Last night, I posted a request that you switch from your Feedburner-sent newsletter of my blog. It turns out that you may have been getting the posts through Google also. Posts look horrible in both, and they both add ads that I can’t control, which are sometimes inappropriate.
So, I asked you to look and see if Feedburner was at the bottom. if it was, I asked you to unsubscribe and re-subscribe using the form at the bottom. Well, it seems that they also strip out forms, so the form was missing. Let’s try again:
So, here’s what I’d like you to do: Look at the bottom of this newsletter. If the very last line says that it’s powered by Google or Feedblitz, please unsubscribe by clicking on the appropriate link. Then, go to mnav.com and put your email in the form in the upper right sidebar, and click the button. This whole thing should take about 15 seconds. Thanks.
You may need to make a simple click and re-enter your email if you want to continue to receive the best of my thinking. Why?
I’m switching off to a Newsletter-Centric rather than a Blog-Centric format. The difference is that blog posts are either read by newsreader software or by an automatic newsletter format such as Feedburner. If you don’t know what RSS is, you are probably reading this either on the blog directly or in an automatically generated format from Feedburner. This restricts my ability to send my subscribers special insider information that I don’t want to post generally on my blog, such as giving them access to various ebooks that I don’t want to give away to the general public.
Take my word for it, you want to fill out the form below, especially if you haven’t received my Special Report, “The 10 Simple Yeses to More Sales Faster.”
Please do it now before you forget. If you get duplicates, unscribe from the Feedburner newsletter. It will say “Feedburner” at the bottom. If you are not sure, enter your email address in the form and click the button. If you are already subscribed, it will tell you so. If not, you will be. Enjoy.
In the wake of my Delta incident, I’ve been asked by some readers for specific directions about how to complain on Twitter in a way that will get results.
It’s very simple: Just mention the company with an “@” sign in front of it. Or, do a search on Twitter to find out the Twitter account name they use, and put an @ sign in front if it. In the Case of Delta, I didn’t bother to look up what they used, and just used @Delta. It turns out that they use @Deltaassist, but they picked up on it quickly. As I mentioned in my previous post, don’t come from anger. Come from service to the company and your fellow followers. That said, ridicule, sarcasm and satire are fine, particularly if you can be funny.
Here is a list of the Tweets that I used, In reverse chronological order (Recent –> older). Read them from the bottom up.
Below are the complete public messages, omitting a few minor Direct (private) Messages that gave them the details of my Confirmation Number and the flights I wanted.
Note: to send them a private message, once the company responds to you, you have to “follow” them, then click “Messages” and you can then send them a private message.
Note how absurdly simple the whole dialogue was. But, it saved me $1200 ($150 change fee, $450 in fare adjustments times 2), plus several days of awaiting and sitting in a hurricane.
I hope this helps you get out of — or stay out of trouble — in the future.
P.S., our house is fine. Thanks to those who asked.
Wikipedia says that:
Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments. It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.
Blah, blah, blah. Sounds great, but it’s completely useless. It’s almost the general definition of Business.
Let me give you a much more useful way to look at marketing:
Marketing is offering people something that is more valuable to them than the price you are charging – and getting them to see that it’s a good deal.
The first part is trade. The second part makes it marketing.
Marketing is not something you do to customers, it’s something you do for customers.
It’s the service of making the right decisions easier for the customer.
This statement has been floating around the Internet for years. It’s my most quoted statement. I’m delighted, because it goes right to the core: make the right decision easy.
Why is marketing about making decisions easier?
Because easy means faster and that’s really the hidden secret behind marketing success. If you can get customers to make decisions faster for your product than the competitor’s products, then you accumulate customers faster, even without greater brand choice.
But “faster” isn’t the primary thing to focus on. When people focus on getting the customer to act faster, they end up pushing or pulling the customer, creating resistance, and prolonging the decision cycle.
It’s sort of what happens when people focus directly on making money as the primary goal, rather than creating value. Money is a consequence of value creation, in fact, it’s the primary way that value is stored. Focus on money first, and weird things happen. Focus on value, and magical things happen. In the same way, focus on making customer decisions easier and simpler every step of the way, and sales accelerate automatically.
Marketing = easier decisions. Another reason
People are overloaded, with dozens of New Media. They don’t have time to deliberate. They are swamped. They don’t have time to sort through the flood of information. You provide the service of saving people from the time and burden of deliberation.
