Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Three's Not A Charm.

I noted a tweet in which the author complained that he'd be on hold with a customer service phone-line for so long that he'd realised that the music being played to him was a loop of three tunes and he'd hung up.

Now, obviously, he'd been kept holding for far too long. But it's also true that the company in question had idiotically ensured that he realised this by limiting the music to a cycle of three. The first priority is to deal with the customer swiftly, the second is to ensure they don't feel taken for granted.

In this case, the company got it wrong on both counts. If I were him, I'd ring up and complain. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Making Things Better.

Making good stuff from scratch is really difficult.

Removing bad stuff is relatively simple.

The former is to be encouraged, the latter is compulsory.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Uncanny Cityscape.

There's something odd about that cityscape. That was my reaction as I looked at the poster advertising the launch of a TV channel which has exclusive first-look access to all HBO's output. The idea of merging the New York buildings into the London skyline is understandable, but the choices are odd and the effect dis-easing.

I may be wrong but it seems that they've only used New York buildings - that is the South Street Seaport isn't it? So, firstly, they're projecting New York rather than the USA even though not all the shows are New York-based. Moreover, the majority of the office blocks are, to me at least, anonymous. They're neither specifically New York or London or, indeed, specifically American or British.

The overall impression is that of a quasi-generic cityscape - you know what it wants to be but it's not quite there and it's proximity to reality is unnerving. In robotics this is known as the uncanny valley but I think it can be applied here too. Especially, as my attention was drawn to the poster right next to it in the Tube station.

The theme is similar, but they don't try to be overly subtle and the result feels much better to me and gets the job done.

Despite what I heard a panel of creative director assert recently - it's not art it's marketing. It can and often should be artistic, but only when that doesn't get in the way of its purpose.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Make Marketing Authentic?

Yes, it is a bit late in the day for car ads to jump on the knowing-ness bandwagon, but this one seems to me to manage to be self-deprecating without being self-denigrating. While it might exude a little self-satisfaction when viewed in isolation, it's a beacon of sobriety by comparison with most other car marketing.

In an age of mass comment, isn't it strange how much marketing continues to be inauthentic? Be it pristine interiors, fake beauty or prettified food, the obsession is all too often with an aspiration that is likely to be perceived as ridiculous.

The thinking behind the marketing may well be sound, but the deception of the customer or the self-deception of the marketer so often undermines it. There is a difference between dreams and fantasy. Credibility is key.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The B-Word Resolution.

Forget about all this talk of branding and brands. Your focus should be on a simpler model.

A) This is what we produce (and what we think it can do for you).

B) This is how we behave (in every realm of activity).

C) We'll let you decide what we are, what we stand for and what we might mean to you.

You can console yourself with what they say they think of you when prompted in a focus group. But that is probably very different from what comes to mind on those rare occasions when they actually think about you.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

You Can't Market Good Service.

A comment on the previous post indicated the reader's willingness to include good service in his insurance purchase decision. A common sentiment that might make insurance companies think about emphasising good service in their marketing.

The problem is I'm not sure you can actively market good service.

You can make all the claims you like backed up with all the data you like but for claims to have real impact they have to be provable.

To make claims before purchase is to court sceptisicm and to risk disappointed customers. To make claims afterwards is to risk disbelief - be it of the relevance of the tiny survey samples so evident in beauty product advertising or be it the viewers' questioning of your vague definitions of satisfaction.

No, I'm not sure you can market customer service. You can truly only provide it on a one to one personalised basis. Its provision is part of your marketing. Its promotion isn't.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Marketing Awareness.

Modern marketers tend to get very excited by ideas of conversation and engagement with customers. Given that they are aware how many images and messages each of us receive every day, they have become less impressed by the more basic aim of generating awareness. This, I think, is why this pun-based campaign has received such criticism from within the advertising world.

Some complain that the imitation of Morgan Freeman is a deceitful hijacking of the actor's gravitas while others just deem it trite, shouty advertising disguised as something else. But that is to overlook context.

It's an ad for insurance. Insurance stubbornly remains a commodity business where price trumps service because we buy it before we need it. The engagement with the product/service occurs at a time of distress and not at a time of purchase.

In a commodity business, awareness is key. You want your customer to have your name come to mind when they consider the purchase. It's brutally simple. A differentiation strategy predicated on engagement ignores the mindset of the audience.

From a business strategy perspective you don't want to be in the diminishing-margin commodity game, but from a marketer's perspective you have to accept that an increasing number of industries are becoming commoditised. If you're working in or for one, you can try to get your boss/client to adapt their offering, but in the mean time, you have to swallow your pretensions and do what the context demands.