Archive for October, 2010
Small businesses with small marketing budgets know that there is value to be gained in exploring social media, not least because it is easy on a budget (if tremendously time-consuming).
But it scares the pants off of a lot of small businesspeople, because it seems so complicated to understand and execute. This is in no small part because the marketing business creates a wall of obscurity between the businessperson and the tools with the shorthand it has created to describe them. SEM/SEO and other terms are clear once you are “in the know”, but make it hard for a newbie (and most small businesspeople are newbies to social media and other digital tools) to grasp how to apply these “hot new tools”.
It is an old tradition in business to try to gloss up concepts to make them more entrancing (driven in part by consultants who need to keep their patter fresh, or simply to sound smart.)
Here is a simple example: Marketing professionals are all over the concept of “engagement.” It is a fancy way of saying “interact” or even just “talk” with customers. Because it isn’t clear, though, it frightens the heck out of small businesspeople who are struggling with how to use Social Media to generate business.
We need to boil it down to concrete terms. A recent Forrester research project summary gives a great example. Note how “engage” actually comes to mean “access customer service” and “get free promotions,” phrases any businessperson would understand:
“Social strategy is all the rage today in financial services, but do customers actually want to engage with financial service firms via social Web sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter? Forrester surveyed almost 4,000 US consumers and discovered that among those who use social Web sites, almost half are interested in engaging with financial service firms on those sites. How they want to engage is less clear, although receiving promotions and customer service topped the list.”*
“Customer engagement” is not new. It is the tried and true method for attracting and retaining customers: Be where their eyes and ears are with clear and interesting messages about why and how to do business with you. Social Media simply gives the businessperson new places in which to do it.
The marketing profession has done a very poor job of delivering that message clearly to smaller businesses.
*“How US Financial Firms Should Approach Interacting With Consumers On Social Web Sites” by Brad Strothkamp
Corporations can get themselves all tied into knots over strategies and tactics when they spend too much time between conversations with customers. At American Express years ago, we called this internal navel-gazing “reading our own press releases” because we as a company got too wrapped up in how great “everyone” else thought we were.
This lack of external connection can play havoc with marketing decisions in particular, because they are often subjective and can be driven more by hunches and ego than a finance department or operating division could.
The “GAP Flap” over their recent logo contretemps is a classic case: They clearly got too involved talking to each other internally, and listening to a branding agency that was similarly disconnected from the marketplace.
The story: Gap changed their logo after a two-year review, and it was received so disastrously that they changed back to the old logo within a week. The shocker is not the speed with which it happened. That is believable in this age of instant digital feedback. The stunner is that the rebranding happened at all.
Here are the new and old logos:
I can visualize the scenes in the creative meetings that step-by-step drifted away from the old logo. The process eventually left it as a little box in the top right corner, which no one outside the meetings would ever understand without explanation, a common failing of creative processes.
Nothing about your logo works if it needs understanding. It needs to work at a glance, communicating company or product in an instant. Otherwise, why have a logo?
Of course, if GAP had stuck with it and put millions of dollars behind it, eventually it would have become the GAP brand through repetition/frequency/weight of media/etc.
It was ugly, though…and deserved its quick death!
Back in the 50’s, any guy who wanted to be a “guy” worked on his car. Open the hood of one of those old jalopies and there was the engine block, with plenty of space around it to reach parts and tinker. Not so today, and the advent of hybrids has made car engines so complex that most Americans can no longer relate:
A recent poll by Mercedes-Benz revealed that “Americans are confused about the differences between hybrid, electric, plug-in hybrid, and alternative fuels of various kinds.”
This limits adoption, because these cars cost more than gas-powered vehicles and have different maintenance needs (often less, but that is still “different”.)
Here is what a consumer needs to say for you to know your green-focused product or service is going to be a hit:
“You mean this is the same price as that, and “green” too? I’ll do it, even if I am not sure how it works.” Clorox has done this very well with its Green Works product line, for instance.
As soon as you place a premium price on “green,” you will have to explain why, and suddenly you are having a complex conversation with the consumer that most will not sit through. In sum: A hybrid costs more, drives differently and is different to care for. Yikes. Too much change!
On the other hand, there are ways to tie hybrids to traditional cars memorably: Remember when Al Gore’s son got caught going 100 mph in a Prius? Here was the collective reaction from American society: “Ohhh, a Prius can go 100 mph? It’s not as different as I thought.”
Make “green” easy, and you will make money. Car companies have not yet found the magic formula to do that with hybrids.