"Read odd stuff. Look anywhere for ideas." Tom Peters
"We're on Facebook."—Sign outside a nursery/garden center near my home
In 1994 I had the opportunity to work on the first hotel company website, when we pulled together 64 pages of brochure-ware for Hyatt Resorts. At that point, keyword advertising was years away and it would be another five years before Permission Marketing would be published. As people started to think of what marketing would be like on the Internet, mass marketing was the paradigm they used, because that was what they knew.
Looking back 15 years later, our mid-90s view of Internet marketing seems primitive. My opinion: In the future, our current view of social media is going to look similarly primitive, and this time we'll get smart much more quickly.
Like early thoughts about Internet marketing, popular discussions of social media tend to use a mass marketing paradigm. "Wow, there are 250 million active Facebook users!" "Twitter grew 752% in 2008. Incredible!" People talk about Facebook and Twitter user numbers with the awe that is usually reserved for late-January new stories about the power of Superbowl advertising.
More of my opinion: The big numbers won't be the big story in the future.
Already, the best uses of social media are not the mass uses. (Who cares if American Airlines has a Facebook fan page?) The best uses are the micro uses. Example: My 8th grade class, the 1973 graduating class of Lake Bluff Junior High School, has coalesced on Facebook and we're having a reunion. Now that's cool. I'll bet most of you have similar stories.
We don't know what social media's most effective marketing uses will be in the future. But if you want to get a hint of what it will be like, here's my suggestion: Don't think mass marketing. Don't think of advertising-type metrics, such as reach, frequency, big numbers, and "cutting through the clutter." Think micro. Think relationships. Think of a customer saying, "What's in it for me?" not a marketer saying, "Cool, I have another marketing tool!" Think of customers talking with each other, not companies adding social media to their "marketing mix."
Executives feel a need to be "On Facebook and Twitter," as if being "On" these sites signifies that they are up to speed on the latest marketing tools. But being "On" these social media sites doesn't mean a thing. When your customers use social media to talk to each other about you ... now that means something.
[Read more by Steve at Yastrow.com.]
Most successful sales conversations don't end by closing the sale.
This may not be true for you if you're a timeshare salesman, a clerk in a retail store, or an airline reservations agent. But for most everyone else it is true.
• You are an independent graphic designer and you meet someone at a party ... the sales conversation is successful if the future customer enthusiastically remembers the conversation, and goes to your website to check it out when he returns home after the party.
• You sell large software projects and you have finally been invited to meet the CEO of a company you are trying to sell ... the sales conversation is successful if the CEO tells his team he really likes you and your offerings, and tells them to move forward with you.
• You are a CPA, and you have breakfast with a long-term client ... the sales conversation is successful if the client shares his fears about his own business, and gives you the name of a friend desperately in need of your services.
The common thread in each of these examples is that your relationship with the customer was better at the end of the sales conversation than it was at the beginning. Successful selling is usually not about going for the close. It's about advancing your relationship.
Try it today ... don't go for the close!
[Read more by Cool Friend Steve Yastrow at his website.]
Why did campaigns like the American Express "My Life. My Card." and the Kleenex "Let It Out" efforts so resonate with consumers? It may be the same reason that the recently launched Rockport "Choose to Walk" campaign (as critiqued by Stuart Elliott in the New York Times) is likely to also be a success. Something in each of those efforts rings true, feels "like me," or otherwise touches the soul of the core customers for those brands—and that may well include you.
Each of those campaigns has dialed into the values of its market—those things beyond the given baseline expectations for fair price and high quality. Today's consumers are really looking through any superficial brandwash in search of recognition and appreciation for who they have chosen to be as people. It all boils down to social values.
Research cited in a recent GreenBiz.com article by Sarah Fister Gale confirms that the new consumer is sticking to his/her beliefs and social values:
The 2008 Good Purpose survey from public relations firm Edelman overwhelmingly shows that buyers plan to remain loyal to products that they perceive to have strong social value.
According to survey results, 68 percent of consumers say that even in a recession they would remain faithful to a brand if it supports a good cause; nearly seven in 10 would be prepared to pay more for eco-friendly products.
Now, here's the thing: a person's core beliefs or values are not gendered. He may buy Brand X because he loves its green approach, and she may buy Brand Y because it reflects her belief in community—or vice versa. Social values are being raised up; they are becoming more of a priority and something that all consumers are using as a filter in their very deliberate purchase processes.
In order to reach these people, marketers have to make sure their brands reflect what their customers really want from the values perspective. This is indeed a more challenging battle than traditional advertising, but brands don't have much choice in the matter.
Certainly, the women these companies have been serving have been nudging them toward this values-based exchange for years, but there seems to be that much more urgency now that both genders are more careful about how they spend their money in tighter times.
Traditionally considered to be peripheral and perhaps irrelevant, the topic of social values was avoided by many businesses—they stuck to the usual facts and figures rather than "dilute" their brand message with such nonsense. But, women and men both are now demanding more accountability on a broader spectrum of "attributes," and brands must identify and reflect their authentic values throughout to make an impression. If they do it well, consumers will—just as with the American Express, Kleenex, and Rockport campaigns—see their own values within and respond.
Okay, let the game begin. This is where we'll be posting Sally and Steve's back and forth as the game goes on. Let's see what happens.
sallyhogshead Okay, the gloves are off and I'm ready for "Super Bowl Smackdown" - live commentary with @steveyastrow at #tpsb43 and www.tompeters.com
sallyhogshead Quite the collection of advertising clichĂ©s in StateFarm spot: faux press conference, dream sequence, celebrity, mis-direct ending.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 This Audi chase ad may be exciting, but it is confusing, over done, and ... it includes car crashes! Car crashes in a car ad ...hmm
steveyastrow Hyundai is taking some risks by having multiple messages tonight - their Assurance program and the car of the year.
steveyastrow Remember Max Headroom from the '80's? In the future attention spans would be so short that TV ads would be 1 second. Future = now
sallyhogshead @steveyastrow Steve: What's your take on a $3M media pricetag for :30 (or $100k / second) during a recession?
sallyhogshead Always surprises to see CMOs spend top media $ without top-shelf creative thinking behind it. This pre-game work is rather sub-par.
steveyastrow Yes, I can't even remember what ads I saw in the pre-game, and I'm trying to pay attention!
sallyhogshead On average, Superbowl parties have 17 people. Will Twitter lower that number, by giving people a virtual party?
steveyastrow Yes, the audience is 100 million people, but 97 million are dipping chips in guacamole right now.
sallyhogshead I don't care if the media is cheaper, it's still a waste to have lame ideas in the commercials.
sallyhogshead I don't care if the media is cheaper, it's still a waste to have lame ideas in the commercials.
steveyastrow Sally, my take on $3MM for 30 seconds in a recession: Customers are so scrutinizing right now, spending 3cents each on 100 million people is spreading yourself too thin. They won't pay attention.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 This Audi chase ad may be exciting, but it is confusing, over done, and ... it includes car crashes! Car crashes in a car ad ...hmm
sallyhogshead Audi spot is great because it's so YouTube-friendly- you want to watch over n over. Highly crafted for Audi consumer tastes. #tpsb43
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Yes, if Iwatched the Audi ad 100 times on youtube, I might get it .... if.