Marketing helps the customer at every step of the decision-making process:
- Helps the customer find you more easily. In fact, marketing in good companies is part of product development in most good companies. The product wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for marketing.
- Helps the customer get information about you more easily, understand it, weigh it, see what’s relevant, compare you to the competition
- Helps the customer try your product, evaluate the trial, decide who the winner is.
- Helps make it easier to buy, pay, get delivery, reduce risk (return policies, guarantees & warranties)
- Helps the customer learn, use, fix and teach the product. Only a few companies have discovered that customer service isn’t a cost center, it’s a marketing center. Companies like Amazon, Zappo’s, Apple.
- Should be insisting on better user interfaces, better help methods, better training tools.
- Should be teaching customers how to expand their use, become more expert.
- _hould be stimulating word of mouth. Giving the wording, channels, tools and motivation to tell other people. I just happen to have written a book on the subject.
So, it isn’t just about getting people to buy. It’s about smoothing the way, every step of the way.
You want to focus on making the series of potentially difficult decisions easy, simple, fun, smooth, effortless for the customer. And not just up to the moment of purchase. Throughout the life of the product, indeed, throughout your entire relationship with the customer. If you’re doing the right thing, they will trust you. And trust is very practical. It makes the decisions very easy and fast. For instance, Google and Apple make my decisions easy and, therefore, fast. They can be counted on to get it as close to right the first time, then rapidly improve by listening.
The main goal of a business is to provide the best product for a given situation. The main goal of marketing is to get people to see that it is the right choice, given the circumstances. In some circumstances, your product itself, in the abstract, isn’t the best product, or isn’t any better than any other product. But if you make the decisions easy, that is, make it easy to get and weigh information, to try, to use, to deal with you, to tell the people about it, your product then becomes the better product because, even if it’s equivalent in physical characteristics, it’s easier to find, understand, try, learn to use, fix, explain to others, etc. That’s better, even if the physical product is identical to the competitions’.
Where to go next :
Andy Borowitz reports:
No New Social Network Launched Today
SILICON VALLEY (The Borowitz Report) – A shockwave hit Silicon Valley today when, for the first time in five years, the day came and went without the launch of a single new social networking site.
Best line: Borowitz quotes someone in Silicon Valley, “I’m creating a new social network just for people who are creating social networks.”
My approach to marketing is different.
Conventional marketing focuses on persuasion: to make the case better that yours is the more desirable product. That’s good. But there’s a better way.
My approach is to remove or reduce all decision obstacles. Only sometimes does this involve tuning up the persuasion. Usually, this involves eliminating the many ways that you have inadvertently made it difficult to understand, buy or talk about your product.
This is a fundamentally different approach to marketing.
I call it Decision Easification —- because there’s no word on English for “to make things easier.” “Facilitation” doesn’t quite do it.
Let me explain:
The customer goes through several stages on the decision path. Think of them as hills to climb:
Status quo → finding you → learning about you → culling → weighing → sorting → evaluating → comparing alternatives → justifying trial →trying → buying → using → fixing → teaching → recommending → evangelizing.
On each of these hills, there are many obstacles:
Questions, qualms, issues, confusions, uncertainty, misunderstandings, distractions, competitor counter-information, effort, time wasters, information overload, distrust and many other stumbling blocks.
So, they (1) stumble enough, (2) turn around and go home or (3) find another product that’s easier to fathom.
It’s at these hidden obstacles that you are losing most of your potential customers.
They’re mostly hidden to you because you are an expert who doesn’t see how difficult it is to get past these obstacles. You see it as a smooth path, they see it as a bumpy, rough and uphill obstacle course.
Example: Take the switch from Windows to Mac. For years, Apple didn’t get how hard the switch is. Yes, OS X is a simpler, more intuitive way of doing things. But while it’s simpler and easier, it’s different. So, at every difference point, learning or thinking has to happen. That slows people down, disorients them, breaks their flow, and makes them feel frustrated or stupid. Every Windows user knows they will have to go through this, so it’s a gigantic bump on the decision road, up the Culling, Trial and Learning hills. While Apple has made tremendous strides in easing the transition, they are still not there yet. They should have a Windows Transition Mode on their OS and their programs, and run Windows natively on OS X. The point is that Apple can be persuasive and convince people they have an easy-to-use operating system: but they haven’t eased the anticipated and actual transition enough. So, the hidden obstacle is: anticipated transition difficulty. Ease that and sales will multiply.
