Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Vendor Relationship Marketing.

It's always good to listen to people from other disciplines and a few days ago I caught up with Doc Searls, Adriana and various other programmers and marketers who share an interest in VRM (vendor relationship management). Some interesting themes emerged.

1) The internet has improved the supply side of the economy, but has done less for the demand side. The purpose of VRM is to provide the customer with ways of bearing some of the relationship burden which has in the past been borne entirely by the vendor. In so doing, VRM intends to improve markets by equipping customers to lead as well as to follow

2) For all the investment in data collection, the current purchase model destroys a lot of data - a business knows a purchase has been made and probably by whom, but all the thinking that prefaces that (the decision process, the preferences met and the interaction) is lost.

3) If individuals owned and controlled their own data, you'd facilitate real customer centricity unlike the faux customer centricity of CRM. Truly putting the customer at the centre would allow deeper relationships to develop in which richer, permission-based data is shared and the expensive guesswork of marketing departments can be eliminated.

So, what do I think are the implications for marketing?

a) Outward-looking marketing will increasingly be centred on the provision of genuine information and interaction so that the pro-active customer will more likely seek to buy something you provide.

b) Inward-looking marketing will involve encouraging product development to move towards the provision of modular, flexible, customisable products and services.

c) In order to foster repeat purchases and loyalty, marketing's primary task will be to ensure that the customer experience is always great.

d) It's not about selling stuff. It's all about helping people buy stuff.

But I think I've said that all before.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Customer Experience Is Not The New Marketing.

It's nearly a decade since Pine and Gilmore wrote about the Experience Economy. They saw services becoming commoditised and argued that differentiation could be achieved by turning retail into entertainment.

I recall that Banana Republic were one of their examples, but wonder if anyone still (or indeed ever) thought about shopping there as an experience. After all, do you want to experience retail or do you just want to buy something you like and to do so quickly?

Pine and Gilmore were right about the importance of the experience, but it's not about the spectacular. It's maybe even more about the small decidely unflashy things - from clear, engaging instructions through every aspect of interaction with the company before, during and after purchase.

People are starting to talk of customer experience as being the new marketing, but it's not. There's nothing new about it. It's not the latest thing. It has always been at the heart of marketing even if many people, including marketing directors didn't see it as such.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Boxing Clever.

What do you enjoy most? A single sandwich or unpacking a hamper? An individual present or the multiple excitements of a Christmas stocking/pillow?

That's the thinking behind the MatterBox that I receieved a few weeks ago. Crammed full of a remarkable number of items, this collaboration beween Artomatic and the Post Office is about much more than the stuff.

It recognises that if you stimulate a sense of exploration and discovery (in this case by turning free samples into an event), then you get a far more engaged reaction than that of the recipient of a single item.

Photo: mark simpkins

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Roundabout Marketing (Far From Indirect).

So you find yourself at a roundabout focussing on the traffic-flow you're seeking to join and you're distracted by this.

A council that cuts down street trees in order to avoid the risk of a branch one day falling on someone and prompting a lawsuit, but a council that doesn't seem to have grasped the whole interruptive concept and how it might be a little dangerous in this situation.

More than that, it's indicative of how few organisations/people still actually understand marketing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Disrupt Your Market, Not Your Users.

Disrupting a market is a great way to gain market share. So companies increasingly focus on how to do things differently in their chosen field. It can yield great dividends, but the innovation is only half the job.

If you change the physical shape or size of your product, do you ensure that you facilitate its use by providing or highlighting ways for users to transport/carry them (this applies equally to small items as well as large)?

If you change the technology in your product/service, do you ensure that your users are fully and easily informed about how it works and acknowledges that users will only upgrade every third iteration and thus will be making a larger leap in capabilities and techniques than the developers?

If you disrupt the distribution system of your market by shifting elements of the purchase process to your user, do you ensure that these elements are as simple as possible for them to take on or do you just leave them wandering the (real or virtual) aisles?