sallyhogshead Hold on, deja vu, are we seeing two time-compression-technique spots almost back to back (Audi/Pepsi)?
steveyastrow #tpsb43 The Doritos ad was hilarious ... but will be the classic, "Who was that ad for?" conversation at the water cooler tomorrow.
sallyhogshead Recent study stated that a single Superbowl ad generates more sales than 250 regular commercials. I bet more.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Sally, so why is reaching 100 million people at one time a good idea? Seems like a mile wide and an inch deep to me
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Sally ... but what are "regular commercials?"
steveyastrow #tpsb43 The bigger the audience, the more diluted, the more people watching who don't care about your message ... very few sales being made
sallyhogshead #tpsb43 Huge disagreement: SB is the ultimate shared experience in USA. Its power isn't the TV buy, but in the social currency afterwards.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 I hope Conan O'brien got paid a lot, and enjoyed the shoot. It certainly didn't sell a lot of beer
sallyhogshead #tpsb43 For 30 seconds, you have the attention of consumers and thought leaders all at once. Nothing else delivers 100M people WANTING ads
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Does shared experience lead to sales? Or just a lot of chatter?
sallyhogshead Just like people love to play â€śarmchair quarterbackâ€ť during the game, during the commercials it's â€śarmchair marketer."
steveyastrow #tpsb43 So far Audi and Bridgestone have shown car crashes/accidents in their ads. And our whole party thought the Castrol ad was "creepy"
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Sally, but do armchair marketers buy the products? Or just talk?
sallyhogshead Goal to justify $3M media cost: don't just entertain, but change minds and provoke action. Entertainment is sooo '08.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 $3MM across 100 million consumers is 3 cents each. What kind of effect can you expect for 3 cents? Not much, but the superficial.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 GoDaddy wastes their money again. Not only tasteless, but it give no one a reason to use them.
sallyhogshead #tpsb43 Steve: armchair marketers debate, which equals free media over and over. Example: YouTube, web hits, and Tweets like THIS.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 After the GoDaddy shower ad, my friend said, What's GoDaddy? I explained and she said, "Oh, I think we used them for my website."
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Ok, the Pepsi Max is very unpleasant to watch. But only they could get away with it.
sallyhogshead 3 cents each: that's the geometric growth of free PR. If it's not worth bringing up in convo tomorrow, the brand shouldn't run it.
sallyhogshead The biggest mistake Superbowl advertisers make is to water down their message, and run a commercial thatâ€™s nothing but vanilla mush.
sallyhogshead In Superbowl commercials, as in the SB game, you lose if you wuss out and play it safe.
sallyhogshead For SB, an ad agency might spend the entire year coming up with HUNDREDS of potential ideas, and then produce just one. Earn it.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 I've never bought into the excuse that buzz makes up for ludicrous ad buys. Bernie Madoff had lots of buzz, too.
sallyhogshead This year's SB ads need to be multi-tasking machines: to prompt action, incite talk, and earn a consumer's attention.
sallyhogshead RT @dhorridge: @sallyhogshead Sally, I'm not sure that Steve understands that time is the new currency.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Sally, so what kind of buzz will lead to sales, or just to forgotten chuckles?
sallyhogshead A Superbowl ad should be tip of iceberg in terms of marketing halo. Check out Pepsi: http://www.youtube.com/pepsi
sallyhogshead Chuckles: no. Breaking through inertia and cynicism with humor to overcome savvy consumer's natural resistance : yes.
sallyhogshead Today, Americans will consume 8 million lbs of guac, and 14,500 tons of chips. Maybe add a few obesity commercials too?
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Yes, some of these ads will work. But putting all of your chips on red 14 might work also ... but most of the time it won't.
steveyastrow tpsb43 Rationalizing SB advertising due to all of the buzz/conv is not senscial. Call these what they are: speculative, risky investments.
sallyhogshead I dislike the GoDaddy.com ads but admit they use controversy well. Too bad the concepts so weak-- nothing to buzz about but boobs.
sallyhogshead "Buzz" is the only way to crack through consumer inertia unless you have world-changing data-driven rational benefit (most don't).
steveyastrow #tpsb43 How does GoDaddy use controversy well? They get talk, but it can't help their business. Talk doesn't make the cash register ring.
sallyhogshead Social currency = people want to engage with, play with, learn from, talk about, and above all OWN a brand. That is sales.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Brand harmony works much better than buzz. Have many interactions that all blend to tell a story. Then the talk will be powerful.
sallyhogshead GoDaddy: "Super Bowl Advertising Working for Go Daddy" http://bit.ly/2JVq
steveyastrow #tpsb43 The world is a very noisy place. Brute force rarely cuts through the clutter. Many interactions blending in harmony does cut through
sallyhogshead Isn't buzz an infused part of brand harmony? One part - mixed with retail exp, cust relations, packaging, etc etc
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Did anyone find the Hyundai shouting ad a little xenophobically offensive? Germans and Japanese screaming.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 Sure, buzz can be a part of brand harmony. But buzz is rarely manufactured through expensive production and a single viewing.
sallyhogshead Hyundai annoying yes, but like classic Absolut campaign based on the bottle, it reinforced benefit AND product name.
sallyhogshead Bud Light "Drinkability" - what do you think of using a marketing-centric piece of jargon in consumer-facing ad?
sallyhogshead Hyundai is not spreading too thin w/ 3 messages. It's fragmentation of brand, keeping surprise + interest.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 The Teleflora ad sucked. Like car spots with car crashes, a florist ad with flowers berating a woman is a really bad idea.
steveyastrow #tpsb43 We've been so jaded by buzz lately, aren't we entering an age of substance? People are so scrutinizing these days!
sallyhogshead Every year thereâ€™s a menagerie of talking bears pigeons, squirrels, monkeys, Clydesdales. Now anthropomorphized flowers!
steveyastrow #tpsb43 I agree ... these ads are contrived, forced, unmemorable ... and mostly un-buzzable.
It's halftime and your correspondent has decided that you can follow the rest of this discussion by going to hashtags.org and searching for #tpsb43. that will bring up the whole discussion between Sally and Steve (and whoever else cared to join in by using the hashtag on their tweets).
We're going to be conducting an experiment at tompeters.com on Super Bowl Sunday. We've asked our Cool Friends Sally Hogshead and Steve Yastrow to wage a back and forth discussion about the Super Bowl advertisements. It seems that Sally and Steve have different ideas about the relative merits of companies spending $3 million per thirty-second ad. Steve thinks it's a total waste of money; Sally thinks not. But their comments on the ads will take place at Twitter.com. Sally's Twitter address is twitter.com/sallyhogshead and Steve's is twitter.com/steveyastrow. While it may be difficult to follow their replies to each other at Twitter itself, since all the other discussions (and there will be plenty) will be showing up as well. So to make their 'debate' more clear we'll be pulling their 'tweets' off Twitter and posting them as an ongoing blog post at tompeters.com. We'll be starting somewhere around 6 p.m. Eastern U.S. time tomorrow, Sunday, February 1. Hope you can drop by.
