Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Marketing 2010.

Marketing 2010 will be the same as Marketing 2009.

Media sellers will continue to claim their media is the best vehicle for you.
Advertising agencies will continue to create many bad advertisements.
Prognosticators will continue to declare that we face a new paradigm.

And reality will go on. Unaugmented.

The true role of marketing will continue to be about meeting customer needs and retaining their patronage. So, rather than make wild guesses about future trends that may or may not impact on your business, I'm going to start 2010 by getting some smart people to offer their answers to the basic marketing questions that will.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thinking From Outside The Box.

Thinking outside the box is a phrase that has always annoyed me because it conflates two very different problem-solving approaches.

If you think the box is the problem, then you should be discarding it completely rather than merely thinking outside it (with the incremental change that implies). On the other hand, if you're happy with the box but need to approach it in a different way, you could quite profitably focus on thinking inside the box rather than engage in flights of fancy outside it. But, as the following example will show, you crucially need to do that thinking from outside of the box.

Rather than assume that technology has destroyed the "box" marked newspaper production, my friends at Newspaper Club have re-thought the box and acknowledged that is has definite customer benefits in terms of design potential, tactility and portability. By combining that insight with the spare capacity of digital printing presses and some new technology, they will soon be able to let anyone create their own small-run "newspaper" for whatever purpose they choose.

Their initial efforts have been things of beauty and people are lining up to create "newspapers" as promotional giveaways, wedding souvenirs and product samplers. But not everybody gets it - as this comment on a tech-site illustrates.

Ok, how much do you pay for something like this? Would having ads in distract you? Would they distract if they cut down on the cost? How often would you buy it?

If you're a writer, what sort of compensation would you want from an ongoing newspaper such as this.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea and it's great to see how they did it, but am I curious how much cost and how long it took to do. There's a lot of steps between a one off and regularly published newspaper like this.

That's static inside the box thinking - where your product/service/market is defined by WHAT it is and what it has always been. By contrast, you can build in agility, dynamism and a degree of future-proofing - simply by defining the product/service/market in terms of WHY it is. By thinking from outside of the box.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Media Is The Message.

Having written in my previous post that Eurostar's failure was a communication issue, I noticed a letter in today's Times from one of the passengers who had been trapped for 14 hours.

"The worst part wasn’t the length of the stoppage, nor the unbearable heat and darkness in the train before our painfully slow evacuation in the tunnel, nor even the lack of food and water. It was the deplorable dearth of information that really made it difficult.

I would much rather have been told that it was going to take 20 hours, then at least I could have accepted my fate and relaxed."

It's nice to have my wild blogging assertions proven correct. If you have to disappoint your customers, it's much better to disappoint them sooner rather than later, it's much better to then tell them what you're going to do rectify the situation and it's imperative that you apologise.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Social Media Panacea.

Snow arrives and the UK grinds to a halt. So too, it seems, do Eurostar trains. Techcrunch highlight the lack of communication 2.0 to bewildered and suffering customers, but that's to miss the wood for the trees.

The problem is not that they're not using Twitter - that's a symptom. The problem is that they have no information to provide. Social media is not the solution to that. A joined-up customer service strategy that acknowledges the ameliorating power of a flow of information, how ever depressing, would be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Importance Of Being Consistent.

The national rail company changed their website and it led me to send a couple of intemperate emails to their senior executives because the new journey planner left me baffled. I tweeted about it and some people seemed to agree with me.

Now, admittedly there were seeemingly issues with Firefox which meant that the crucial calender icon did not appear, but there were also loading time and loading order issues for others who could see it.

My main gripe was, as the screengrab above shows, that the user is faced with a variety of visual cues (drop-down menus, and empty boxes)which meant for me that I had no idea what protocol to use when I came to inputting a date. There was no drop-down menu, there was no calender icon and the box being filled with "Today" gave no clue as to what date format to enter.