Your job is to find these friction points and get people past them. In age of overloaded customers, you have to do it — not by glitzy, razzle-dazzle marketing — but by making every step and stage of the decision process easier.
If you would like to learn more about getting a one-on-one consultation with me, click here.
I just noticed something interesting. A lot of people come to this site after having Googled the phrase “Marketing Questions.” So, I looked up the phrase on Google Trends.
Pretty interesting and rare. It’s not very often that you see a common phrase suddenly appear with a few spikes and gradually double in a few years.
Even more interesting is that I get one of the top rankings on this phrase in Google Search. And, it’s around 2005 that I put up a lot of pages using that phrase. Here’s one: “Answers to these 23 marketing questions will send your product through the roof.”
In the meantime, the frequency of searches for “marketing” has gone down!Read More Post a comment (0)
- Google — Simple and fast
- Amazon — "One-Click" simple
- Staples — “That was easy.”
- Apple — “It just works.” “Macintosh. It Does More. It Costs Less. It's that Simple.”
- Dell Computers — “Easy as Dell”
- Toyota — “Best built cars in the world”
- Campbell’s Soup — “Reach for the Campbell’s, it’s right on your shelf.”
- Duncan Hines Cake Mix and other easy-to-prepare mixes
- Timex Watches — “Ridiculously easy to use” (Timex with I-Control)
- McDonalds — 9? Billion Sold
- GEICO — “So easy a caveman can do it”
- FedEx — “When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight”
- Bounty — “The Quicker Picker-upper”
- Visa — “It’s everywhere you want to be”
- Nike — “Just do it”
- Club Med — “The Antidote for Civilization” (all-inclusive, easy, simple)
- NY Times — “All the news that’s fit to print”
- WINS Radio, NY — “You give us 20 minutes, we’ll give you the world”
- Shell Oil — “You can be sure of Shell”
- Yellow Pages — “Let your fingers do the walking”
- AT&T — “Reach out and touch someone”
- Blogger — “Push Button Publishing”
- Philips — “Sense and Simplicity”
Whole categories are based upon companies that make it easier for the customer to try, buy, use, learn:
- Fast Food
- Social Networking
- Internet Commerce
Feel free to add others below. Remember, we're not talking only about ease-of-use or ease-of-purchase. We're talking about ease-of-deciding, i.e. decision friendliness.
Remember: The Decision Friendliest Product Wins
Atlas Shrugged — the marketing phenomenon.Saw the movie of Atlas Shrugged last weekend. I had high hopes and low expectations. I knew Ayn Rand personally, I’m an admirer of the book and I’ve read it many times. I expected to be disappointed because the book is so rich and deep that I couldn’t imagine how a movie could do it justice. I was sure that with only a 10 million dollar budget, an extremely tight schedule and unknown actors, it wouldn’t even come close to the book. It didn’t. But it was MUCH better than I expected. I was disappointed by some of the flaws (particularly some actors who didn’t look the part), and some strange directorial choices (couldn’t he find some other things for them to do with their hands besides drink cocktails?). But these are trivial in comparison to the achievement of producing the film itself, and the more important exposure it gives to the central ideas of Ayn Rand. It managed to capture the main theme of the Ayn Rand book: The difference between the producers who create wealth and the pseudo-capitalists who live off of government influence, bailouts and the redistribution of wealth — and how much the whole society relies on the producers. This is primarily a marketing blog (though not always!), and I tend to see things through that filter. I’m always alert to the lessons we can learn from product successes, partial successes, and failures. This is no exception. While it’s too early to tell if the movie is a commercial success, it’s marketing is already an example of several important “secrets” and has much to teach us. (Remember, I use the word “secrets” in its sense of important but frequently overlooked key principles.)