If you add functionality to your product/service, do you ensure that existing users are neither overwhelmed by it nor unable to revert to their old usage patterns with ease (this is not just a technical issue as New Coke so ineptly demonstrated)?

Whether you adopt a low end disruption or a new market disruption strategy, there are many other scenarios that could be added to this brief list, but the base line is this. Disrupting your market is great, disrupting your user experience is not.

Influencing - So You Don't Have To.

That may explain why the script is so sharp, tight and funny

Who said that? Oh yes. I did.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Marketing And Strategy.

Business strategy and marketing are very similar disciplines (when properly understood). They both focus on the raison d'etre of a business - satisfying customer needs. That's why marketing must be central to any business. If it isn't, it's because marketing hasn't been properly marketed within the business. Here's how you do it.

Michael Porter's definition of strategy.

"Competitive strategy is about being different...It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value (for the customer)."

Peter Drucker's definition of marketing.

"Marketing is not only much broader than selling...It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer's point of view."


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Marketing Dilemma.

“We’re talking to global marketing directors who think about how to sell more product, rather than how they tell people their chocolate bar tastes good,”

Both sides of the argument are right and wrong simultaneously, but I'd always err on the revenue-generating side.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Here Comes Everybody.

In his forthcoming book, Clay Shirky explains how internet media has become social media - allowing customers to follow their natural instincts and act in groups.

The book does not fully detail the implications for business but elsewhere he nails it,

What do businesses need to know: Businesses need to know that the old simplicities of dealing with their customers are disappearing, because customers are now able to coordinate their actions in groups......Now, thanks to social media, customers are part of active groups, groups that form and dissolve quickly in response to people's interests or needs -- most messages in this media flow within social groups, rather than from businesses to individuals.

If your marketing outlook doesn't fully embrace that simple fact, it's operating in a world that is fast disappearing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Yo-Yo Marketing.

The "Sleeping and Dreaming" exhibition was interesting but, to be honest, I mainly took away the observation that a lot of German academics film people while they're asleep.

However, in a piece of promotional material for the main collection I read the following,

"I'm no longer on a diet. I'm no longer in that state of constant failure."

Isn't that great advice for the slumbering marketing industry? Just as yo-yo dieters need to break the cycle to reach their goal, marketers must also break their cycle.

Perhaps it's time to stop doing what you've always done, time to stop looking for quick fixes or the latest vogue and time to act on your acknowledgement that most of it doesn't work any more.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Expertise Of Agencies.

One of my pet hates is the way that marketing departments outsource so much of their work. It's a question of balancing specialist skills against intimate knowledge of the product/service and its marketplace and I'm not sure that balance is correctly maintained.

But sometimes, I accept, I am too critical of agencies. Today, for example, I am sure the clients of an international agency will be reassured to know that its staff are increasing their skillset in response to this memo.

Subject: Think Chairs


????????? from ???????? will be in the office on Friday February 15, to do a quick demo on how to use your chair.

He will be covering the following:

Alive Seating
Ergonomic Principles
Environmental Story

Please make sure that you bring your chair to the session.

(The Oklahoma bombing memorial are chairs worth thinking about.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Saving Pennies To Lose Dollars.

It's trivial, but I realise that while I chose flights on price and convenience on my recent trip, the thing I remember most vividly is my feeling of disappointment at the inferior quality of the meals on one of the carriers. Now airline food is not expected to be gourmet quality and readily meets those expectations, but this time I just had the feeling that cost-cutting had prevailed. I wasn't even hungry. But I felt I was being short-changed.

Maybe the airline's executives are too focussed on the price sensitivity that has come with deregulation and the transparency of price-comparison sites, but now when I search those sites I will definitely feel less inclined to click on this carrier's logo. Although everything else about the flight was fine, there is now an airline for which I definitely don't have a preference.

Consequently, the price differential tomorrow will have to be markedly larger than this time last week if they are to get my business.

Value = price + experience and even tiny things can sway that equation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Never Fake It.

According to this article, the requirement for Japanese staff to maintain a permanent fake smile may be building up real emotional problems when they leave work.

