Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Leo's Guide to Marathon Training and Brand Management

My birthday is coming up and my gift to myself this year is completing my first half marathon (Delhi, September 30th). I am super excited! I am benefiting from the experience and expertise of my runner friends who have helped me put a good training plan together, which is a combination of discipline through a schedule and injury prevention techniques. Much like managing a brand isn't it? Here are parallels I see:

1. Compete only with yourself, enjoy the training process and do not fix any time target for the race.
Great brands are built over time for the long run (no pun intended).  Brand visibility and buzz through big ATL spends and sponsorships may seem like high impact for new brands but what matters more is brand relevance. When your brand is owned by your customers, as it now is in the social/digital world, you can't set build a new brand successfully using a stopwatch or by being louder than the rest.

2. Run 4 days a week with a mix of easy, moderate and long runs.
When I first started training I thought I needed to run as much as I could, as long as i could, as fast as I could, until I got too tired, or until the park closed. I was obviously wrong! Faster, longer, higher may work for the Olympics but for brands to win marathons, they need to have a strong foundation.
  • Your easy runs (typical running speed) are your brand quality differentiators. You must have your basic hygiene in place around your brand identity and everything looks like, sounds like, performs like, IS your brand. 
  • Your moderate runs (faster, where you need to pay a little more attention to your running) make sure you are well aligned internally across your employees and functions to represent and deliver a consistent brand promise (Over time your moderate pace will become your race pace and this tempo will become BAU across the business).
  • Your long runs (start with 8km then build up to 16km on the last week of training) are like 360 degree campaigns, which you roll out after comprehensive planning, testing and collaboration across the disciplines and its important that these "mini runs" are successful to give the business confidence in your ability to roll out the BIG ticket campaign of the year - the actual race. 

3. Stretch your muscles properly before you start and once you finish.
Usually one is so eager to go to just start running, the idea of warm up stretches seems arduous, doesn't it? Much like testing campaigns. You work so hard to create the campaign that you are just eager to roll it out, but A-B testing matters and helps. It makes the campaign go the distance. Also once you finish your run, you really just want to hop in the shower and move on with the rest of your day. Likewise with campaigns, you have to take the time to do a post campaign deep dive on lessons learned, best practices instead of quickly moving onto the next thing.

4. Be very careful about niggles and pains. If any pains surface, deal with them before they become an injury!
Brand managers ignore negative social sentiment at their own risk.  Most brands aren't unsure about how to deal with negative tweets, blogposts or comments because the mentality is as long as its not negative press, it will blow over. These can easily blow up before they know it and cause permanent injuries to the brand  in the long run. 

5. Once you hit 20km a week, check if your shoes are in good shape.
Shoes are like your IT infrastructure. On the surface, all shoes look the same but really many companies do not have robust, scalable IT infrastructure to support campaigns loads. websites crash, applications don't work on various mobile platforms, data security breaches are just the few challenges that happen when you have outdated, worn out IT infrastructure. We have seen this happen right here with Spicejet's anniversary campaign which I recently blogged about. Also ready my post on how CMOs and CIOs need to work closely together to execute initiatives like Smarter Commerce and Social Business and the rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist, a topic I am particularly passionate about. 

This was fun! If you are a runner and a marketeer, do share your marathon tips and the parallels you see between marketing and brand management!

Marathon training tips courtesy Srini Vooruvakili, the most enthusiastic runner I have ever met who really convinced me that human beings are born to run! Thank you Srini!


  1. Great blog Virginia! You have brought out the similarities between long distance running and marketing so well. Excellent read! I wanted to add another point about the importance of the art of regular, rhythmic breathing during a long distance run - in sync with body's rhythm. Just like marketing being a part of the overall business eco-system - very critical but needs to be in sync with business needs. Wish you all the best for your half marathon!

  2. Got pleasure to read about Brand Management from here. Hope in next post you will be added about branding through digital media.

  3. Srinivas VooruvakiliAugust 20, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    Very nice parallels Virginia !

  4. Wow, whatay post! Loved the comparison between marketing and marathon. Agree to it word by word and totally relatable. Don't remember how I hopped onto your blog but I'm glad I did :-)