The Marketing Secrets of Atlas Shrugged.Secret 1: Product appeal: Atlas Shrugged Part 1 didn’t try to be everything to everybody. It was independently produced. While this is not always desirable, I suspect that, in this case, it allowed for something that is essential: it didn’t have to compromise and please everybody, especially people in larger studios who tend to search for “broad appeal,” trying to please everybody. The secret here is that you have to be something definite, unusual, special even if it turns off large segments of people. In fact, the product which gets people to love it passionately and hate it passionately will win — not the product that everyone likes but doesn’t love. If you market by eliminating objections, you’re sunk. I’m sure there are contrary examples, but I haven’t found one. Take a stand. Make your product definite, flaunt its shortcomings and brag about why it’s unusual and special. He who tries to be everything to everybody is nothing to anybody. Secret 2: You don’t have to spend a lot of money, if you’ve got the goods. A certain austerity ($10 Million for a film is minuscule) probably helped the production values. I don’t know; I’m not a film expert. But in marketing, I know. They had virtually no marketing budget. This forced them to think. They used a word-of-mouth campaign that you can read about here: Hollywood Reporter Article The most important secrets are to go to the people who can spread the word. In this case, certain commentators, Tea Party groups, other pro-Objectivist groups and allied groups, such as Libertarian and Conservative groups. I would also go to pro-business groups, since this is the first businessperson-as-hero movie in a long time. So the secret is: leverage your budget and other resources by getting other people to sell your product. Go to the people who would like to see your product succeed. If there are no such people, either you are overlooking them or you need to further develop your product to be one that a small segment of people will RAVE about. THEN, find those people. Or, you can try advertising, but you’re probably wasting your money. Put it in R&D. Secret 3: Atlas Shrugged was a movie that Ayn Rand admirers have been hoping for, for over 45 years. It’s easier to find high-pent-up-demand products than you think. Secret 4: Take advantage of spin-off products. People want to have T-Shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, etc. Accommodate them. Secret 5 & 6: Certainly this was unintentional, but they were forced into scarcity marketing. The movie was only available in 299 theaters around the country (normal is 3000), frustrating large numbers of people, which made them want it more and made them willing to take action. The producers harnessed this frustration through a web site that encouraged people to pressure theater owners to run the film. But they didn’t have enough prints, increasing the desire. The next weekend (the Easter weekend) they were in about 450 theaters. Projections are they will be at a thousand in a week or two. So, scarcity marketing can help (Secret 5), and don’t neglect turning your customers into salespeople not only to their friends but to more leveraged people such as retailers, distributors and, in this case, theater owners (Secret 6). Secret 8: Teasers. Atlas is a mammoth book. So, they broke it into three parts, each coming out on Tax Day, April 15th. Now, they can take advantage of the anticipation for two more years. Secret 7: What’s the product? While it may seem obvious that the product is the movie, it isn’t that simple. In book form, Atlas Shrugged sold about 150,000 copies per year until recently, making it an all-time continual best-seller. However, since Obama was elected, it has sold more than 600,000 copies. As of this writing, the extra publicity about Ayn Rand, her ideas, her uncanny predictions about present events has kicked it up to about 25 on the Amazon best-seller list, amazing for a 50+ year-old book. So, I think the product is her ideas, made tangible through the book, then the movie coming at a time when it explains so much about our present society that it gets a lot of press about how she predicted what is happening, which increases the sales of the book. Ultimately, it should make Part 2 of the movie, due out next year, much more fundable and a greater success. So, I would say that it’s the brand — call it Ayn Rand’s Ideas, or Objectivism — that is the product. So, the secret is: think deeply about what the real product is. It probably isn’t what you think it is. What you think you’re selling is probably the material form of what you are really selling.
Product: The physical embodiment of what you are selling, how it's manifest in the world, the deliverable, how you know it's there.
Service: The actions taken to produce the product.
Idea: The way it's held in the mind of the customer in thoughts and feelings.