Don't think of our current economic crisis as a recession. Instead, think of it as a recalibration.
Everything is different now.
If you think of it as a recession, you may be tempted to "hunker down" and wait for the economy to cycle back.
If you think of it as a recalibration, you will be motivated to focus on what you have to do differently, since everything is different now.
The way your business generates results is different, now.
Your customers think differently, now.
Your customers care about different things, now.
Your customers act differently, now.
Your customers may actually be different people, now.
Customers aren't disposable anymore; more than ever, you have to create sustainable customer relationships.
Everything is different now.
I'm posting this on January 7, 2009. One thing I'm convinced of is that the world I am working in today is different from any world I have ever done business in. The world has been reset. We can no longer look at the "LY" column on reports to use last year as a benchmark for what will happen this year.
(Please join me on January 9th for my free 2009 Readiness Teleseminar. You can register here. I'll address six questions that you must answer, to thrive in '09. Please sign up, and if you can't make it live you'll receive an audio recording after the event.)
The first notice most of us got of the current economic crisis came from TV and newspapers. Now, as the ripple effects of softening business move through the marketplace, just about everyone I talk to is seeing some sort of softening effect on their business. We are all vulnerable.
We can't afford to be sloppy right now, in anything we do. We can't waste resources. We can't let customers, in whose acquisition we have invested considerable sales and marketing resources, slip away, believing that new customers will show up to take their places.
In this economy, customer loyalty is one of the most important variables that will affect our success. It will be increasingly difficult to find new customers who can become big customers, so we have to get the most benefit out of what we already have. But ... we also can't afford to be sloppy with our concept of customer loyalty.
In so many cases, companies mistake promotional bribes for loyalty. But the kind of loyalty created by this type of approach is fleeting, and defenseless against a better offer from your competitor. (And you can bet that your competitors will be offering richer deals in the near future.) This type of loyalty, which I call transactional loyalty, can temporarily steer transactions in your direction, but keeps you very vulnerable in tough times.
The kind of loyalty you want to create in these times is what I call True Loyalty. When a customer is truly loyal, she is not loyal to your latest promotional offer, or to filling out her punch card to get her 10th smoothie for free. When True Loyalty happens, the customer is loyal to you. More specifically, she is loyal to her relationship with you.
This is a big difference. If a customer believes she is in a "We" relationship with you, her frame of reference is not the latest transaction, but the entire history of her relationship with you.
Soon, here at tompeters.com and at yastrow.com, I will share my thoughts on how to create True Loyalty. For now, what do you think? How do you avoid transactional loyalty, and create True Loyalty? Is True Loyalty a key to thriving in a tough economic climate?
In the early '90s the word "interactive" got hijacked to mean any kind of marketing on the Internet. (How ironic since shopping on the Internet was not very interactive in those days.) Long before that, the word "brand" got misrepresented as something companies do to their customers, when in reality it is something customers do to companies.
Now I want to rant about how the word "loyalty" has been kidnapped. Loyalty has been dislocated from its true meaning and is now used to describe programs and promotions, usually supported by sophisticated software, that encourage customers to buy from a company multiple times.
Hey, there's nothing wrong with multiple purchases, but return visits don't necessarily correlate with true, meaningful loyalty. This kind of tit-for-tat transactional loyalty can be fleeting. Purchase intent one week doesn't automatically lead to purchase intent the next week, if a competitor offers a better sale price or promotion. This is the kind of loyalty that can evaporate quickly when another company offers better incentives.
The sturdiest, most indelible loyalty is that which is built from a relationship, and not from bribery. When a customer's frame of reference is her long-standing, ongoing conversation with a company, and not the gamesmanship of which company is offering the best rewards this month, she will not be easily seduced by a slightly better offer.
Can you use points programs, punch cards and repeat purchase incentives in your efforts to create true loyalty? Sure, but only if these promotions happen in the context of relationship-building encounters with those customers. And, what's most interesting, if you can build true "We" relationships with customers, you may not need to invest as many of your resources in these programs. Your customers will have more powerful reasons to keep coming back.
So, what's happening in your company? Are you creating solid, relationship-based loyalty, or are you continually wooing your customers with the latest new and improved, bigger and bolder, see-if- our-competitors-can-top-this promotion?
(Related question: Are loyalty promotions becoming a commodity?)
What is the goal of a sales call?
Close the sale?
Receive approval for your proposal?
Secure a meeting with the CEO?
Yes. These are all possible goals of sales meetings. But there is another goal that transcends all of these. The goal of every sales meeting—yes, every sales meeting—is to create a relationship-building encounter.
This is not what always happens in practice. Sales training has taught us the value of a solid, sequential sales process, where we have learned how each step in that process leads to the next step: The purpose of a cold call is to get a meeting, the purpose of the first meeting is to get a second meeting, and the purpose of the second meeting is to be invited to make a proposal, etc. Of course, these are natural steps in the sales process. But what happens frequently is that sales people are so focused on getting to the next step that they miss the chance to have a great encounter during the meeting they are in at the moment. (It's also very obvious to a customer if a salesperson is more focused on what they can "get" from this meeting than on having a good meeting at this time. They can see the salesperson thinking ahead.)
What great salespeople know is that the sequential sales process is subservient to the current meeting. They know that the best way to get to the next step in the process is to create a relationship-building encounter in the present. (Iâ€™ve got a free ebook, Encounters, available by subscription at my website, www.yastrow.com if you want to learn more about creating relationship-building encounters.)
When you focus on "now," the future will come of its own accord.
What does it feel like to be engaged in genuine dialogue?
I have asked this question in many workshops and speeches lately. Audience members have given very rich answers. "It's like a flow." "It's learning from each other." "What I say depends on what the other person says."
In his 1930 essay, "Dialogue," Martin Buber distinguished between genuine dialogue and "monologue disguised as dialogue," which he as "characterized ... solely by the desire to have one's own self-reliance confirmed by marking the impression that is made."
Monologue attempts to confirm, through pronouncement, what the speaker already knows and believes. Like a radio, it speaks but does not listen.
A true conversation, however, does not confirm. It explores. When two people open themselves up to genuine dialogue they do not presuppose the outcome of their conversation. It is as if they fly together into new, exciting, uncharted territory.
Dialogue is not only key to all human relationships, it is at the essence of successful marketing and sales. Advertising, elevator pitches, sales pitches, press releases, billboards, and brochures are, at times, necessary, but we have to recognize them for what they are: Monologues that make for very imperfect ways to connect with customers. If it is possible to be in dialogue with a customer, it's always preferable to speak with them than to talk at them.
Marketing and sales are not about telling stories. They are about engaging customers in shared stories. The biggest changes in marketing and sales are not about the Internet, expanded database capabilities, or Tivo. Yes, those things count (a lot), but only in the way they help us deal with the biggest change of all. Today's customers do not want to be told what to think. They are much more likely to become interested in doing business with you if you are able to engage them in dialogues that help you both learn how you can work together.
Stop telling stories. Start co-creating stories with your customers.
Please visit my website, also, to share ideas on other topics, at www.yastrow.com.
