Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Easy Path to Over Targeting

There is a popular film now in theaters featuring a huge cast of superheroes.  Various figures and groups of heroes appearing were featured in earlier films.  Each of these films was successful enough that it is clear the producers thought that combining them in ever-larger combinations would be an even greater hit.  Well, maybe.  And this is an object lesson for any business.

My argument is that too many targets can weaken the entire marketing campaign.

Why?  Let's look at our "Mega-film".  Twenty two characters can only have so much screen time and some, from what I understand, don't even have any lines!  If I am a fan of "Steel Guy" I am in risk of being annoyed that "Furry Creature" is eating into my hero's face time.  And that's assuming the film isn't a hopeless mishmash.  (Which some critics say it is.)

Similarly, if I attempt to message too many different target audiences I risk weakening my message and creating the image of not focusing much on whatever, say, Target Group A wants when I try to throw a line out to B at the same time.  This creates the possibility I'll look like too much a generalist and easy to disregard in favor of a specialist competitor.

Bottom Line:  Be careful not to pile on with the superheroes and end up creating a badly diluted campaign.  Focus a given message on one carefully identified target audience and give that target the largest possible face time with your product and service. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Dangers of Dumbing Down

Call me old fashioned, but I am increasingly irritated by a rash of "dumbed down" advertisements in today's pop culture.  These sorts of messages may not work as expected.

What do I mean?  Ads that use excessive vernacular or childish words (my current peeve is "melty"), display infantile behavior, affect "edginess" and which assume that the consumer is mentally about age seven.  My suspicion is that, like too many businesses, there is a lemming-like desire to speak to the so-called Millennial Generation and that the agencies presume that Millennials are a pack of underdeveloped lightweights.  To be sure, some are.  However, my long experience assures me that the vast majority are highly intelligent consumers.

People respond to complimentary images in advertising.  That is, if they see themselves in a message, they will be more attentive.  If they see something else, they're almost certainly going to tune out.  Or worse, if they see offensive stereotypes they may react more forcefully---by sharing their negative impression with others.

My guess is that the sort of advertising I described above is backfiring.  Those campaigns are likely not creating much in the way of new customers and may even be driving out previous customers. 

Bottom Line:  It is always the best policy to speak to potential customers in a manner that assures them that you respect them.  My advice is never to react to pop culture cues and speak down, and never describe customers as fools.  There is a positive payoff to "smarting up".

Thursday, April 5, 2018

(Re)freshing Thoughts

I've just spotted the most delightful advertisement on the side of a tractor-trailer.  The name of the advertiser isn't important, but the message was wonderful.  It read "the freshest thought in fresh mushrooms." 

Step back a moment and consider this.  There's almost nothing intrinsically exciting about mushrooms (to non-foodies, at least).  Getting a consumer excited about them is going to be a challenge. 

Yet here is an advertiser who grabbed the bull by the horns and embraced the challenge.  They didn't hesitate to call attention to the humdrum commodity product and add a new layer of depth without going over the wall.  By this I mean they didn't use hyperbole (e.g. "the best mushrooms ever", or "our mushrooms are the freshest).  Instead they suggested that they're doing some serious thinking about delivering the freshest possible mushrooms.  Heck, one thinks, if they are so dedicated to mushrooms their entire produce line must be wonderful!  In all, a deft touch. 

Bottom Line:  Sometimes the route to a good message is through the humblest offerings.  A marketer must not disparage or fear humble fare, and by embracing it with gusto and plausible language can gain the attention of a prospect. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lessons from History

I recently came across a discussion of what many scholars consider the oldest known example of advertising and content marketing.  It is a wonderful object lesson in the essentials of good messaging.

One Hapu, a rug merchant in ancient Egyptian Thebes, posted handbills asking help in tracking down a runaway slave.  To faciliate the hoped-for reunion, Hapu provided some details on where respondents might find him. 