Real emotions, Makoto Natsume says, are being dangerously suppressed by the “smile masks” that women wear all day at work and the psychological effects he sees among patients are devastating. Depression, mental illness and other disorders are spreading fast, he cautions, and smile-mask syndrome could soon become a serious national health issue.

That seems something of an allegory for marketing to me. Firstly aim to create a working environment in which the smiles are genuine and a product/service that elicits the same response and, secondly, never fake it. People always know.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Always Stay On Message.

A Brenthaven rucksack is designed to safely carry a laptop and even protect it when dropped. The webiste uses phrases like "Virtually Indestructible", "The fabric we use can take a beating" and "Rugged Ballistic Nylon is the best and most durable nylon in the marketplace".

While these claims are apparently entirely justifiable, I couldn't help but notice the double boxing which protected it from Amazonian rigours. That's the Amazon online retail business, not the jungle.

You're always sending product messages, even when your product is literally out of your hands. So maybe, Brenthaven should reinforce their ruggedness message by the simple act of insisting that its products are always despatched with minimal packaging,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Show The Customer What You Do.

I found myself critiquing the website of a talented woman the other night (as one does). Like so many people/businesses/designers she had focussed on all that boring information she thought should be on the front page. After all you need your visitors to be able to contact you, scroll through your stuff and read testimonials.

All true, of course, but website as directory doesn't work, Google is the directory of choice. Once a potential customer finds you online or off, it's because they've identified you as a potential solution to their problem.

So your first priority must be to show them what you can do - unequivocally, simply and effectively. Just like this cosmetic surgery business does.

via marketing alternif

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

When Heritage Goes Bad.

If you make a claim for your product/service you better make sure it's a reflection of current behaviour. This struck me when I saw the inside lid of the Haagen Daz just now. It says

We began more than 40 years ago with three flavors, and it took six years to develop a fourth. That's the patient and uncompromising approach we've taken to every new product we've created ever since.

A nice claim to heritage and authenticity except that, at that rate, they'd only have seven flavours and it sure didn't look like that to me when I was in the supermarket.


But it didn't spoil my enjoyment of the three flavours I was eating in what passes for my office this week.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Superbowl Silly Season.

It was interesting to see how much people were tweeting the Superbowl ads as they aired. It's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The richest ad space on the planet ($2.7 million per 30 seconds) becomes an event. But I'm wondering if it's only an event for those in the industry.

Sorry to tell you folks, but the huge audience is there for the football game and maybe the half-time show. The ads are as interruptive as ever and seemingly more ignored than ever before.

You might think that Fedex had a better spot than or Tide but I'm not sure regular people were watching.

Added Link: Courtesy of Marcus, a time-lapse video of people watching the game (in the breaks between eating). Sadly, ad-breaks aren't highlighted.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Free Don't Pay The Rent.

There is a reason why Kevin Kelly's post about the alternatives to free is being quoted everywhere. I make no apology for joining in. This is about as important a business post as you can get and will be in your top ten reads of the year come December.

If you don't spend endless time focussing on how to ensure your product/service delivers immediacy, personalisation, interpretation (comprehension), authenticity, accessibility, embodiment (sensual tactility), patronage (loyalty) or findability - and preferably any number of those factors, then you will be toast.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Microsoft And Yahoo.

So Microsoft are formally trying to acquire Yahoo. The offer document is naturally filled with details of the opportunities that they suggest this will bring. But what of the opportunities for smaller businesses?

They might feel increasingly vulnerable in the face of the creation of such a huge conglomerate. But that's only true if they don't change.

The deal would have an impact on a huge number of users of a variety of services and there will be a minority of Yahoo users who might not want to be associated with Microsoft for the simple reason that they chose Yahoo's equivalent service in the past. That minority could in actual terms be a very big number of potential customers for a third party.

If your marketplace is overshadowed by one or more large businesses, you must not assume that you can't deliver some need better than they can. Focussing on the competition is important but focussing on the customer will always trump that. All business relationships are essentially one to one after all, so playing in the shadows can be very lucrative.