Steve posted recently on dealing positively with the recession by doing better by your existing customers—and thus getting more of their business. Well, here's some nice support for Steve's view (and a useful quote). Horst Schulze is the legendary former Ritz-Carlton chief—father of "ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." He's come out of retirement to launch a luxury brand of small hotels. Here in Macau, I came across an interview with Horst in Prestige magazine (06.08). He directly addressed, with aplomb, the issue of starting a new business during a recession: "I [will] not accept the explanation of a recession negatively affecting the [new] business. There are still people traveling. We just have to get them to stay in our hotel."
More or less took the words out of Steve Yastrow's mouth. (And words with which I agree heartily.)
The U.S. economy is in bad shape. If, by chance, you haven't heard about this yet, just turn on cable TV news for 30 seconds.
What does this mean to your business? It could be terrible, but it doesn't have to be.
How can I say that?
For the last few months, I have been asking workshop audiences the following questions:
1. What percent of your customers are giving you all the business they reasonably could?
2. What percent of your referral sources are giving you all the referrals they reasonably could?
The answers to these questions have stunned me, because they have been so low. I knew they would be quite a bit lower than 100%, but I've found that most executives estimate that only somewhere between 0 and 25% of customers are giving them all the business they could. The numbers are even lower for referral sources.
So, let's say that the economic downturn has softened the market for your products or services by 10—20%. Yes, that's a lot. But it pales in comparison to the 75% of the business you are missing if your current customers are only giving you 25% of their potential business.
Here's the cold, hard (but potential-laden) truth: For most companies, the untapped latent profit in their existing customer relationships is much greater than the magnitude of our current economic problems.
The downturn is real. But so is the amount of business you are missing from your current customer relationships. How do you develop this potential with your existing customers?
Customers who believe they are in "We" relationships with you will give you a larger share of their business. They are willing to pay more, and they are less likely to leave you for a competitor. On the other hand, customers who are in "Us & Them" relationships with you are more likely to spread the business around among your competitors, and will also be more likely to bolt to the competition for a lower price. If you create "We" relationships with your customers, one relationship-building encounter at a time, you will go a long way towards making up for—and maybe even surpassing—the effects of the soft economy.
No matter your job title, no matter your function within an organization, no matter your skills, you must also be a salesperson. Tom gives as an example a successful Hollywood producer who taught himself sales to pave his own path to big success. He continues on to say that if you want to get anything done [and implementaion is paramount to Tom], then you are in sales. Watch the video (3 minutes, 17 seconds) to hear the whole story from Tom himself.
[If you'd like a transcript of Tom's message, you can download a PDF here.]
Got an email through the website pointing me to this blog at ideasonideas.com that attacked an ad agency exec for being clueless about banner ads. I had to admit that if not clicking on banner ads makes one clueless, then I must be counted among the clueless as well.
But, before my sentencing ...
I do an insane amount of shopping on the Web (I'd bet I go online 30-50 times a day if I'm not speechifying), so does my wife, for any damn thing-category you can name, from clothes to food to books-DVDs-song downloads to trips to used stoves, etc, etc. Moreover, her home furnishings company does 50% of its sales on the Web, and the share is growing. For me, tompeters.com, ad-free incidentally (I'll explain if you'd like), has become my best marketing tool ever, ever, ever.
But neither my wife nor I is a banner-ad user, and I admit to harboring suspicions that Google is over-priced. I am at work on a Japanese garden at home (or will be when the weather allows, a jillion Vermont days from now). Among other things, I-we want a little bridge over a wee stream, the sort I saw a picture of somewhere, Web, mag, whatever. Now what? Susan's and my "now what" is 100% Web, but 0% banner ad. And, indeed, God bless Google. I simply typed in the search box "build or buy little bridge to traverse narrow stream," or some such. As I recall I had 87,000 choices, a surprise, but no surprise, given the # of words I used. Obviously, most were useless-unrelated. But after 15 minutes, and digging waaaaaaaaaaaay down beneath the top 10 or 20 (I always look for stuff deep down just to see what's there), I had a nice starter list of perhaps 20 leads; better yet, my mind, re possibilities, had been stretched beyond recognition. Now to me (old, 65) and my wife (none of your business), that was truly wondrous—100% use of the Web, circa 2008. But not banner ads.
An article in the February 18th AdAge.com newsletter, titled "Snide Advertising is Bad for Business and Society," decries the trend toward "sarcastic" and "malicious" advertising.
With examples such as the FedEx "Dean, I need you to continue not living up to your résumé" ad, which you might have seen, author Richard Rapaport shows how pervasive this trend is. "Take the culture's most facile minds, challenge them to pry cash from an increasingly tapped-out audience, and what do you get?" Rapaport asks. "Commercials built on sadism, on derision, on one-upsmanship—in a word, 'snide.'"
Rapaport is right. This trend is bad for business. So why does it happen?
First of all, let's not credit ad agency creatives with being "the culture's most facile minds." The advertising that major agencies practice is still based on the flawed notion that "brute force" wins the hearts, minds, and wallets of consumers. Snide is used because agency creatives (and their complicit clients) mistakenly believe that their goal is to "cut through the clutter." No, the goal is to create ads that blend with all other contacts the customer has with the company doing the advertising, in order to create a connection that encourages the customer to be more involved with that company and its products.
If these minds were so facile, they wouldn't miss, so completely, the point of what they are doing. Or, in a more cynical vein, we could say they know what they are doing, but are more interested in creating clever advertising than in helping their clients' businesses.
Advertising is a sick business. And it isn't just for the oft-mentioned reason that "consumers are using so many more media outlets—the Internet, hundreds of TV stations, thousands of publications."
It is because people just don't buy this way anymore. Customers—your customers—are scrutinizing, savvy, discerning, and self-reliant. They look beyond your promises, and consider every interaction with your company as a chance to evaluate you.
Snide advertising isn't only snide. It is anachronistic.
Late January always brings, along with the cold weather, news stories about Super Bowl advertising. We hear how Super Bowl advertising is a "no-brainer" because of the audience size, and how advertisers will benefit from "all the buzz."
I disagree with just about all of this news. In this post I will answer the seven most common reasons people think Super Bowl advertising is a great marketing opportunity:
* It's the only time you can reach so many people at one time.
* A Super Bowl advertiser gets extra value because people are interested in being entertained by the commercials.
* But it worked for (insert company name here).
* They must know what they are doing if they are spending so much money.
* You have to be there if your competitors are.
* It's ok if you're a big enough brand and can afford it.
* It burnishes a company's image, and can even increase a stock price.
If you've purchase a 30-second spot for this year's game, prepare to be upset with me.
It's the only time you can reach so many people at one time.
My first question: Why is it better to reach more people at one time? As the size of an advertising audience increases, you are also reaching many people who are not interested in your product. One of the big Super Bowl advertising stories this year is that 45% of the 90 million-person audience is expected to be female. Because of this, brands like Tide (P&G) and Sunsilk (Unilever) are buying Super Bowl ads focused on female buyers. Ok ... but that means they will also be reaching about 50 million disinterested males, at about 3 cents each. That's a lot of pennies.