But Hapu was a clever fellow and didn't stop at his street address.  He went into profuse detail on his wares, advising that he had the trendiest carpet designs and exciting colors.  In short, Hapu made sure to do his content marketing to inspire some sales.

Here we are, 5,000 years later and the rules are the same.  Prospects want to know how and where to find you and understand your market advantage, products and services and how those make their lives better.  The only real difference is that Hapu had access to limited (albeit state of the art for his time) marketing channels.  I'm willing to guess that Hapu put up those handbills in the right places to optimize his chances of reaching his real target customer.

Bottom Line:  It is so easy to be distracted by the razzle-dazzle of the up-to-the-minute ideas in marketing science.  But in the end we must be guided by the eternal truths of messaging.  As you get your message out, think like Hapu and focus on the right message for the right audience.  Learn the time-tested lessons of history.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Retreat From Social Media

Remember the 1990s when "" startups were such a rage? And then the bubble burst?  I'm beginning to think something similar is taking place in social media marketing.

For the last several years I have observed with great interest enormous emphasis placed on social media marketing.  Everyone talks about it, but I don't see the great results.  In fact, quite a few of my small business peers are complaining that social media isn't much of a force for them.

The reasons are legion.  Rules are unpredictably changing, costs are always higher than expected, and "clicks", likes, and especially purchases are not anywhere near aspirations.  Add to that a highly fragmented marketplace and you have yourself a very unsatisfying "solution."

I think there will be a steady retreat from social media marketing to something more reasonable.  I think there is a place for this channel but it will be down the list a bit when all is said and done.  To echo the 1990s, a bubble is bursting and the casual adherents will find something new to try.

Bottom Line:  Marketing will in all probability be less successful than ever on social media.  It's time to think carefully about the channels you need to use to be most successful.  As always these will be aligned with your target customer.  Don't rule out more traditional channels if they are the gateway to your best prospects.  And as always, be leery of fads!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Not long ago I engaged a fellow professional networker in conversation---someone I'd never met before.  The conversation instantly fell apart, and the "why" should be of concern to everyone who interacts with a prospective customer.

My opening gambit was to ask for a business card and the statement that I was interested in the pertinent service on behalf of someone else I knew.  And I stated a specific reason for the interest.

I expected follow-up questions from the service provider so that more insight in my interest could be gained.  To my utter surprise, the person refuted my reason and began a lecture -- with statistics -- to buttress the refutation. 

A better way to have handled this was for the person to validate me and understand my perspective, and to reinforce that with additional ways to use the service.  After all, I was a hot lead.  Who cares why I might want to buy unless I was absolutely a poor fit.  Which I wasn't. 

As one would expect, I disengaged from this unproductive discussion and scratched this provider from my hot list.  I'm not going to do business with someone who fundamentally disrespected me.

Bottom Line:  When a prospect reaches out, every effort should be made to welcome and validate that prospect.  After that, take time to better understand the prospect's needs and share ideas for making the prospect's experience the best it can be. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Personal Equation

A recent conversation with a client reminded me that the very best marketing is often one that brings the person to the front.  This client bemoaned the struggle to gain traction using some of the most impersonal marketing that could be used.  This is unfortunately quite common.

Especially for a new business a connection with prospective customers must be made.  Channels like print advertising, email marketing and flyers are so prevalent that prospects won't perceive merits in the new business.  Often the business owner has such presence and charm that their personalities can make a huge difference and channels that recognize that will be vastly more effective.

In such cases, adding messaging that's conveyed in person (e.g. trade shows, sidewalk sales), video or even audio will create an important advantage.  Video, especially, can be added to web sites, shared in emails and social media, and (via QRC) on any print message.

Bottom Line:  Put your personality to work in your marketing!  Look for opportunities to share personal messages through a visual or auditory media and help clients better understand you and what you have to offer.  Don't let your work and presence get lost in the blizzard of impersonal messages.