In this era, it's fine (and perhaps obligatory) to speak in multiple voices to your heterogeneous audience, but that doesn't allow you to do so within the same instruction/message. At best, that leads to confusion. At worst, you commit the grievous sin of making your prospects feel stupid and helpless when you should be making them feel smart and empowered.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting Close To The Customer.

In Gary Vaynerchuk's talk that I mentioned in the last post, he recounted how officials of the NHL had resisted his idea that they should respond to every tweet and social media message. They felt it would be costly in terms of time and staff even though he pointed out that he personally got more than they did and he responded to all of them himself.

I'd go further. I'd insist that every senior executive regularly spent a day with the people employed to do that job. It's a much better way of understanding your customers than an orchestrated focus group and shows more internal commitment than that gimmicky policy of working on the shop-floor at Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Customer Service Isn't New.

Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Hsieh have picked up a lots of plaudits for focussing their Le Web talks on customer service. Deservedly so. But this is nothing new. That they seem so insightful to many people is simply an indictment of the levels to which things have been allowed to fall.

Customer service has always been there. It's encapsulated in the P of product. If you think that your product is simply that which your customer buys from you, you're deluding yourself. They're buying the product/service plus everything that you provide to make the consumption of that product an enjoyable and fulfilling experience that makes them better at doing something.

I once heard a marketing professor postulate a 5th marketing P (for Phacilitating Services) to emphasise just that fact. He was right because his base example of this was IBM's reputation for post-sales service and support in the 60s, but he was also wrong. Wrong because separating it from the product suggests that it's a marketing option you can choose to prioritise or not.

Customer service shouldn't be the centralised, prescriptive provision that all too easily conjures up images of mission statments, faux sincerity and ranks of low-paid transient phone-jockeys. It should be a distributed, pervasive culture in which everybody can fearlessly act on their own initiative to right a wrong or create a memorable interaction. Customer sevice is not an add-on, it's a necessity.

Monday, December 07, 2009

You Heard It Here First.

The Nokia store that I criticised on this blog back in April and August of 2008 is to close.

In this report, it is claimed that the failure of the £4 million investment was because "the store may have proved a little “extravagant” in terms of cost". No, it was because you couldn't use the phones. And worse than that, it was just a store.

Addendum: The Apple store across the street continues to flourish, but I notice that the staff are getting a little more officious. I recently witnessed people being dissuaded from using computers to check their email because this is an "iphone activation area". Are they in danger of becoming just a store? Not yet.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Behavioural Marketing.

Iain really liked this campaign and bracketed it with Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice. While I like it, it's not much more than a digital version of the traditional promotional competition. The key for me is that it's utilising technology rather than the behaviours related to that technology. It works but it's not new.

Social media and digital aren't inherently new behaviours, they're new technologies/ecosystems that facilitate existing behaviours. But where Burger King was really smart was in placing a new version of that behaviour - Facebook friending - at the centre of its interaction. A behaviour that hadn't existed without the technology.

Marketing is all about behaviour, but changing behaviour is really difficult to do. It's much smarter to adapt your marketing to existing behaviours in a way that gets the user to think about your product/service and perhaps become inclined to change another behaviour.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Don't Just Focus On The Big Idea?

Last week, Faris (a big thinker) asked me "What's the Big idea?" We were in a pub - where such questions often get asked - and it was the day of the UK ad industry's Battle of Big Thinking where a number of mutual friends (including Amelia and Katy) had, no doubt, spoken eloquently and brilliantly about a variety of ideas.

But were they big ideas? Is social media a big idea? Is branding? Faris and I agreed that fire and alcohol might both be classified as big ideas, but we weren't sure about the rest.

Big idea are big because they are so rare and yet businesses are obsessed with having them, be that in their product range or their marketing. That seems like a futile effort to me. The only important big idea for business is their underlying strategy which should underpin everything they do - though, of course, the search for the big idea often causes them to ignore that fact.

That aside, it's much better to focus on having a lot of arguably smaller ideas: small ideas that can have immediate impact, small ideas that can generate further small ideas and small ideas that might just turn out to be slightly bigger than you first thought.