Try to name a single product/service/idea that doesn't have the other two. You are probably thinking that you have only one of these.Think about the other two that you are neglecting. There, right in front of you, are the opportunities that you are missing. Examples of one that people might think don't have the other two: Pure Product? Candy bar: is the service alleviating hunger, giving a treat, a reward, and indulgence? Is the idea "coconut almond" or "deserved reward" or "guilty pleasure"? Your decision is an opportunity. "Pure commodity" such as gold, steel, soybeans, etc. It's all about the service: payment terms, delivery, support, advice, guarantee of purity, etc. An iPod wasn't mainly a product. We forget that it was an idea: first and foremost it was a way of organizing, storing, sharing and playing your music mess of tapes, CDs, records, files, etc. It was a service that proved that if you make music ridiculously easy to buy, store and organize most people will buy, not steal. Most great "products" are really great implementations of a great idea. Conclusion: there is no pure product. There is no parity, me-too, product. A service and idea is always involved. Pure Service? A psychotherapist: What's the product? Health? Growth? Counseling? Confidence? Feeling of well-being? Greater functionality? Greater emotional health? All or some of the above? What's the "idea"? Remediation or growth. support, fixing, encouraging, greater-self responsibility? Different for each patient? Does the patient know? Is the product delivered in person, by phone, internationally by Skype? Via books, individual sessions, group sessions, speeches, TV talks, a radio call-in program, etc.? Plumber: Is the product fixing problems, new installations, residential, commercial. Is the idea speed, reliability, always showing up, etc.? Are Google Search, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter services? Yes. Are they products? Yes. They are at the very least web sites. How you define the product, the idea, (social contact, finding answers, on-demand goods, instant X, easy X, etc. is worth billions of dollars in these cases. They made the right calls at the right time, and implemented their products brilliantly. None was the first.) Conclusion: There is no such thing as a pure service that doesn't have a product and an idea behind it. Pure ideas? What if you are selling the idea of Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less Spending? If you are actually trying to "sell" it, i.e., persuade people to agree with you, rather than swirling it around in your head, what's the product, the actions, of your thinking? Joining/starting a Tea Party chapter? Starting a new party? Writing essays, talking, teaching, etc. If you're actively selling your idea, there has to be a product of your efforts. What's the service you will provide? Running for office, teaching, lecturing, public speaking, blogging, etc.? New product idea: You have an idea for a product or service. You're not selling it unless you are taking steps to manifest it (that's the product of your thinking) and you are selectively taking actions in the service of the idea: are you the entrepreneur, the finance person, the inventor, the engineer, some or all of the above? What other services do you need to make the idea into a product? Conclusion: There are "pure" ideas, but not in the marketing context. As soon as you start "selling" the idea, it has to take the form of a product with its attendant services, or a service with its attendant products. Again, think about the areas you might be neglecting and how you can change your assumptions. If you think you might make a million dollars out of these insights, at the very least, you owe me lunch, and a rave in the comments section below.
The No-Brainer Solution
I guess after the annual Super Bowl Advertising Debacle — in which advertisers try to show how cool they are by making “in” cultural references and edgy humorous skits that have nothing to do with product benefits — I’m on a clarification and simplification of message kick.
After cleaning up my own messages here and here, I got to thinking about the importance of simple messages. I wrote about it in the 2nd edition of Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. (My presumably left-wing NY editors insisted on taking out the stuff about the Tea Party, but they didn’t have any trouble with the stuff about Obama.). Thought you might be interested in the unexpurgated version if you are in the idea marketing business. And, oh, by the way, believe me, you are in the business of marketing ideas.
Eisenhower once said, “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”
Secret: To sell an idea, you must find out what people want most, down deeply, under the concrete.
You can’t find it by asking and taking the first answers. You have to probe deeply.. As Henry Ford once said, “If I’d have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Yes, but it would have given him the opportunity to ask a “dumb question,” “Yes, but what would faster horses mean for you?” You have to identify the real desire.
Then, you have to show them how getting it is more important than clinging to and defending some of their most cherished beliefs, such as the idea that the horseless carriage is an infernal machine sent by the devil.
That’s how Obama sold Hope and Change. Those people who were willing to take a chance on him gave him a chance because they so desperately wanted something different, almost anything different. [It was a simple, elegant message, at a time of despair and dissatisfaction.] That message triumphed over a mushy Republican message that I can’t even summarize, and nobody else could either — hence the lack of word of mouth.
That’s why the Tea Party arose soon after, appealing to Independents and Democratic and Republican segments with a simple, brilliant message of “Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less spending.” Everyone got it. You either believed that we were on a disasterous spending binge or you didn't. The Tea Party refused to get involved in any other issues, leaving that up to the individual candidates to sell locally (simplicity). They will probably win big (They did. This was written in the summer of 2010) because it reflects what people want, in an elegantly simple message. Conventional wisdom is that its popularity was due to “anti-incumbency,” but it’s much more profound than that.
People are willing to change their beliefs when a basic need — in this case their children's and their own financial security — is threatened and they are presented with a clearly stated solution, and they get the social, word-of-mouth support that is enabled and magnified by the Internet.
Interestingly, one involved a strong central leader, the other the lack of a central leader. For Obama, it was a central person who was unique and spectacularly articulate enough to spark a WOM firestorm over a couple of simple words, "hope and change," that summed up people’s frustrations and aspirations.
For the Tea Party Movement, it was also a simple idea, "smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, and the lack of an identified leader that made it possible.
Both tapped into a basic need, and got the word of mouth going in a unique way.