We live in an age of smart consumers who are not easily sold. A rule for this marketplace: The more people you try to talk to at one time, the less effectively you communicate with each individual person. If you spread your marketing communications a mile wide and an inch deep, you run the risk of creating only superficial connections with customers.
A Super Bowl advertiser gets extra value because people are interested in being entertained by the commercials.
What is this all about, the Academy Awards or investments in improving business performance? People rate the ads on their entertainment value, when the only real value, the one that should be sought, is how well they drive business results. And let's be clear about something: Just because you entertain me, doesn't mean I will buy your product. Listen to people talk Monday morning after the big game—someone will be talking about an ad he likes, laughing uncontrollably as he drinks his coffee, spilling it all over his tie. Then he will stop, and say, "I can't remember what the ad was for, but it was funny."
Entertainment and cleverness do not necessarily translate to purchase behavior, even if they create a smile.
But it worked for (insert company name here).
Yes, some Super Bowl ads work. Putting all your chips on Red 14 at the roulette table in Vegas works once in a while, too. But Super Bowl ads and long-shot gambling bets don't work most of the time. And there is no formula; Super Bowl ad success cannot be predicted, and it can't be duplicated. It is a Black Swan.
They must know what they are doing if they are spending so much money.
Don't suspect that there is a lot of science going on here. There may be some Excel spreadsheet-based pseudo-science, but you should not imagine that companies are analyzing these investments the way they analyze other multi-million dollar investments.
In reality, many Super Bowl ad placements are "vanity buys," to quote a long-time ad agency media department veteran whom I know. In place of thoughtful analysis there is a lot of groupthink and forced rationale taking place.
You have to be there if your competitors are.
One of the first rules of advertising is that you should never make a specific advertising decision because your competitors are doing it. I've given many CEOs this advice: If one of your people tries to rationalize an advertising effort by saying, "We need to be there because our competitors are there," you should not approve the advertising effort. It is almost surely a bad idea, and you should ask for a better reason.
It's ok if you're a big enough brand and can afford it.
Like any risky investment, it should only be made if it can be lost. If you have a big enough marketing budget, and the Super Bowl can be a small piece of your overall effort, complementing hundreds of other touchpoints with customers that blend to create brand harmony, and if you will not be hurt if you lose your total investment, than you may be able to get away with it.
But recognize that it is a risk—a huge risk you are taking with your company's capital, a risk that has a high chance of producing a negative return.
It burnishes a company's image, and can even increase a stock price.
I encourage any marketing executive who wants to make that argument to go to his company's board of directors and stockholders and make it. Shareholders are the least likely to win from Super Bowl advertising. In fact if we think about who wins with Super Bowl advertising, we see that the ad agencies win, the networks win, and the NFL wins. We viewers also win, because we get all this free entertainment in the form of 30 second movies; we will laugh, even if we don't buy. It's the shareholders of the companies paying for the ads who tend to lose, because their management has made a very risky investment, with a high chance of failure. But these investments have been done under the guise of a great opportunity.
It is 1973. You are at Disneyworld. You enter Tomorrowland, and after a whirl on Space Mountain you decide to check out the new exhibit on the future of marketing. You hear ...
"By the early 21st century companies won't need to deal directly with customers anymore. Robotic computers, called CRMs, will handle all customer relationships. And, in fact, two companies will be able to create relationships with each other without any human contact, as their computers court each other to build a lasting friendship."
In 1973, delegating customer relationships to computers would have seemed ludicrous. 1973 was also the year Woody Allen introduced us to the "Orgasmatron" in his movie Sleeper. The idea that computers would some day substitute for human interaction was the stuff of satire.
A few weeks ago, one of our commenters at tompeters.com included a link to the wikipedia.com entry for customer relationship management (CRM). I clicked on the link and saw that the entry did not talk about customer relationships. It talked about software.
A few Google clicks later I was at the whatis.com definition of customer relationship management, which described, "methodologies, software, and usually Internet capabilities that help an enterprise manage customer relationships ..."
Hmmm. If you read these definitions you'd think that businesses don't need to deal with the messy task of managing customer relationships on their own. Why bother, when you can delegate this task to a computer?
The November 2007 cover story in National Geographic is about memory. The article sheds some light on this problem, describing a, "vast superstructure of technological crutches that we've invented so that we don't have to store information in our brains. We've gone, you might say, from remembering everything to remembering awfully little. ... What have the implications of this outsourcing of memory been for ourselves and for our society? Has something been lost?"
Yes, something has been lost. The relationship itself has been lost.
Using technology to support collective corporate memory is not a bad thing. The bad thing is using the crutch of the computer to become brain-dead and impersonal.
We need to remember this: CRM systems don't manage customer relationships. People do.
My challenge: Will anyone suggest a definition of customer relationship management that doesn't include the words, "software," "application," "system" or "database?"
As I left home in the north suburbs for day one of a two-day conference, I threw a change of clothes into the car. A late-afternoon snowstorm was forecast, and I wanted the option to opt out of a hellish commute home. At about 4:30 p.m., I exercised that option and booked the Palmer House on Hotwire.com for $93. That's a really low price for a great hotel. Unfortunately, they felt the need to remind me what a low price I paid.
At check-in, I asked if my Hilton Honors number was in my reservation record. The front desk agent said that I wasn't eligible for Hilton Honors points. "If you book on Hotwire or Priceline, you don't get points."
Hey, I know the price is low. But that's not my fault. That's the Palmer House's problem. In fact, it's not really their fault, it's their fortune. I wish I had such an efficient business faucet when I was in the hotel business—when I put up the first hotel company website in 1994 for Hyatt Resorts, selling rooms and managing inventory online seemed, literally, like 2001: A Space Odyssey.
If a company wants to sell distressed inventory at a low price to a long-time customer, I highly recommend that their frame of reference is the relationship with the customer, not the price of the immediate transaction. The Palmer House has to pay into a redemption liability fund for each Hilton Honors reservation, but, I believe, it is a percentage of the rate they receive, not an absolute number. (I'll try to verify that—if anyone knows for sure, please comment.) It's this simple: If they want my business at times when the market rate for a room is $250, they should really recognize that it's still the same "me" when I buy a room at the market rate of $93.
(And, notice that the front desk agent didn't say, "Mr. Yastrow, since you booked on Hotwire this time, we can't give you points." She said, "If you book on Hotwire or Priceline," which translates, "If you're one of those people who book cheap." Don't call your long-term customers "one of those people.")
Years ago I did some work with the Ford division of the Ford Motor Company. I distinctly remember division boss Ross Roberts saying [booming] to me, "Whoever said marketing programs were not powerful is nuts. We have brilliantly trained a generation of consumers not to come into the dealership unless we offer $3,000 off." Likewise, I heard on "Marketplace" this morning that one reason seasonal spending is lower than expected is that consumers won't shop until stores offer deep discounts—which they increasingly do, long before 12.26.
Something about reaping what ye sow, eh?
Recently we have had some very good discussion about customer relationships—thank you for the comments. Last Friday I offered part one of a two-part definition of a customer relationship:
A relationship is an ongoing conversation with a customer ...
Here's the rest of the suggested definition:
A relationship is an ongoing conversation with a customer, in which the customer never thinks of you without thinking of the two of you.
