Jeffrey Myers is a marketing professor at Emerson College.
There are a number of truths in marketing today that, like the author, have existed for quite some time. Most, like a fine wine, have improved with age, providing greater relevance and insight. We invite you to learn from these time-tested fundamentals and how they apply to today and tomorrow. Or, ignore them at your peril.
1. The consumer is king. And queen.
The consumer – the person who plunks down good money for what you’re selling – must always be dead center in all of your thinking, plans and objectives. Treat them as a friend, someone to be respected. People prefer to do business with other people, brands and companies that they know and like (not the same as a Facebook “like”). Be very likeable. Show gratitude at every opportunity. Never, ever lie or deceive. Provide more and better than expected; it will always be rewarded. The opposite is also true.
Mobile marketing lesson: As in any relationship, find genuine reasons why people should befriend and prefer your brand. Consistently express that in the product or service itself. In what you say, how you say it, how often you say it, and where. Communicating on a mobile device may seem “free” but it can get very expensive if you do it poorly.
2. You’ll never sell a confused consumer anything
Don’t be in a hurry to explain. Neither over-explain nor obfuscate. Simpler is better. Clarity is best. Turn every possible purchase decision into a brand relationship affirmation. Be a good listener.
Mobile marketing lesson: Any relationship takes time to develop (See #9). And by its very nature, a relationship is a two-way street. Don’t just talk to or, worse, at a consumer. Leave plenty of opportunity to hear what’s on their mind. Everyone has an opinion to share. Be a very active and appreciative listener.
3. “Brand” is the second-most misused term in marketing
Is Lady Gaga a brand? In a word, no. She’s a singer, an entertainer, a person. She has style, attitude and talent. But she’s not a brand. Yes, there’s Lady Gaga perfume. But that’s a perfume, not a person. A person is not a brand. But, more and more today, a brand is a person. That’s because consumers are looking for transparency, authenticity and accessibility in what they buy. A brand used to be what the manufacturers said it was.
In large part that was due to the one-way nature of the communication channels available. Technology has turned the tables and, increasingly, brands are what the consumers say they are (see #1, above). So brand managers of today and certainly tomorrow – and their bosses – need to give up trying to control their brand’s imagery.
Mobile marketing lesson: The consumer is in control now. Smart managers know this. The others will fail. Management is not control. Control is not management. People have warts. Brands have warts. Get over it, control freaks. The consumer is in the driver’s seat. Buckle up.
4. Communications 101
It’s not what you say. It’s what they hear. If they aren’t “hearing” you – if your message is not resonating with your audience(s) — you aren’t inside the consumers’ heads, as you need to be. Use every opportunity possible to set up listening posts throughout your organization and your selling process.
Mobile marketing lesson: Mobile phones – audio and video/pictures – are ideal “polling stations” to take in real-world real-time input from a multitude of constituencies. As a wise man once said: You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion. Be a good listener.
5. Buzz has no value.
To “create buzz” is not a viable objective in any business plan. The business of a business is to make a profit. Banks accept money; they do not accept buzz. Buzz can be a way to generate awareness, interest and preference – three key steps to creating a relationship with a consumer but buzz can also be irritating, especially when there is no clear benefit delivered or promised.
Mobile marketing lesson: Make your buzz better. Think of a cocktail party. You walk up to a group and introduce yourself. Which is better: (a) dominate the conversation by talking non-stop about yourself; or (b) spend most of your time – especially at first – listening to the flow of the talk and jump in when appropriate. If you answered (a) please don’t go to my party. If you answered (b) you now know what to do for your business to make it succeed in mobile marketing.
6. Segmentation Kills
We are all far more alike than different. We all want many of the same things (hint: reread Maslow’s Hierarchy). We just find different paths to these common destinations. If you slice up your audience into too many pieces you will lose touch with your consumers. There are many fish in the sea. Fish where your fish are.
Mobile marketing lesson: If you create too many small targets to hit you will run out of arrows (i.e., resources like “money”). It’s easier to hit a bigger target — and usually far more efficient.
7. Be careful what you wish for
Most research is dangerous because it is biased: The way the questions are framed. The way the answers are interpreted. Who gets asked; where; when and how.
Most research is used to affirm what someone (usually high up) in the organization already believes or to make up for their lack of vision. When doing any research keep your eyes wide open and see what’s there, not what you expect or want to see.
Mobile marketing lesson: Use research carefully. It’s a support mechanism to guide decisions, not mandate them. The massive consumer input possible on mobile can more than make up for any human biases. Use it often.
8. Customer Satisfaction: The death of brands.
Keep the customer satisfied? Never! A “satisfied consumer” is the equivalent of getting a “C” in school. Above you are the best. Below you are the worst. Your brand needs passionate lovers, BFFs and evangelists. A satisfied consumer is “meh.” A loyal consumer loves you, which, in tough times, is priceless.
Mobile marketing lesson: There will be tough times. You’ll mess up. You’ll get unwanted news. Competition will set their sights on you. Mobile can help you stay in touch with your loyals. If you drop a ball, fess up to it right away. Reward loyalty. Satisfaction is not a goal. It’s just a starting point.
9. Brands take time
A brand is “a promise kept.” It’s a genuine relationship that requires a lot of work to build up awareness, preference, trust and confidence. Very few consumers are blindly loyal; they can be forgiving, provided good reasons, but they’ll never forget. And the consumer will be satisfied — if not by you, someone else.
Mobile marketing lesson: As the great philosopher, Diana Ross, told us: You can’t hurry love.
10. Speed kills
A corollary to #9. Careers and fortunes can be made and lost at the push of a button. Just because you can reach millions of people in seconds does not mean you should. In fact, you almost never should. A fast tweet or FB post is like blurting out a questionable remark after you’ve downed more than a few. What’s said on Twitter stays on Twitter. Just ask the guy at Maytag or Netflix among many others.
If anyone in your company feels it’s better to “get something out there as fast as possible” you need to forfeit their keys to any SM account. Any response – to good news or bad, fact or fiction – needs to be carefully considered prior to hitting “go.” A key to brands and branding is consistency. It’s impossible to nurture any brand, new or decades old, at the speed of light.
Mobile marketing lesson: Carpenters have a saying: Measure twice, cut once. How many times have you heard: Better safe than sorry. Or: Haste makes waste. Someone’s trying to tell you something.
Digital marketing, especially mobile, is not all that new and different. It is simply another media channel, a sophisticated step up, not unlike radio was to newspapers or TV was to radio. And, like the early days of broadcasting, digital marketing is in its infancy, a nascent technology that its practitioners are trying very hard to understand and fully leverage. Digital marketing has many powerful benefits. Use them all well. But remember: Age and treachery beat youth and skill every time.