

Q: Can you provide an example of a term that’s often misunderstood in the marketing/media relations world?

Lonny: Brand. Can you imagine that most marketers don’t know what a brand is? They use it as a synonym for a product. To me, a brand is a definition that people hold in their mind. It seems basic, but it can get very complicated and interesting. Creating that definition in people’s minds if they’re not listening to you is tricky, but that’s what branding is all about. You need to know the basics before you can think about it more dynamically.

Q: If you were to give yourself advice from when you first started your career, what would it be?

Lonny: If I could go back in time I’d give myself my book and say, “Here you knucklehead, read this!” You’re wasting a lot of people’s money by putting clever and creative above principles and process. I should’ve had my principles and process and then applied my cleverness and creativity to that. I would have looked so smart, had less stress and made more money. Marketing is about the shortest, fastest, least expensive route to a lead, sale and a stronger brand.

Lonny is a visionary who’s passionate about marketing. Lonny believes that to be a truly great agency, professional advice and deliverables must be based on a solid marketing foundation. He has made it his mission to ensure that everyone on his team knows and understands the basic marketing concepts. In the 30 years since launching Media Relations Agency, Lonny’s greatest joy still comes from thinking about, talking about and writing about marketing. He currently teaches his popular SAM 6 process, outlined in his best-selling book “The CEO’s Guide to Marketing,” to business leaders and those working within the marketing industry.


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