We've had a great conversation here over the last few days about customer relationships.
What is a customer relationship? I will suggest a two-part definition, but I would like to offer it one part at a time. Here's the first part:
A customer relationship is an ongoing conversation with your customer ...
I was eating lunch with an executive of a hotel company, in a restaurant located at one of his company's hotels. He was talking about competitive threats, describing how companies in his category are constantly copying each other's innovations. I said, "If I were your competitor, I could walk into this hotel and easily copy your physical product. I could study your service standards, and copy them too. What I could not copy are the personal relationships you have with your customers. Those relationships would be impenetrable to me."
In an age of interchangeable products and easily duplicated services, customer relationships have become one of the most powerful competitive advantages available to a business. Do you agree?
What about your business? Can your competitors copy your products and services? What about your private relationships with customers? Are those more difficult to duplicate?
We all want our customers to believe "I can't get it anywhere else" when they think of us. Relationships between you and a customer are often the best opportunity to create something unique and irreplaceable in your customer's mind.
Put your "customer hat" on. Aren't you the most enthralled with a business—or most upset—when the relationships you have with that business is either really good, or really bad?
Do you agree—are strong customer relationships one of the best ways to keep the competition away from your customers?
Bob and Tom are idiots! Neither of them, in 1982 in In Search of Excellence, predicted that in October 2007 there would be a Vanity Fair ad for Louis Vuitton featuring Mikhail Gorbachev sitting in the back of a limo with his Vuitton bag at his side.
Headline, Wall Street Journal, 3 October 2007: "Wal*Mart Era Wanes Amid Big Shifts In Retail: Rivals Find Strategies To Defeat Low Prices; World Has Changed"
Sentence #1: "The Wal*Mart Era, the retailer's time of overwhelming business and social influence in America, is drawing to a close."
(You know my biases ... I'm not surprised. "Lasting" is a chimera.)
Here is a postulate:
In a retail service business (store, hotel, restaurant, hair salon, etc.) it is always "better" when the customer learns the service employee's first name, either from a personal introduction or a name tag.
Is this true? Always?
If so, what can "better" mean?
In a recent workshop of mine we were discussing the waning effectiveness of advertising. A participant asked, "Doesn't the success of the Aflac duck prove that advertising works?" I responded that of course some advertising works, but for every Aflac duck or GEICO gecko there are a million (billion?) ad campaigns that don't work. The success of one does not imply the success of any others.
Then I realized that the Aflac duck is actually a Black Swan.
Nassim Taleb describes Black Swans as "large-impact events with small but incomputable probabilities." Black Swans are often associated with 18th century British philosopher David Hume but, as Taleb points out, Hume never used the term. The similarity comes from Hume's "Problem of Induction" that says that we can't infer anything outside our own experience—I have only ever seen white swans, but that does not prove that there are no black swans.
Taleb is more interested in approaching the same induction problem from the other direction. His Black Swan concept would say one Aflac duck doesn't tell us anything about how likely it is that other similar advertising successes could happen. In fact, as Taleb would say, we are "fooled by randomness" and have a tendency to overestimate the likelihood that unlikely events will repeat themselves. The Aflac duck is an "outlier," a "surprise," not an indication that other companies should spend millions of dollars behind animal advertising mascots.
I will freely admit (possibly opening myself to criticism), that I have not read Bang! Getting Your Message Heard In A Noisy World, by Linda Kaplan Thaler, the creator of the Aflac duck. I'm told by mutual acquaintances that Kaplan Thaler is brilliant. But the idea that we can translate these Black Swans to good, productive marketing decisions for our own companies is completely antithetical to my beliefs. We have been fooled by the relatively infrequent successes of brute-force advertising and branding for too long. We must recognize that these visible successes don't give us any more reason to invest heavily in advertising than does George Clooney's success tell me I should move to Hollywood and try to make it in the movies.
There is an interesting article in this month's Harvard Business Review called "Breaking the Trade-off Between Efficiency and Service." The basic idea is that service businesses, unlike manufacturers, have the unfortunate challenge that customers come barging in and interfere with their operations, introducing significant variability. Most businesses think they face a black and white choice:—accommodate the variability, or reduce it. The author, Frances Frei, says there are better ways to address this challenge.
While reading this article, I came face to face with this problem as I tried to order toast.
I was in a local restaurant, waiting for a colleague to show up for a breakfast meeting. I was reading how Frei suggests that there are easy, creative ways to offer either low-cost accommodation or uncompromised reductions in service.
I wanted to order toast while I was waiting, so I wouldn't have to drink coffee on an empty stomach. The waitress described the available choices, and both the multi-grain and rye bread sounded good. I asked her to split the order and give me one piece of each. She said, "We're not allowed to do that." I laughed reflexively. I see all sorts of stupid service decisions in my work, but this one seemed lower than inane. She started telling me about all sorts of rules they have against substitutions, complaining that her boss was needlessly rigid. "Customers always get mad at me, but they don't realize that it's the owner's rules." I jokingly asked her if each loaf had an even number of slices, and maybe he was worried about what to do with odd slices that might be left over.
I told her I'd take the rye, unless she was able to bend the rules. She came back and quickly dropped the mixed order on the table, as if she were delivering some contraband. When she came back to fill the coffee, I thanked her. I said, "You made it happen." She said, "I asked my boss and he laughed, but he let me do it."
Ok, I couldn't resist—I had to say something to the owner. After all, I'm a public speaker always in search of a good story, and I smelled the scent of an anecdote wafting towards me from the kitchen. So, on the way out I saw the owner and asked him about his rule. "I told her you could have it, didn't I?" he said indignantly. "I was just curious," I responded. "It's strange. Why would anyone want two different kinds?" "Did he just say I'm strange?" I thought. "I told her you could have it, didn't I? We just want to keep things simple." He walked away from me, pissed off.
Frances Frei is right that there is often a tension between service accommodation and service reduction. But she tells us that we must understand that trade-off, and then we will find ways to make good choices. But if we don't think things through and try to build efficiency around modest gains, such as policies against Heterogeneous Toast Order Fulfillment (HTOF), we'll end up driving away customers for stupid reasons.
And then, to replace those customers, we'll have to do something much more inefficient than serve combo toast: Advertising.
[We edited this post. The author of the article is named Frances Frei, with an e, and she is female, so we fixed her name and changed the pronoun referring to her. You can see her bio here. We apologize to her for getting her name wrong, and we thank Ryan Buell, one of her students, for setting us straight.—CM]
I was conducting a workshop yesterday with hotel industry salespeople. We were discussing how to have meaningful encounters with customers, and had arrived at a section of the workshop that focused on getting beyond the facade of business roles ("salesperson" and "customer") to see each other as unique, special people.
One participant commented: "We are now allowed to talk about things beyond business, to ask about our customers' personal lives, so we can get to know them as people."
I loved how she articulated that. Her belief—which I share—is that we have arrived at a point in time where genuine human encounter in business is more valued than ever. It is accepted and expected to go beyond the strict bounds of business to create meaningful business relationships.
And, of course, this means that it is not only appropriate to seek to know a customer as a real person, it is important for the person who is selling to reveal his or her humanity. Salespeople playing the role of salespeople is out. Salespeople being themselves is in.
