The Oscar principle

Brand strategy

The Oscar principle

After the convergence of lessons over the years, Sherpa’s ‘Oscar Principle’ approach to sales pitches emerged, involving:

  • Elevator Pitch principles.
  • Brand Strategy thinking.
  • Design, UX & Communications skills.

CEO and Brand Strategist Gary Hendrickse discusses the road to sales pitch success.

First Lesson: A CEO’s rage.

“The first real ‘Elevator Pitch’ lesson was when I was the Marketing Manager of a bank. A team of high-powered corporate lawyers had pitched up, excuse the pun, to pitch something or other to us. After 10 minutes, our CEO thumped his meaty hand on the boardroom table. All he needed to hear, he raged, was what they wanted to sell to us, what the benefit was, roughly what it would cost, and how easy or difficult it was to implement”.

The corporate lawyers were given 10 minutes to compose themselves, regroup and reduce their fifty or so slides to ten. Elevator pitches rock!

Second lesson: Syd nailed it.

The second lesson came from a presentation by advertising agency guru Syd Peimer on ‘Winning Pitches’. Syd’s findings were based on his years of advertising agency experience. In a nutshell, when there is little to choose between competing companies, success comes down to (a) does the prospect like you, and feel that they can work with you and (b) do they think that you can deliver even if you don’t have all the answers at pitch time.

So much for pitching a zillion features and benefits!

Enter Oscar.

We were asked to create a sales pitch for a small fabrication company which was presenting their credentials at the African Mining Indaba. Mining bosses gathered from all over the world, and it was a massive opportunity for our new friend, Oscar. We took what we’d learnt but drew on our brand strategy expertise. Working with a mining executive – Oscar’s sponsor – we simply extracted what would be going through the minds of the audience. And then we applied ‘Elevator Pitch’ principles, Syd’s agency pitch findings, and our own brand strategy, copy writing, design and UX skills. Fully integrated!

Why Brand Strategy? Design and UX?

Brand strategy is all about connecting with what’s in people’s heads, an emotional association. Marketers influence this association through communications. To do this, you must move beyond the traditional sales approach of product features and pricing to what’s important to the audience.

The use of copy to convey your story is important because different words convey different emotions.

Apply top notch design and layout skills, adding UX (user experience) disciplines. This not only makes the presentation easier on the eye but also focuses the eye and conveys superior quality.

Be careful of plonking pictures all over the show because you’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is only partly true because typography and white space (a lesson from website design) are both pleasing and restful on the eye.

Did the hard-nosed gold mining audience like Oscar?

Yes, partly because he finished his 30-minute presentation in just 15 minutes, using only 7 slides. Oscar left Kampala with six contracts.

Gary Hendrickse
CEO Sherpa


Sherpa is a Brand Strategy, Design and Marketing agency. Structuring sales pitches and presentations has become a key service as lessons learnt converge naturally with Sherpa’s core skills of brand strategy, graphic design, copy writing, websites and the digital environment. Gary’s corporate track record as head of Brand, Marketing, Product Development, Sales, and Marketing for some of SA’s biggest brands provides additional insights.

Sherpa Brand & Design Agency
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