Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What Does It All Mean?

A live ad that generated huge coverage here and lots of brickbats. I felt short-changed because regardless of the skill involved I was expecting a much bigger team of sky-divers simultaneously spelling out the Honda name. I then started wondering why the chutes weren't branded so as to reinforce the sponsor in my mind in the frankly boring last thirty seconds.

Now, many people will rightly point to the undeniable expanse of free media that resulted from this "event" , but there's clearly a danger that such a media cicrus leads to the heinous sin of under-delivering. If I'm being this picky, does that mean it's a bad ad? Does it mean that I wasn't wowed by something that had been over-promised. Is it all about the advertising industry and not much about Honda?

Addendum: Couldn't they have spelled out Honda with canopies along these lines?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Prefix Marketing.

A quick reminder. We don't need another marketing prefix.

Marketing is strategic. It's a combination of elements that creates the environment in which it is possible to meet a customer need (starting right back at product development).

If there's a prefix, it's indicative of a tactical subset of marketing and not of a new paradigm. Promotion/advertising is a subset of marketing, albeit the one that is most often referred to as "marketing" by people who don't know better. So is viral marketing. So is direct marketing.

If one of those tactics is discredited, that's all that has happened. There's no need to create a new prefix. Unless of course, you've got a book or presentation to flog. Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Customer Relationships Aren't.

Shirley Hazzard, the eminent Australian author discusses the difference between love and "relationships".

Love is, I suggest, a very unfashionable subject. “Yes, I know that. People don’t love each other any more, it’s too much trouble... In my books, they have to suffer. They’re not calculating, ‘Is it worth it?’ It’s inevitable. And they know that if they’re ever going to get deeply into something, it will be this. It’s a kind of inevitability. You can’t cold-bloodedly say, ‘I’m not getting into that.’ Well, a million times it might be like that, but if we are talking about somebody really living, and having to weigh their impossible circumstances against that or think about their future, then it becomes very serious.”

She hates the contemporary word used to cover all such matters. “That word ‘relationships’ – these ships, we have to sink a few of these ships. A relationship is an abstraction, it’s something everybody has, it’s a common denominator – ‘Oh, we have a relationship.’” She waves her hand, impatiently dismissive.

It's not about connection, it's about connectedness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Marketing By Standing Around.

The glorious Improv Everywhere have carried out some fabulous flashmob-style events over the year, but in January they surpassed themselves at Grand Central Station. In contrast to their other events, this is all about standing out by not doing something, standing out via a cohesive action and standing out by being overtly but not aggressively different. It has an impact that is deeper and, I would suggest, longer-lasting than that of the gimmicky stunt that tends to generate a laugh but no great memory.

In contrast, the version it inspired on Law and Order some months later is insipid.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Someone Always Notices.

At an innovation conference last week, there was much discussion by the likes of Tim Berners-Lee and Sam Pitodra about the need to acknowledge that trying and failing was an essential part of progress and one that needed to be imbued in the culture.

But then on the break, the PA started blasting out the inspirational sounds of some old rock-band. It was intended to maintain the mood, but unfortunately there were lyrics.

We are the champions
No time for losers
cause we are the champions

The lessons. Don't leave any detail to chance, cliches tend to rebound on you and one single inconsistency will always be noticed. Then again, maybe they were commenting on the upcoming speaker pictured above.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Customers Want Otherness.

Seth Godin wrote a terrific little post the other day about revenues increasing as you get closer to the "pain' of the consumer. What he's reframing, of course, is scarcity. In the absence of choice (or supply), price will rise. But there are many forms that scarcity can take.

The customer who has a scarcity of time will value convenience.

The customer who has a scarcity of expertise will value competence.

The customer who has a scarcity of style will value design flair.

The customer who has a scarcity of contacts will value network effects.

There are many ways to be different. It's all about otherness.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How To Generate Word Of Mouth.

A trip to the plumbing supplies outlet. Yes, they can identify the fault. Yes, they can order the seals that need to be replaced. No there will be no charge even though it's no longer under guarantee and a number of other plumbers had suggested three figure bills.

Why so helpful?

"Because we only supply products that we can back up."

It wasn't a clever advertisement. It wasn't a scripted customer service pitch. It was just a retail worker enunciating what is clearly a deeply-engrained company philosophy. And that's why it's authentic. And that's why it's memorable. And that's why every customer who experiences it will re-tell it. Just like I am now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Treat Customers As Lovers?

A friend bought a table at a local charity dinner only to discover, as the day arrived, that only seven of the ten seats would be occupied. The reason? One of the husbands was having an affair with one of the wives.

The repercussions in the small tight-knit community are huge of course but the thing that stuck with me was how the affair was discovered. The betrayed wife saw her husband welcome the other woman in a social setting and explained that "he greeted her in the way you greet a lover".

The marketing parallel is obvious. Businesses woo new customers as they would potential lovers, but all too often fail to keep the romance alive. Yet another reason to remind yourself that your customers are people.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Racing In A Skirt Makes You Feel Fast?