The great philosopher Martin Buber described three types of dialogue:
1. Genuine dialogue
2. Technical dialogue (explanations of things)
3. Monologue disguised as dialogue
I loved that description of "monologue disguised as dialogue," where conversation is only a pretense for making one's self heard.
Buber writes that monologue disguised as dialogue is where "two or more men, meeting in space, speak each with himself in strangely tortuous and circuitous ways." In other words, they are really only talking to themselves, and not with each other.
Bad sales pitches, bosses who pretend to listen but only talk, most marketing copy writing ... all of this can be called monologue disguised as dialogue. Have you spotted any of this lately?
Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, and one of our Cool Friends, is going to have to put his money where his mouth is. He just landed a $430 million contract to take over JCPenney's advertising account, and he promises to turn it into a "lovemark" for middle American consumers.
Hmmmm ... let's see if the guy who wrote the book about it can do it. Kevin's really putting his reputation on the line. Anyone want to place bets?
I see a trend going in the right direction ...
In companies where front-line employees have direct customer contact, it's common for there to be a "12-step process" or "19-point customer service checklist" that tells employees what they have to do when they meet a customer. Often, these companies hire people to pose as customers and rate employee compliance on these steps. I heard a story of a hotel front desk clerk who received an apology at check-out from one of these hired "blind" shoppers who said, "You were one of the best people I've seen in this company, but I'm going to have to give you a bad grade because you skipped a lot of steps."
Ugh. Not surprisingly, when I work with front-line employees at companies like this they tell me how silly the scripted processes are. One company I worked with had a 38-step process. Luckily, none of the employees I interviewed knew what the 38 steps were.
The good news ... I'm starting to see companies realize the folly of this rigid employee scripting. Recent comment from the operations V.P. of a client company: "We don't need a 16-step process. We need one step: Connect with the customer."
Is this a trend that is really happening? If so, is it all good, or am I missing something?
New U.S. Census Bureau stats: Nationally, 1 in 5 Americans speaks a language other than English in the home. In California, it's 2 in 5, and for 2/3 of those California homes the other language is not Spanish.
The Onion's satirical description of Derek Jeter's new fragrance line: "An oxymoron you can smell."
(The Onion must have a thing for Jeter these days. A headline in the same issue: "Expert: Derek Jeter probably didn't need to jump to throw that guy out.")
An article in today's adage.com discusses recruiting firm Spencer Stuart's latest survey on the longevity of chief marketing officers. The key result: The average CMO lasts in the job only 23.2 months, down from 23.6 just two years ago. More than 50% of CMOs surveyed had been in the job less than a year.
The causes? The implications? I have my thoughts, which I'll share in the comments. Your thoughts?
Yesterday's post from Tom about selling has generated a lot of talk. It was chosen for the marketingprofs blog, and it's the topic of a post titled "Selling Stuff" on Clickz.com today. So, take a look, but if you want to comment, we'd of course prefer you do it on our website, not here, but at the original post: "My Schtick."
I'm on a new campaign. (Old campaign, really, but renewed vigor—and I single it out from the noise.) I am trying to put ... SALES ... back on the pedestal it deserves. In the process I suppose I'm down-grading marketing—and that's more than okay per me. Of course I think marketing is incredibly important, but I think it intellectually comes second after sales—and the like of MBA programs have mostly eliminated sales from the picture. Stupid! Hence one of my favorite quotes these days is from Robert Louis Stevenson: "Everyone lives by selling something."
This all came up in a presentation yesterday. I championed my Client's cause—the more intense and focused use of databases and analytics associated therewith in marketing. I said, fine—as long as you'll substitute the word "sales" for "marketing." I claimed—and I'm faithful to it in practice—that my two favorite "businessman's terms" are: Sales. Revenue. (Good stuff.) (Very good stuff.)
I also cautioned about the use of "integrated marketing." I said, "Fine, as long as we fully comprehend that said 'integrated marketing' is in service to 'selling more stuff.'" On a roll, I suggested that the extended use of data did not mean, as some said, that "marketing" was going "left brained" (more analytic). Data and analysis, by the front-end-loader-full? Fine! But ... all sales-marketing is in the end about the "Two Es"—Emotion and Experiences. And this is as true for commercial sales as for consumer transactions. The increasingly sophisticated and intense use of data and analytics is effective only to the extent that it supports emotion, experience, sales, and revenue. Period.
I'd acknowledge that's a little strong—but my point, as usual, is to correct what I see as incorrect biases.
What are the characteristics of a great customer relationship?
I don't think pharmaceutical advertisers should be required to include medical disclaimers in their television commercials.
You know what I'm talking about—"Side effects may include nausea, bloating and diarrhea ..." "Be sure to tell your doctor if ..."Do not take this medication if ..."
Requirements to include these warnings are based on the fallacy that the advertising will sell the product. The advertising is a small piece of the sell, and the doctors and product literature, which are also part of the sell, can fill in the warnings. Why should the rest of us have to listen to that unpleasant information? After all, a campaign might be successful and still have 99%+ of viewers not in the target audience. So don't make the rest of us listen to that stuff. The video of happy patients is insufferable enough.
I'm all for protecting patients. But let's not inflate the power of the ads—which don't function in a vacuum. Let the doctor do the dirty work when only the interested patient is listening. (If he can't be trusted to do that he shouldn't be trusted to prescribe the medication. TV commercials do not exist to protect us from doctors.)
Power. Simplicity. "Customer = Anyone whose actions affect your results." This keeps rolling around in my head. Profound. Profound in its implications. Way cool.
[Tom's referring to this blog entry by Steve Yastrow.—CM]
A current commercial for Just For Men hair coloring features the music of this Jackson 5 song, which we've all heard thousands of times:
Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby
Ah—the difference between saying something and being understood.
This was, most likely, the rationale Just For Men used to justify the choice of song: "Our product is so genuine and authentic that people will assume it's the real color of a person's hair."
But I'm sure I'm not the only one who hears, "This product ain't nothin' like the real thing."
I have, for the past few years, been using the following definition of a customer:
Anyone whose actions affect your results
I have found it to work in just about any situation. (It helps explain why vendors and employees are customers, too. Not to mention bankers and municipal authorities.)
Last line of voiceover in a commercial for Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch Cereal:
Tastes so good you won't believe it's Grape Nuts!
John Stratton, chief marketing officer at Verizon Wireless, spoke at a gathering of 400 ad agency and entertainment executives last week. His message: He is not happy about spending $1 billion a year on "overvalued, inefficient, rapidly eroding mass market advertising platforms that continue to under deliver."
He offered 8 points of warning to the audience, which are included in the extended entry. (Reprinted from adage.com) Do you agree?
John Stratton's 8 points of warning:
1. Your clients are absolutely in trouble and they are looking for you to save them.
2. What you've been selling for the last fifty years no longer works.
3. Major marketing money is going to be in motion in the next decade and no one really yet understands exactly where it will land, if it even will land, or if it will just disappear altogether.
4. Before they figure out where to put their money, your marketer clients will hire and fire agency after agency, seeking someone, anyone, who can tell them where they might go next.