Both illustrate what a simple message at just the right time can do, especially in the Internet Age.
The entire Middle East seems like it’s about to join Yemen and Egypt as the simple American idea — that we seem to keep forgetting — spreads: We don’t want to be told what to do by “rulers.” In other words, liberty and freedom, as rights inherent in individuals, not granted by governments, monarchs or other gangs.
I’m sure you have heard of “flash mobs.” People might decide to show up at a store or an intersection, all at the same time, and swamp all available space. Now, a whole country or even the world can become a flash mob — and they don’t even have to wait for an election.
The lesson for you is the power of the simple, consistent, repeatable, timely message.
My message in the Age of Overload: Ease the decisions. Make your product, service, and ideas a "no-brainer."
How? Stay tuned. What, you don't have a subscription? Sign up, free. See, I made it easy.
"Easify" the customer decision process:It's The Secret Key to Marketing Success
- Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
- So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
- So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.
Status quo → finding you → learning about you → culling → weighing → sorting → evaluating → comparing alternatives → justifying trial →trying → buying → using → fixing → teaching → recommending → evangelizing.On each of these hills, there are many obstacles:
Questions, qualms, issues, confusions, uncertainty, misunderstandings, distractions, competitor counter-information, fog, effort, time wasters, information overload, distrust and many other stumbling blocks.If they stumble enough, they pause, flounder, go home or find another product that's easier to fathom. It’s at these hidden obstacles that you’re losing most of your potential customers. They’re mostly hidden because you are an expert who doesn’t see how difficult it is to understand and get past these obstacles. You see it as a smooth path, they see it as a bumpy, hilly obstacle course. Your job is to identify these friction points and get people past them. In this day and age, you have to do it — not only by being more persuasive — but by making every step and stage of the decision process easier. Give them shortcuts past the hills. Conventional marketing tries to be more persuasive: to make the case better that this is the more desirable product. My approach is to remove all possible obstacles. Only sometimes does this involve tuning up the persuasion. Usually, this involves getting finding and eliminating the many ways that you have inadvertently made it difficult to understand, try, buy or talk about the product. Every click. Every unnecessary word. Every distracting graphic. Everything that doesn't clarify. Everything that isn't from the right source, in the right medium, in the right form, at the right level of detail, in the right sequence, for the right kind of customer. This is a different approach to marketing that has caused record-breaking sales increases.
The day after the Super Bowl, I’m still recovering from the commercials. Is it my imagination, or do they get worse every year? The unavoidable conclusion is that these advertisers and their agencies have no idea what advertising as all about. It was a mélange of nostalgia, obscure cultural references, borrowed interest, and non-product-relevant humor. Ironically, consumers constructed the highest-rated ads, not professional advertising agencies.
The purpose of any media is to reach people and use its unique characteristics to increase product sales. The purpose of advertising — with rare exceptions — is to dramatize the unique benefits of the product in a memorable and persuasive way that causes sales increases.
The Super Bowl is no exception, even though its ads have to compete with Super Bowl party conversation, food and drink, bathroom breaks and the competing emotions that come from rooting for the winning or losing team. So, yes, Super Bowl ads have to be off the charts on the attention-getting factor. This, and their astronomical prices, puts them in a class by themselves.
But none of this absolves the advertiser from the fact that the advertising needs to be about the unique advantages of the brand.
As I look over the list of the ads, from the idiotic USA Today Super Bowl Popularity Contest, I only remember ONE ad that talks about a brand advantage: The Verizon ad, which highlights its superiority in making calls.
The reason that advertising popularity contests are idiotic is that the purpose of an ad is not to entertain. It’s to ultimately sell product. This can be done indirectly, such as by enhancing the image of the product, or directly by talking about product advantages.
When I see a charming ad like the VW borrowed interest Darth Vader ad, I’m vastly entertained. But until someone shows that entertainment causes product sales, I’m amused but skeptical.
On the other hand, when I see an ad about the Ford Focus, which tries to gin up interest in a rally they are running, I think, “When you have nothing special to say about the car, run a rally.” It’s a dead giveaway that they either have a me-too car, or an incompetent advertising agency, or both.