Everybody talks about Nike ID as the key innovation in blending running products and runners' enthusiasms, but apparently that's not true. Watch and learn about "putting a sexy spin on a running classic by mixing fitness, flirting and fun in an innovative new race series."

I have seen the future of athletics and I'm very confused.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Unchoosing Your Customers.

As the credit crunch bites, it seems that a number of credit providers are becoming choosy about who they want as customers. It's not just bad debts they want to avoid but also those credit card customers who shop sensibly, pay off their debt in full every month and thus are relatively unprofitable. They're having their credit limits summarily reduced or sometimes removed completely.

That may make eminent balance sheet good sense, but the message it sends to those customers, not to mention remaining and prospective customers is not so sensible. It's smart business to focus on those customers you can serve most profitably and if you choose to avoid certain customers that's fine, it's your prerogative and other businesses with different cost structures may subsequently cherry pick your rejects. But the time to do this is on the way up, not when times are hard.

Disgruntled non-customers are far less damaging to your customer-centric image than disgruntled ex-customers. It will be interesting to see if a similar scenario plays out when free web 2.0 enterprises start to monetise their businesses.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Evolution Will Not Be Televised.

The seeds of huge marketing changes are being planted now. In hindsight, historians will see that a revolution occurred. But to us in the know, it will only appear to be an evolution while to the digital natives it will just be inevitable.

So don't think of it as a revolution - people and especially clients don't like revolutions. Don't expect it to be broadcast - people and especially clients will be unaware of it (or, at best, sceptical). Just know that you are ahead of the game and that people and especially clients will be hugely impressed by your foresight.

Friday, May 09, 2008

That Tractors Woman.

Thanks to Jeremy at Penguin, I've finally tracked down a photo of a poster that I saw in the Tube weeks ago. There are so many new books out there each month that differentiation is formidably difficult, so I love the way they speak to the reader by talking in unliterary language.

It's a nice example of focussing on feelings of familiarity and copying rather than emphasising the story content. I, for one, am well aware of the "tractors" book even though I didn't read it and couldn't name it or its author but immediately I am engaged by the poster and thinking about the new book. Job done.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Differentiation Isn't Disruption.

This could be the start of a series of posts about the misuse of terms by supposed experts. We shall see. Today's example was an author/lecturer suggesting that the UK bottled water industry had ballooned into an £8 billion business because the market had been disrupted by companies who didn't sell water but sold experiences based on stories about French mountain streams and Swiss lakes.

Wrong. That's not disruption, that's just plain old differentiation and pretty lazy differentiation at that. It's one water company trying to make us think that their water is markedly different from that of their competitors and clearly superior to tap water.

The disruption occurred when people in temperate climates became convinced that in the normal events of their normal day they must inevitably become dehydrated and therefore need bottled water. I don't know if it was a calculated commercial move or just an offshoot of the fitness boom, but it was that new mindset that led to changed behaviours.

Disruption grows markets by changing minds. Differentiation is much more concerned with cutting up the pie. It's a crucial distinction.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cheerfully Commercial?

Joe Public’s relationship with brands has also shifted: we love them, and we don’t much care that they are colonising our lives. Marketing gurus have a term for it. According to them, we are all “cheerfully commercial” now.

That's marketing gurus for you. Always ready with a buzzy phrase. But I'm not buying it.

The quote comes from an article about the alignment of bands and brands and it's ironically true that the No Logo generation are more amenable to the commercial world than suggested in Naomi Klein's diatribe.

But it's laughable to extrapolate from a relative lack of protest at various sponsorship deals to full-blown submission to any interruption. Getting away with it is very different from getting something done effectively.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Banksy Does Marketing.

Becoming the most noticed artist amongst the hundreds of thousand vying for that tag is a classic differentiation problem. You have to ensure you have a remarkable product and be really clever in your use of a combination of discovery and free to create a story surrounding it. The story generates interest in what you're doing and you start to reap the financial benefits because of it.

Some accuse you of daylight robbery, but you don't rest on your laurels. You continue to build the story by creating an astonishing event in a London road tunnel with very polite security.

In classic 2.0 style, you invite the public to view for free.

And others to collaborate and co-create.

Then, after three days, you will leave it to its fate.

And let the story and your popularity grow - while people reading this realise they have only two days to avoid the social embarrasment of missing it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Marketing's Next Trick.

David Blaine is a magician but he claims his performances as an endurance artist involve no trickery - this despite the fact that he inhaled pure oxygen for 23 minutes before claiming a world record by breathing underwater for over 17 minutes on the Oprah show. Are we impressed and, if so, for how long? Or does the niggling doubt of deception minimise what might or might not be a great achievement?

The whole thing reminded me of Iain Tait's Under The Influence musings about what sort of "magic" works best in the marketing arena. Does a Blaine extravaganza impress me more than his close-up street magic? Frankly, no. Both involve technique, craft and expertise but the more incredible your claim such as David Copperfield making the Empire State Building "disappear", the more you're asking people to suspend disbelief.

For sure, you can make an impact with big extravagant promises, but I'm with Iain in thinking that a succession of smaller, more intimate moments of delight will ultimately cast a deeper and more enduring spell.