5. CMO average tenure, already famously brief, will get even shorter as CEOs begin to recognize how much money they are blowing on antiquated media plans.
6. Your marketer clients are really seeking one thing and one thing only: An audience for the message they are trying to convey to the market place.
7. But your clients actually need more than just an audience. One of the consequences of the evolution of our media delivery systems over the last ten years is that the audience you do ultimately find is much less receptive to the message you're trying to send. They are absolutely armed and ready to get to the content they want while avoiding the message you are trying to implant within it.
8. They need much more than an audience. They need an audience that cares about what they have to say. They need their message to be relevant to the audience they are saying it to.
Steve Rushin's column in Sports Illustrated this week is titled "A Billion People Can Be Wrong." He quotes a number of publications that claim the Super Bowl will be watched by 1 billion people in 225 countries. He then provides stats that show only 93 million people watched last year, with 98% of them in North America. As he points out, we're only 907 million people short of a billion.
Why is the Super Bowl such a hype magnet? Why are the advertising rates and the viewer stats so inflated? (Maybe this is where football's steroid use can be found). Yes, 93 million is an awful lot, but it sure isn't a billion.
With one week to go, Superbowl advertising is nearly sold out at $2.5 million for 30 seconds.
I'm in the middle of a great book, Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire, which gives us an interesting take on what might cause this kind of absurd spending. We've always looked at the domestication of plants and animals as a symbol of humanity's power over other species. Pollan turns this idea on its head, showing how four species of plants have exploited different human desires to help them thrive. The four plants and the related desires are the apple (sweetness), tulip (beauty), marijuana (intoxication), and potato (control). We have to ask, who is the domesticator, and who is the domesticated? Makes me think of Superbowl advertising. (Read on ...)
The Tulip chapter describes the Tulipmania craze in Holland during 1635-1637, where prices for tulip bulbs and futures contracts on these bulbs rose to unbelievable levels. In Pollan's world, this isn't only a story of human greed and the non-wisdom of crowds, but it's also a story of how the tulip was able to take advantage of a human need. The Dutch, constrained by Calvinist morals and living in a drab, monochromatic environment, were vulnerable to the tulip's brilliant beauty. This gave tulip genes an opportunity to replicate themselves in great numbers. Tulipmania was not only good for the speculators who were able to sell and collect, but was also really good for the tulip.
My contention: Although a few advertisers may benefit from Superbowl advertising, the only sure winner is the broadcaster. Let's not kid ourselves about the real value in Superbowl advertising. The broadcasters have cashed in on marketers' need for notoriety (notice I didn't write the word "sales").
The bursting of the Tulipmania bubble started small and exploded quickly. When one seller couldn't get his price, the word spread and the market went into a rapid collapse. Ultimately, this was very good for the economy in Amsterdam. One day, in the not too distant future, it's possible that the broadcaster of the Superbowl won't be able to get its price and that market could collapse also. That might be the best thing for Superbowl advertisers.
Last September college student Alex Tew launched a new business to fund his college education. It was called "The Million Dollar Homepage." His scheme was to sell advertising space on a 1 million pixel homepage to advertisers for $1 per pixel.
Believe it or not, The Million Dollar Homepage is sold out. Most of the ads are tiny (the minimum was a 100 pixel ad), so the result is a visual cacophony of banner ads like none you have ever seen. If it's true that the average American is exposed to 5000 advertising and promotional messages per day, you can get your minimum daily requirement just by going to The Million Dollar Homepage every morning.
I can easily imagine the thoughts and discussions people concocted to convince themselves to make this marketing investment. "Just think of the PR value." "We'll capture so many eyeballs." "It'll be so hot, we gotta be there."
How anyone could think this is great marketing is beyond me. It represents the worst of clutter culture, where the customer is so overwhelmed by noise that nobody (except Alex Tew) can possibly get something out of it.
And, of course, most of the ads it has attracted are pretty junky. Sure, the Times of London is an advertiser, but its ad is in the vicinity of one for "Busty Mousepads" and another one for "Revenge," where a mouseover reveals this copy: "Get revenge on ANYONE quickly—send them a (fake) poo today!" Great proximity for the Times. There are, of course, the obligatory ads that are nothing but a micro picture of an attractive woman. Put your cursor over one and it will reveal "STRANGE DISEASES—Bizarre Medical Pictures." Another female picture brings forth the copy "Medical writer/pharmaceutical and sales training." Wow, now that's effective advertising.
So Alex Tew seemed like the only winner, until some extortionists threatened to hack his site if he didn't pay them. He refused and they shut down his site for 5 days, and now he's being sued by advertisers whose ads weren't viewable during that time. Yes, these litigants are just looking for more "PR value."
"TV is not dead, but if you're going to do TV, you have to create stuff that people seek out. Just because you buy 30 seconds doesn't mean you'll have an impact. You have to do something remarkable with it."—David Lubars, Creative Director, BBDO (USA Today/12.19.2005
"Remarkable." Duh! (But invariably honored in the breach.)
The Ameritrade TV spot opens with a 15 year old girl coming into the room to ask her dad for money for some new jeans. Dad asks about the jeans, and as he hears about them, his investment antennae go up. "What kind of jeans?" She tells him the name of the brand. "Are they designer jeans?" "Yes," answers the daughter. "Are they popular?" "Everybody's got them." "Everybody's got them?" "Yep."
Dad's brow furrows. He sits down on the couch and opens his laptop. Asks his daughter the name of the jeans again. Buys 100 shares. Sits back looking satisfied. She then, predictably, has to remind him to give her the money to buy a pair of the jeans. Cute.
Isn't this just the problem with amateur online investing, that by the time "everybody" has bought the jeans a ton of vigilant investors will have bought the stock, and the poor Ameritrade customer will have to buy high and sell low? Doesn't this look like it is advertising designed by an amateur investor?
Yesterday's "Cubicle Culture" column in the Wall Street Journal discussed how frequently companies confuse employees with catchy slogans intended to motivate them. Empty names like "The Big Event" and "Dare to Be Different" sound great when execs make them up, but often don't mean anything to employees. The article describes an old IBM slogan, "A Quarter At A Time," which was designed to improve short-term results, but was interpreted by a manager in this way: "I have a $14 million quota. That's a lot of quarters."
We've all seen this kind of stuff. Why does it happen?
Here's my take: Internal marketing programs are critical. A company can't create internal or external brand harmony if its people have conflicting views about what the company is and what it intends to be.
But, most companies don't take the process very seriously. They create slogans with no underlying strategic "genealogy," and then use clumsy advertising-influenced methods for communicating with their own employees. Any wonder why employees are confused?
So, is the problem with the general idea of internal marketing, or with the way it is typically executed?
Ed Cotton, over at Influx Insights (one of our favorite blogs), just gave us the low down on an upcoming conference about the future of marketing called M Squared. It's September 27th at the Presidio in San Francisco. Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and one of our Cool Friends, will be speaking. And so will Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine (yes, he's the one who started the buzz about The Long Tail). That's enough to convince me to want to go. If you need more, check out the rest of the line up here.
What we're talking about on the front page.
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
What we're talking about
on the front page.