Craig Marks: I Want My MTV ( Studio 360 – NPR)


As we discuss in our How to Write a Marketing Plan tutorial, marketing success often is measured by whether the results lead to the achievement of specific objectives (i.e, goals). As we note, these objectives include two main types: 1) financial measures, such a revenue and profit; and 2) specific marketing areas objectives, such as gaining a certain percentage of market share or achieving a certain level of product awareness through promotion. Yet, marketers often discover that achieving these objectives can be heavily affected by factors that they do not control.

For instance, consider a company that is attempting to obtain distribution for a new consumer product. Marketers, who have enthusiastically worked hard to prepare the product for the market, often hit a roadblock because they cannot convince enough resellers to distribute their product. For these marketers, who have been generally free to design the product, set the price and create the promotions, they find the distribution component of the Marketing Mix to be frustrating as they cannot get their product distributed in desired outlets.

Of course, the Internet has lessened the impact of resellers’ reluctance to distribute a product by allowing companies to be their own distributor. But, to be truly successful, most consumer products marketers need to gain wider access to their product that is beyond their own website.

To address distribution problems, marketers can employ several tactics. One approach, called “push" promotion, has the marketer offering distributors incentives to handle the product. This typically means offering highly attractive financial terms (i.e., higher margins) or improved promotional opportunities (e.g., in-store promotions).

Another strategy takes a much different approach. Instead of directly offering incentives to resellers, marketers essentially bypass resellers and direct their message to final consumers. This type of tactic, dubbed “pull" promotion, generally contains a message that specifically directs consumers to request their product be carried by distributors. (See this post for a previous discussion of pull promotion.)

Now this audio link to a National Public Radio show offers insight on another example of pull promotion, this time with a more well-known brand – MTV. The discussion is with Craig Marks, co-author of a book chronicling the early history of this cable channel. The discussion of the pull promotion strategy occurs early in the program and does a nice job explaining how it impacted the company, and the cable industry.

In addition to the pull promotion discussion, this program provides several more examples of marketing decisions faced by MTV executives including circumstances that have lead to a changes in its product mix (i.e., types of videos it played) as well as changes to its target market strategy.

Thirty years ago, hardly anyone knew what a music video was. On the night MTV was launched, its founders — a ragtag bunch of music fans and rookie television execs — had to take a bus from Manhattan to New Jersey to watch the broadcast, because no New York cable company carried the fledgling channel.

Can the pull promotion technique used by MTV in the early 1980s still be relevant in today’s television market?

Cite: Christ, Paul (2012). I Want My Product Distributed. From Trends and Developments. KnowThis.com. Retrieved April 27, 2018 from https://www.knowthis.com/insights/marketing-professionals/trends-developments/1775-i-want-my-product-distributed