It’s Easier to Sell a Great Product

May 11, 2010

Editor’s note: This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for To see the original, go to

The opening of Target Field is undoubtedly one of the most successful product launches in recent memory. And make no mistake, it truly is a product– a $545 million product that will generate untold millions in revenue for the Twins throughout its lifetime.

If you’ve been to the new ballpark, as I have, you know that the praise for Target Field is well earned. The team got pretty much everything right, from the biggest things to the smallest. (Although I’ve heard a few complaints about the bathrooms from men, who are shocked to be waiting in line at a sporting event. Women everywhere are laughing.)

Every aspect of the ballpark has been analyzed from every angle, and the media coverage from Twin Cities print and broadcast outlets to date would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if purchased as advertising space.

The Target Field launch reminds me of a saying from my favorite editor. “Writing is like making a salad,” she’d say. “You can’t take wilted lettuce and make it taste great by covering it up with a fancy dressing. And you can’t take lousy reporting and make it into a great story with fancy writing.”

Her point applies to the marketing business, too. As I tell my clients, it’s always easier to sell if you’ve got a great product. Target Field is a great product, and although the coverage may strike some as excessive, you can bet the media interest would have died down by now if the stadium had been a dud.

By the same token, media coverage in general is a lot harder to earn these days than it was even a few short years ago. Most print media have seen staff cuts of at least 30 percent in the last three years; many print publications have cut their news staffs by 40 or 50 percent.

TV and radio news staffs haven’t been exempt from the cuts, either– they’re just not as self-revealing as print. You won’t ever hear Diana Pierce mention the latest cuts at KARE-11 on the 5 p.m. newscast, but they’ve cut plenty.

When massive media cutbacks began in the Twin Cities, I thought it might lower the bar for coverage. The media might be so demoralized and stretched so thin that they’d grab any story pitch you shoveled at them, just to keep the wheels turning.

To their credit, it hasn’t played out that way. If anything, they’re even more selective. A few years ago, a reporter on a slow day might have listened to an OK pitch and followed up on it, just because she didn’t have anything more pressing right at the moment.

Not any more. Everyone is so busy that they’ve really got to pay attention to where they’re using their resources. Getting media coverage for a company, event or product these days is more challenging than ever, and only the best will get through the door.

I’m fortunate to have some great clients who do interesting things and produce excellent products. My batting average on story pitches is pretty good. But there’s no doubt that the media carnage of recent years has made things tougher on people like me– which only underscores just how terrific Target Field really is.