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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Media Advertising is Struggling. What’s the Fix? Please Chime In!

July 22nd, 2007

As market-savvy corporations continue to adapt their marketing strategies to address consumer tendencies, traditional advertising outlets are feeling the crunch. Why? The answer is two fold: 1) today’s consumers are more likely than ever to base their purchasing decisions on peer reference rather than advertising and 2) access to alternative media via the internet has reduced the influence and control long held by newspapers, television networks, and radio stations. Hence, the appeal traditional media outlets once held has been mitigated and the writing is on the wall for change in their advertising sales departments.

So, thinking about the future from a media outlet, what is the answer? With so many options available via the Internet, which provide current and plausibly accurate information, I’m not sure that a paid subscription is the way to go. I know that I would never pay for a subscription to a newspaper site as I can access the same information on Google News for free. And with the advertising model, think back to how many banner ads you’ve clicked on … and on top of that, how many banner ads have actually led you to a purchase. I know for most folks, that number is minuscule if it exists at all.

To conclude, I’m hoping to solicit some honest and candid discussion on this topic. I’ve read several blogs and articles on this topic, and I have yet to find an adequate answer for the dilemma facing the major media outlets. Is their future dim? Or is there a solution that will drive the financial solvency of television and radio broadcasters and hard copy newspapers. As I have a genuine interest in this topic, please let me know your thoughts … especially if you work in the mass-media industry.

Guerrilla Marketing Redux

June 27th, 2007

Recently I found myself isolated from the digital world for a couple hours, courtesy of Idaho Power. After a brief period of anxiety, I picked up an old book I hadn’t looked at in many years—Guerrilla Marketing Weapons by Jay Conrad Levinson.

My first observation was how antiquated some of the strategies are. 1990 does not seem that long ago but from a business and marketing perspective it’s a world apart in many ways. Regardless of the era, I question some of the council he provides in his promotion of advertising as “affordable” and a “necessity”. The author was an advertising guy in a bygone era…can’t blame him for pushing his industry.

While some of the info was off base (should I really consider promoting my business through matchbook advertising?) most of the “weapons” are still spot on. One point the author made that really resonated with me was under the heading, Identity:

A word to strike from your marketing vocabulary is image. An image is a facade, something phony…prospects come in…and learn that the company is not, indeed, what it held itself out to be in the first place. Instead, it is different—not bad, but different.. This makes the prospect unconsciously feel ripped off…because you communicated an image that had little basis in reality, only in hope. A far better
i word than image is identity. An identity is automatically honest.

This timeless insight is the essence of the social revolution that New Media / Web 2.0 have brought to bear in the last 15 years and in fact it’s the catalyst that established RisingLine.

In the past, many companies could trick enough people (mainly through advertising and gimmicks) to keep a sustainable level of demand generation to feed their habit. In the New Media world, consumers have the power to cut through the phony facade of images and create their own expose of each company. We see it well established already on such outlets as Amazon’s star ratings and user reviews and are seeing it trickle down to even small businesses through the
local business rating systems of SuperPages.com and Google. It’s at an accelerate pace now that social media will continue to drive out the fakes and increase quality across the board.

It’s ironic that this sage advice is given in a book promoting advertising and gimmicks. I believe the important take away is that more than ever, prominence should be given to building real quality into your product or service and developing a marketing plan to empower your customer evangelists who will be the authenticators and communicators for your marketing message. While advertising and marketing “weapons” may plan a part, their role has been significantly depreciated in today’s business environment.

As a post script, I notice that on the Guerrilla Marketing website Guerrilla Marketing, New Edition is being promoted as an updated version including “strategies for the Internet.”

Market Need Versus Market Want

April 1st, 2007

A major error many sales and marketing professionals make involves confusing a market need with a market want. In fact, marketers that have been around for a while understand all products and services eventually evolve into non-discriminate commodities over time. Make no mistake; understanding the difference between a market need and a want will decide the long-term success of a firm.

