Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What The Mint Taught Me About Marketing

The Buck Stops Here: $1 Coins to Be Curtailed -

'via Blog this'

Early this morning, I awoke to an e-mail from a friend, Ed. Ed wanted to know what I thought about the Mint stopping production of coin dollars. Of course, my friend was aware that as Superintendent of the United States Mint (Philadelphia), I was involved in the first production of the Susan B. Anthony coin dollar in 1979.

As I watched the coverage, I was transported back to the early discussion of smaller coin dollars in the late 70s.

I recalled going into my office many mornings and finding mail bags with drawings from elementary school children from across the country. Many teachers inspired their students to participate in government by sending their suggestions for who should appear on the front of the new coin. As always, the students were quite creative. Their suggestions ranged from historic individuals to pop culture icons, perhaps even their mother, father, teacher, themselves, or their new puppy. I recall that Elvis Presley was particularly popular. As there is essentially only one law limiting who can be on a coin...the person cannot be currently living...many of their suggestions were possible.

Of course the real decision required hearings in Washington where people appeared to present their opinions. There was a big battle about whether it should be the Statue of Liberty or Susan B Anthony. Then the battle shifted to what image of Susan B Anthony. Should it be her in her early life as in the case of most coins? Or should it be in her later life after the victories for which she is noted?

When the decision was made, we sighed as we came to the end of the debate. Then, the next morning, we awakened to remember that a coin has two sides...the debate was just half done.

Of course there were many decisions to be made before the official First Strike Ceremony in 1979. The next day after the first striking , the process of getting them to the Federal Reserve Banks began. Then  there was another "next day" involving getting the coins into local banks.That was followed by getting them into stores, followed by getting them into the hands of people. This was followed by the first person spending one thinking it was a quarter...followed by the first reporter warning people not to spend the coin dollar thinking it is a quarter.

That battle has raged for 32 years and the discussion is still the same. This leads to what the Mint taught me about marketing:

1. People make decisions on how they feel. The decision are about emotions. Then we select the facts that support our emotions.
2. Everyone has an opinion. For the most part, individual opinions don't matter. It is the collection of opinions that determines if there is a problem that needs to be solved.
3. The fact that there is a problem to be solved does not mean that everyone wants the same solution. Many people awaken in the morning wanting corn flakes. Some of them want Post Toasties and some of them want Kelloggs Corn Flakes.That is not duplication of effort or wasting resources. We call that free market.
4. Marketing is about finding a solution to a problem that enough people want and are willing to pay for, to make it profitable for the person providing the solution. We call that a niche.
5. Business is about serving the niche over and over. Success is in finding your niche.
6. Government has niches too. We call them special interest groups. Government has no way of making every niche or interest group happy by giving them what they want. Government tends to hold it's nose and select one solution that "fits all".
7. Aren't you glad that as an entrepreneur, all you have to do is find the right niche and serve the people in it well?
8. There is always a "next day" unless you fail.