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Thanks but no Thanks – Five Rebuttals for “Backseat Marketers”

July 29, 2012 2 comments
Avoid the Herd Mentality in Marketing

Avoid the Herd Mentality in Marketing (w/ love to Seth Godin)

For some reason, people seem very comfortable assuming they know as much as anyone trained in marketing, advertising or public relations.  Whereas few people would feel comfortable second-guessing  a  physician’s assistant physician assistant,  or telling an engineer how to do their job – they are more than willing to micro-manage communications professionals.

To them, I say “thanks but no thanks.”  If you’ve not in the field, and you’ve ever offered up any of the following advice to a colleague in the field, please check yourself.

1. You think we should advertise somewhere because you consume that media.

In all liklihood *you* are not the demographic being targeted.  *I* am not the demographic being targeted either.

This happens all the time – I guess it has to do with some desire we have to feel as though we understand the average person’s mindset and that we represent the common opinion on the street.  The problem is – it’s increasingly hard to identify “the average person” anymore.

Not only that, but whomever he/she is, none of us is likely representative of them (particularly where I work where most of the employees have advanced degrees – relegating them to a tiny ten percent of the US population, not at all representative of the median).

Instead of going with your gut – trust the data instead.  Save your gut for the creative portions of the campaign where it will be needed.

2. You think we should advertise somewhere because it’s a “special” promotion targeted right at our industry.

I hate to break it to you, but every two-bit media entity worth its salt has created bogus “special interest” offerings as a marketing ploy to appeal to advertisers.  There are “special editions” for everything now – and they even come out more than once a year.

To make matters worse, there are even entire organizations created solely for the purpose of selling worthless advertising to rubes who think they’re reaching someone.

A great example of this is the “Who’s Who” listings or “Internet Directories” for special topics.  When was the last time you looked anyone up in a “Who’s Who” book?  Carter was probably president.  The same goes for special “directories” online; as the power and accuracy of search has improved, it has rendered the need for curated directories obsolete.  You’re far better off taking all of that time and money and putting it into writing a blog to push up your rank in Google.

On Payola: By the way – if the “special promotion” includes freebies to the people buying the advertising (say, event tickets) – if you take those, it’s unethical and potentially grounds for firing at many institutions.  It constitutes a conflict of interest for you to spend money that isn’t yours in order to get something free.  You may even want to check with your Purchasing department because you may be legally-obligated to notify them or turn over that item.

3. You think we should advertise somewhere because they have special pricing available only for a limited time.

The amount of exclamation points that usually accompany the emails for these sorts of requests could fuel a mid-sized city.  Understand that these offers are invariably overvalued.  The reason they’re discounting the air time/ad space is because NO ONE ELSE WANTS IT (and there’s a reason no one else wants it).

The reason these “opportunities” are “special” is because no one else will advertise on them because they don’t reach enough people (or they’re not effective at converting eyeballs into sales).  They’re the advertising equivalent of the bargain DVD bin at Wal-mart – no one wants to own Battlefield Earth which is why it languishes even with a $2.99 price tag.  You’re literally throwing your money away – money that could be better spent with 30 seconds and a credit card on Facebook.

4. You think we should advertise somewhere because our competitors are doing it.

To be sure, there is absolutely value in benchmarking what one’s competitors are doing.  However, following the herd can be problematic for a variety of reasons.

  • First, if the herd is already there – it’s a diluted marketplace for ideas.  You’ll be trying to make noise while everyone else is trying to make noise – no one is going to hear it.  The Law of Diminishing Returns absolutely applies to advertising.
  • Second, the herd doesn’t know anything you don’t already know.  They’re not privy to some mystical insight – particularly the more members of the herd are engaging in this communal behavior the more likely it is to be outmoded because the soft middle has arrived.
  • Third,

5.  You think we should advertise somewhere whether or not we can track the response.

Media Consumption Trends 2001-2010Measurement is just as critical as Communication in a marketing/pr plan.  If you’re not worried about how we’re going to gauge the response to our efforts – I’M worried about your fitness for your job.

