November 2015


Trust me, I’m in marketing

Trust the Hard Rubbish

This is my dog barking at a pile of hard rubbish.
The trainer assures me the dog is not an idiot.
She simply doesn’t trust the thing she’s never seen before.
And fear makes my dog bark.

Fear makes barkers of us all. Because, we don’t always know who our friends are and who our friends aren’t. It comes down to trust.

According to the world’s most trusted source of information, google, trust means, “… firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.”

It’s a concept based on observation, behaviour, logic and emotion. (Four words carrying more than their fair share of marketers on their casually-kerned shoulders.)

We want customers to trust us.

And, the truth is, customers probably do trust us. But not as we would like.

Trust is a belief based on experience.

“I trust them to treat me well” comes from the same place as, “You can trust them to put profits in front of people.”

Most customers trust businesses to make economically sound decisions.
But, if the short-term economies win out over the customer experience, they may not trust us as much in the future. “Trust them to be bastards” is a term a lot of bank marketers have heard in more than one research group.

We want to trust based on the words we want to try new things. But we can’t try new things based on experience. So we need to base the decision on what information we can find.
The experiences of people who’ve done it.
Our own level of comfort with the risk.
The words of the people selling it.
Our customers base their beliefs about us on the assumptions they make of the category in general. Which is based on their experience, our words, or the PR around the issue.

If there is no information to be had, or no experienced head to guide us, the new thing becomes just a pile of hard rubbish. To be ignored. Or to be yapped into submission.

The good news; lack of trust doesn’t stop people purchasing.
But the game isn’t about purchasing. It’s about re-purchasing.
You shouldn’t not make promises.
You just need to know what people assume of you. What they trust you to do.
And then either build a temple on that trust.
Or change their assumptions.
By changing your behaviour.

I find a dog biscuit helps.

Too afraid to be unique

It makes sense. But it's hard to do in the face of public opinion.

It is harder than ever for Australian businesses to be unique.
Not because there aren’t any new places to go.
But because, to be unique, you need to go against the grain of public opinion.
And, in this hypersocial world, public opinion is just a distraction away.

In every category there is a leader.

The category leader usually creates a brand around the main category driver.
In categories where there are more than one driver, the successful leader takes the main driver – think Coles and “Low Prices” – and the challenger takes a secondary driver – think Woolworths and “Fresh Food”.
If a category driver isn’t being used, or is being used by every player in the category, it’s hard for any business to make a play for the main driver.
For example, “All supermarkets sell at the lowest possible prices.”

Take Coles and Woolworths.
Coles sell fresh food.
Woolies sell at low prices.
Coles made a concerted play at grabbing the main driver – low prices.
And they won.
And now, Woolies just gets to play Follow-the-leader.
Yes, Coles advertising wasn’t pretty.
But, they weren’t in it to make awards.
They were in it to make money.
Woolworths made some lovely ads.
Coles made some lovely money.
Not because they were creatively poor. But because they were strategically sound. They decided the own the thing that matters most to most grocery buyers.

My gut feeling is both players had been trying to capture the “value” perception. And their agencies would have created lovely ads which studiously avoided pointing at the one thing the customer wanted to hear.
“We sell cheap.”
Until Coles said, “We sell cheap”.
And the rest has gone down, down in history.

In categories across the board, there is a main driver.
If there isn’t a real category leader, stake a claim on the thing that matters most to most of your customers and make it true in everything you do.
If you have to play follow the leader, reinvent the category.
Play the game differently.

Billy Beane couldn’t get great players to the Oakland Athletics by playing baseball the way his scouts said it should be played. He won it by playing baseball the way statistics said it could be played.

Volkswagon couldn’t win by being General Motors. They won by being smart.

Virgin couldn’t by being British Airways. They won by making value fun.

Apple couldn’t win by being Microsoft. They won by making technology desirable.

Pick a different scoreboard.
Or, pick the thing no one else can make true but you.
Take what made you famous in the first place and remind your customers why that is still relevant.

Be unique.
Be relevant.
Be true.

There are always reasons to be afraid in business.
Selling what you’re good at shouldn’t be one of them.