Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Speaking With One Voice.

I'd never heard of Woot, but I was aware there was an online retailer doing what they did. I'll be watching them closely now - not because they just got acquired by Amazon, but because of the way they responded to it. Not with legalese or corporate platitudes but with the same human tone they used before they were bought.

Businesses grow, businesses evolve and business are acquired, but the one thing they must never forget is that they're still essentially making sales one at a time to individual customers.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Great Banana Shortage.

Copywriting and the creation of scarcity are central to great marketing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Let Customers Know It's Personal.

Customers tend to dislike outsourced customer service departments and endless telephone menus that seem to keep them away from any form of human contact. That makes personal service a competitive advantage and companies never shirk from declaiming their commitment to it - even if the reality may be very different.

The screen-shot above comes from an insurance company and was what I saw when a basic renewal proved impossible to achieve online. I interpreted the options as send an email into the abyss and hope for a response some time in the future or tangle with the premium rate phone line. I opted for the latter and got my policy renewed.

I also discovered that the innocuous "ask us a question" hid the option of IM interaction with a team of online specialists. Real people answering my questions in real time? Wouldn't that have been worth emphasising?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Marketing Gimmickry Is Just A Gimmick.

At a sparsely-attended promotional launch for an upcoming marketing trade show, the invitees were shown the event's new iPhone app. Rather than the advertised augmented reality, it was essentially a piece of mobile image recognition. It was perfectly adequate and of potential utility to the exhibition/conference attendees, but it was a gimmick.

The logic was clear - iPhone apps are hot, so we should have one and generate some PR. It won't because many of the audience knew more about the technology than some of the marketers that were presenting it and were consequently underwhelmed, it won't because it's not a reason in and of itself to attend the event, and it won't because it's of more interest internally than externally.

Worse still, it emerged in casual conversation that the event had a more striking selling point - for the first time in its longish history, the conference sessions are going to be free of charge. That represents more user utility than even the most sophisticated iPhone app could hope to do, but it's not shiny and tech-based and too many marketers think that makes it uninteresting to their prospects. They're wrong.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Customers Like Happy Endings.

My attention today has been attracted by two seemingly unrelated items that emanated from the mysterious East London lair of the post-digital hole in the wall gang. Russell Davies has highlighted a fascinating film about billboard painters in New York while Phil Gyford has tinkered with the Guardian newspaper’s API to produce a personalized version.

They’re both terrific in their own right, but together they got me thinking about completeness and anticipation and how marketers sometimes unthinkingly crave customer attention.

The image that grabbed me in the film was actually an incomplete billboard – about one third of the glass of beer to be exact. It seemed to encapsulate the craft of the painters that Russell rightly praised, the slowness of its production and the anticipation of what might develop. I imagined locals passing the scene many times during the painting process and anticipating their next sighting.

In fact, that's unrealistic because the film later reveals that they remarkably complete the billboards in a matter of hours. And while they do address the idea of anticipation by frequently replacing the image with others from a narrative series, I think that still misses a trick. After all, think how many posters you don’t notice. The incompleteness engages the viewer in the process in a way that the more run of the mill (and therefore potentially invisible) final image doesn’t.

While it might be a powerful trick, one must always be aware of not taking it too far. Marketers too often become obsessed with keeping people's attention as long as possible, but to no positive effect – by making it hard for them to leave websites, by overcomplicating processes, filling phone menus with promotional messages rather than dealing with the need or by making stores hard to navigate.

And that's where the brilliant idea of “finishability” comes in. It is this that Phil details in his design summary – his need for a sense of closure in a way that reading online doesn’t normally give.

Finally, I wanted finishability. I wanted to be able to read today’s news, know I’d read it all, and that I’m done until tomorrow.

Just as there is curiosity in the unfinished, there is satisfaction in the finished. Marketers should never be scared to let customers leave. As long as they leave on good terms, they’re likely to return. If you stall or aggravate them, that’s less likely to be the case. Don’t rush them, don’t frustrate them, but do ensure they have a happy ending.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Marketing Wisdom Of Kid Rock?

When the song's bigger than the trend, you can't go wrong.

When the trend's bigger than the song, those are the people who fall by the way-side.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Marketing Saps.

When technology writer Dennis Howlett accused SAP of spamming him a year ago, his accusation was rebutted by one of their social media strategy team. Fast forward and we find that same strategist changing his tune.

Lesson: You can dismiss critics as cranks or curmudgeons and you may be right, but it's better for your sanity and your business if you take an objective look and see if they have a point. After all, they're on the receiving end.

There's also a lesson in the episode itself which only really caught my attention since it contrasted so much with the praise heaped on the SAP Developer Network 2003 in my current reading, The Power Of Pull.

Whereas in 2003, SAP were seeking to engage the opinions of their customer base, in 2009/10 they seem to be back to pushing information at them. I don't know if I'm right, but I suspect this may have something to do with the lingering pre-eminence of sales staff who are remunerated on revenues rather than the more intangible customer support service. Continued sales are the ultimate goal of all marketing, but when sales starts to drive marketing you are going to run into problems.

Lesson: Sales occur when the buyer wants to buy. So when the going gets tough, tough it out. Don't default to lowest common denominator tactics.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Marketing Wisdom of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

Some time ago, I found myself engrossed in a documentary about Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. It covered their entire musical life and thus lasted four hours which, largely due to the Travelling Willburys nonsense, was about half an hour too much.

But, as ever, the story of a creative journey from obscurity to commercial success yielded a number of "marketing" insights.

"All of a sudden the biggest radio station there was, was TV."

"It's about reaching for bigger moments where new things happen."

"What they call country today is bad rock groups with fiddles."

"We're all the romantic leads in our own life."

"Don't bore us, get to the chorus."

That's four hours I've saved you. You're welcome. Nobody should have to listen to Jeff Lynne.