So, what is the difference? Namely, a market want is an immediate response by consumers to a service or product without knowledge of a better solution. In other words, a market want is derived through a quick fix, convenient and affordable means to solving a problem or desire. Market wants exist simply because they temporarily answer consumer’s expectations. An example of a market want would be a pre-industrial revolution candle that was used to light a room … luminescence. There was no knowledge of or accessibility to a better solution, therefore the market want settled on candles for light.

Conversely, a market need addresses a higher ideal wherein innovation and customer-directed service push market wants in perpetual progression. In theory, market needs can never be fulfilled since the market is in a constant state of evolution. Additionally, Market wants are actually a very important element of addressing a market need. In other words, we should view market wants (i.e. products) as incremental steps toward satisfying the demands of the consumer. Referring back to the candle example, gas lamps and eventually the electric light bulb replaced the candle as the primary device for luminescence, therefore eliminating the primary use of a candle as a device for light. Today, the candle is used primarily for ambiance rather than luminescence.

For a more practical application of this theory, let’s say your company is in the business of producing cellular telephones. Four years ago, the market want was to develop the smallest practical handheld device that was affordable and would pick up great reception. Today, with the introduction of GPS technology and devices like the Apple iPhone, the market want has evolved to include worldwide accessibility along with features such as SMS texting, GPS mapping, and Internet browsing. In fact, it could be argued that the market need is affordable instantaneous global communication through telepathic transmission … okay, that’s getting a little Star-Trekish, I know. However, the point being that consumers may not be able to express what their true need is, therefore they settle with wants. To my point; this is where the opportunity exists for your hypothetical cellular phone company; you can assume the role of an innovative customer-oriented firm by pushing your product and service offering toward a new ideal of market satisfaction. For example, what if your company could develop a true vid-phone so you could actually view the party on the other line? It’s only a matter of time and money before this technology becomes commonplace, and the first cellular phone manufacturer to do it will in effect push the market want closer to achieving the market need. Perhaps the market need is not a vid-phone, but the point is the iPhone in all its greatness will eventually be obsolete.

In conclusion, companies that focus on solving market wants will always be in a reactionary state, competing primarily on price. However, companies that focus on solving a market need however will be shaping their products and services toward answering the desires of their customers, helping to differentiate themselves from the competition while justifying a higher price per unit. In the real world, Apple is doing this with the iPhone, Target is doing it with virtually the same products as Wal-Mart, and FedEx is doing it with the same overnight delivery services as UPS and the United States Postal Service. Who’s to say your company can’t be the next Apple, Target, or FedEx?

Focus On Your Customer, Not Your Product

March 16th, 2007

I’m in the process of designing a PowerPoint presentation for a major technology firm, it’s entertaining to discover how the company’s engineers are fixated on describing every little detail about a product. To begin my design process, I researched some internally developed presentations built by the engineers so as to gain an understanding of the product virtues … let me just say the slides had more flying bullets than a war zone. These presentations were product-orientated smorgasbord of technical diarrhea.

Although I like to rag on engineers and their linear approach to life, companies often fall into the same mistake of focusing on product rather than market value, on top of over-messaging attributes rather than building a brand by emotionally captivating the customer by relating a solution to their need.

As Doug and I continue to learn and grow with our business, we’re finding out that the customer doesn’t care about how big, fancy, and powerful our product is, they only want to hear what we can do for them in terms of making their life better. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that my audience doesn’t have the time or interest in learning why I’m so great. And who could blame them? Their lives are complicated and busy, they want to cut to the chase so I better be ready with a strong, precise message that is emotionally appealing, easy to understand, and beneficial in terms of solving a problem or issue.

Going back to the technical engineers, I’ll be ingrained in a lengthy battle to shape these presentations into concise messages that actually mean something to the customer. My job is simply to communicate the three pillars customers look for in why they should consider a product; namely that it is available, easy, and affordable.

P.S. One last tip … avoid talking above your customers’ heads and boring them by using vague and uncommon terminology, your attempt to look smart will probably lose you the deal. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

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