As I’ve written elsewhere:
Before the golden age of advertising, people just put drawings of the product in the mass media, without any benefit statements or even descriptions. Then, advertising hit its stride and discovered its true strengths: bringing dramatizations of the unique benefits of the product to the masses. It was “salesmanship in print” in the best sense. It zeroed in on the most beneficial, unique aspects of the product and dramatized them in an entertaining way that got attention. At least, the best of it did. Then, the side show took over the circus. Most of it — to this day — gave up dramatizing the benefits and went for image instead. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” became the rallying call for the hypemeisters. Advertising lost its way and just tries to make an intrusive impression, confusing getting attention with fundamental persuasion. Advertising is now judged by its entertainment value rather than its persuasive results. For instance, after the Super Bowl each year, there are many published polls naming the commercials voted “best” by viewers. So, you can win “best commercial” and go out of business because the commercials didn’t cause any sales, as 17 out of 18 of the Dot.com companies did in 2000.
Advertising that calls attention to itself — instead of something related to the product — almost never works. Advertising history is filled with examples. Many of them won awards. But the products failed.
I thought you might be interested in reading the section dealing with the Dot-Com Super Bowl, from the 2nd Edition of The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, about to be published in March of 2011.
The Dot-Com Super Bowl
On January 31, 2000, at the height of the dot-com boom, about a dozen dot-coms aired 30-second commercials during Super Bowl XXXIV at a cost of $2.2 million each, the entire marketing budget for some, in the hope that—with hundreds of millions of people watching—they would put their unknown companies on the map and establish a corporate identity. I was appalled and publicly called it the worst case of advertising agency malpractice I had ever seen. Either their ad agencies knew better or they should have. In either case, the agencies were, in my opinion, negligent.
The dot-com bubble burst soon after. The Super Bowl advertisers found that they could not establish a corporate identity in a 30-second TV spot. They found that they could get everyone talking about their quirky commercials all right, but that wasn’t the same as getting people to rave about their products’ benefits. With one or two exceptions, all the advertisers on that Super Bowl went out of business.
It became known as the Dot-Com Super Bowl and, in many people’s minds, it not only marked the end of the dot-com bubble, it marked the beginning of the end of the Old Marketing, perhaps symbolized best by the pets.com sock puppet.
Fortunately, the “too big to fail” mentality hadn’t caught on yet, so the dot-coms were allowed to “creatively destruct.” What nobody realized was that the dot-coms, ironically, were using the old media to sell the new media. Heck, they were the new media!
So, if you’re going to advertise, at least keep your eye on the ball: emphasize your unique benefits, in a dramatic, entertaining way. And only do it on the Super Bowl if you have a product that most of the billions of people watching can use. Don’t worry if people discuss it in the social media. Measure the effectiveness of ads — and any other marketing efforts — on trials and sales.
As I was writing about consulting with more clients in the form of smaller consultations, rather than mega-projects with giant companies, I remembered the following story:
A farmer was sitting at the side of the road, selling onions. A tourist stopped and asked how much the onions cost.
"A dollar a pound."
"How many pounds do you have there?" asked the tourist.
"How much for all 20 pounds?"
"Thirty dollars," said the farmer.
The tourist was surprised. "No, it should be less than $20 because 20 times one dollar should be $20, less a volume discount for taking them all off your hands at the same time."
"I know that," the farmer replied. "But if I sell all 20 pounds to you, I have to go home. If I sell them one pound at a time, I'll get to meet and talk with 19 other interesting people like you."
I've been telling that story for more than 30 years. It always impressed me. Originally, I heard it told about an "Indian."
Life isn't all about maximizing efficiency. By offering smaller consultations, I'm sure meeting a lot more interesting people. Who knew that custom sheds, unusual web sites, physician services, emergency management and other products I would never have heard of could be so interesting? What fun!
Small to Mid-Size Companies Can Now Afford an Expert Marketing ConsultantI will find the 2 or 3 hidden decision blocks that are killing your sales and show you how to fix them. Unlike most other marketing consultants, I'm not interested in tweaking and tuning — I'm interested in breakthroughs that multiply your sales. I focus on THE most important thing that you'll benefit from most: What is blocking your customers from deciding on your product and becoming an enthusiast? What's making it hard for them? What would make that block go away or easy to overcome?
- I will give you breakthrough practical advice for your specific situation.
- I will rank my advice and just tell you the best next practical 2-3 steps that will make a dramatic difference, instead of overwhelm you with minor tweaks.
- You can "pick the brain" of an expert who has spent decades introducing hundreds of new products, services and ideas — and increasing the sales of established ones.