If you can’t find a way to verify whether or not something worked – why would you do it?  Would you have a surgery if you had no way of telling whether or not it was successful?  Would you enter a competition that didn’t track how you placed?

It’s not fun and it’s not sexy, but it is an imperative that we develop some way of measuring how many people are converted by our efforts.  Given how wildly media consumption habits are shifting right now – it’s even MORE important than any time in the past half-decade.

Moreover, ENTIRELY NEW forms of advertising are emerging all the time.  What worked this year may not work at all next year – and it’s important to track that progress.

In Summary

So “Backseat Marketers,” please – we need your input but keep it constructive and focused on the content that you are experts on.  Recycle the faxes you get with radio discounts on them instead of forwarding them to us.  Defer questions from ad sales reps to us and let us handle them (instead of allowing them to create confusion, conflict and division within our organization just because they work on commission).

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Why the Lost Finale Sucked a Rancid Tub of Expired Dharma Ranch Dressing

May 24, 2010 82 comments

[Update: If you haven’t seen this video, you need to check it out (I’m not the only one that feels this way).]

I was really disappointed by the Lost season finale.

From Season 2 of Lost: a Screen Capture of the Hydra Logo on the Tail of a Shark Swimming Past the Camera

From the start, Lost thrived on setting up curious questions and then answering them in a way that only posed more questions. Not only was that the theme for the show – but the entire social media-driven marketing apparatus around the show catered to that aspect:

  • the creators set up fake show-related websites and 800 numbers (grabbed by astute fans who analyzed screen captures from the show that flashed by business cards or papers tacked to walls) with curious pre-recorded messages – all of which were part of two separate alternate reality games (The Lost Experience and Find 815).
  • the network’s website for the show (laden with hidden multimedia content) was filled with seething, writhing fan discussion forums where the excruciating details were analyzed (one thread I followed had days of speculation about what the spectre of Walt was saying – culminating in an audio tech reversing the audio and washing it through professional filters to undo the distortion the show’s creators had added so that it was clear as a bell and said “don’t touch the button, the button is bad.”)

Not only that, but JJ Abrams prides himself on being a fan of puzzles (which is why the show was chock full of them). Wired Magazine even had an issue dedicated to his interest in such things.

Speaking for a lot of Lost fans, I don’t give a rip if Jack gets resolution with his father and everyone ends up in bliss and carefree in the Kingdom of God. Fuck Jack.

I want to know:

  • why a Polar Bear could manifest itself out of Hurley’s comic book
  • how Walt could direct a thrown knife with his thoughts
  • WHAT the light is and why it has to be guarded (and why it’s flimsily-guarded by what appeared to be man-made stonework)
  • why the smoke machine was curiously mechanical in the sounds it made

Most of all, I want to know why the hell was there a shark swimming around in season 2 with a Dharma Initiative Hydra Project logo imprinted on its tail!

It was a fun ride, to be sure – but this was a great case of misreading what has to be the core audience of the show.  Perhaps I’m wrong, and the majority of the viewership is people who love gooey sentimentality and predictable character development – but I tend not to think so.

I do also have to heap praise and credit on the show’s creators for their use of the web, social media, and gaming to build and sustain interest in the massive opus.  There are three areas we can learn valuable lessons from Lost:

  • Marketers and communicators can learn a lot from analyzing the ways they used the new media available to enhance the viewing experience (likely at a very reasonable cost that is attainable by most organizations).
  • Similarly, the traditional media should be furiously scribbling notes about how to update their programming to compete with entertainment outlets like video gaming that are poaching their viewers.
  • Moreover – we ALL can learn from the model Lost presented in how gigantic and complicated tasks can be crowdsourced to the masses and completed with astonishing speed and precision as thousands apply their abilities through the collaborative tools afforded them by the web.