Small to Mid-Size Business Marketing Consultation. Now.In response to so many phone calls, emails and pleas for help from small and mid-size businesses, who agree with the idea of Decision Easification, I’ve created this consulting program for smaller and medium-sized companies with big ideas. You can simply “rent my brain.” You get sound, personalized guidance; clear advice; tested ideas; practical how-to's; and candid feedback. I know you have many issues and questions. To get you started, here are some of the vital questions I've answered recently in 1½ hour consultations, often many questions in each consultation:
- Is my idea practical? How can I tell, without spending tens of thousands of dollars in surveys and focus groups? How can I turn it into something even more exciting?
- How can I get the word out, find my customers, or get them to find me, with a much more limited budget than competitors? Who should I be concentrating on?
- How can I describe my product or service to people who don’t know and don’t care if they need it? In this information-overloaded world, how do I get them to remove their earplugs?
- How can I avoid the pitfalls I'm sure to fall into — because almost very product does. Even experienced marketing VPs have only launched a handful of successful products in their careers. I’ve been a major advisor in the launch of hundreds (literally) of successful products — and a few failures. I’ve learned a lot along the way.
- What decision barriers am I going to run into? How can I avoid the avoidable, see the invisible and triumph over the inevitable obstacles?
- How can I possibly compete with companies hundreds of times my size — and compete in my market, not live off their niche table-scraps?
- What would be the best, clear, useful, practical, implementable marketing strategy for my product starting now, on a budget that works, with fewer risks and mistakes?
How can I address several of these major issues in only one consultation?Especially if we haven't done the kind of in-depth marketing research that I've advocated all over this website? Experience. Mine and yours. I've been through the customer decision process of hundreds of products, services and concepts. I've reached a point where I can quickly zero in on major decision blocks just by looking at your marketing, and by listening to your descriptions of what is working and not working. And, you haven't exactly been a hermit. You've talked with customers, received their praise and complaints, talked with your salespeople and others. You know much more than you think you know. So, my recommendations combined with your input can have a dramatic impact immediately.. Then, later on, you might want to do the kind of research I'm advocating to further optimize the system. So, for example, I'm going to ask you to describe your trial process and your guarantees, or other risk-reduction techniques. I don't need to do a lot of fancy research to know that a product with the wrong kind of trial is a product that is losing a lot of sales. But structuring a meaningful trial is a matter of knowing the many options that aren't obvious. Or, take guarantees: even companies with a strong guarantee may be guaranteeing the wrong thing. You may be guaranteeing their purchase price, but they might need a guarantee that they won't look like a fool. There are dozens of such issues that I can spot without extensive market research.
Why do I need you?I’ve helped hundreds of product managers, marketing VPs, CEOs and entrepreneurs with questions like these in my career. If you want me to help YOU, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and help you launch a successful product — or grow your existing ones. Let's face it: You need outside, savvy feedback because you’re too close to your situation. I have built my reputation as a straight shooter. I call it like I see it, because I sincerely care and I know that fluffing you up will not get you what you want. I’m tough, I’m honest but supportive and frankly, I’m usually right. (Except for that one time in 1983 when I thought I was wrong! :lol:)
What does it cost?Renting my brain for this invaluable 90 minutes is just a $500 investment on your part — and our conversation could change the direction of your product or company! My assistant or I will contact you to set up a time convenient for us to talk. When our time comes, you’ll call me and I’ll give you my undivided attention for ninety sincere, transformative minutes. Record the call for future reference (I’ll do it if you’re traveling, for instance, and email you the audio file.) Sign up for a consult.
Your guarantee:At about the 45 minute mark of our conversation, we will reach the “Go/No-Go” point: I’ll ask you if you feel you are getting great value for your time and money. If not, we’ll end the conversation and I’ll refund your money immediately, through PayPal or a bank check, no problem. If yes, we’ll continue to transform your product, service or idea.
You really can’t lose. Take a shot.The $
Contrary to popular belief, the better the product is, the harder it usually is to sell. The best products tend to be the innovative, breakthrough products - and the marketplace rarely beats a path to their door.Why? Because innovative, breakthrough, high-tech products make most people uncomfortable. That's why they are called discontinuous or disruptive innovations. There are invariably problems with:
- communicating the benefits,
- getting people to believe the claims,
- getting people to do things a new way,
- satisfying the vested interests,
- overcoming natural inertia,
- overcoming people's discomfort with initial trial,
- supporting their initial learning curve,
- helping them "sell" their colleagues, etc.