Friday, October 12, 2012

The ethics of marketing

Marketing has ethics? Who knew?

This video sparked an internal conversation here by the shore.

As a marketer I have a responsibility to sell my clients' products. I also have a responsibility as a member of a society to do that within all the laws and accepted mores of that society.

I have worked for Pepsi, developing and positioning new products that meet consumer desires and help the company increase their sales. Some of the products have been sugary. Others have been healthy.

Enjoying the occasional soft drink won't kill you. Drinking three or four a day is probably not a good idea.

But as a marketer, how much of the responsibility do I bear for those who choose to use a product in an unhealthy, unsafe or irresponsible manner?

My personal opinion. Very little.

As a marketer it's my job to develop and sell a safe, enjoyable, reliable product: be it cars, soda, beer, gaming, cheese, health care, sporting goods, whatever.

As a consumer it's your job to educate yourself about the proper use of the product.

I'm not going to hide anything from you. I'm not going to use unethical tactics to encourage the improper or over use of any of my clients' products.

Groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest have the right to provide people with all the information they feel is necessary to make smart choices about the products they consume.

That's the way the system works.

So good for CSPI for developing a campaign that they think will help people live healthier lives.

As for me, I'll keep working to sell whatever my clients need me to.

Except tobacco.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The right way to innovate

Because I've been lucky enough to work with a lot of companies in developing new products, I'm often asked, "what's the best way to innovate?"

My answer, though seemingly flippant, is always "the way works best for you."

There's no secret formula for coming up with new ideas and getting them into the market. There's no one process that will guarantee success. If there were, do you think large companies with very smart people and lots of resources would have created these products: Microsoft Zune, Crystal Pepsi, Quikster, Disney's John Carter?

Developing new products requires an understanding of consumer needs, an idea that provides a better way to fulfill those needs than anything that's available now, and flawless execution of the idea in the end product or service. In this day and age, you also have to do it quickly while simultaneously developing a breakthrough communications plan, so you can launch your idea and own the space in the consumer mind before your competition quickly follows your lead.

It's not easy.

So the best way to develop a new product is the way that's most natural for your company and your culture.

For Apple that was a very top down approach driven by a relentless visionary leader. It's something they seem to be struggling with now that Steve Jobs is gone. Many have said they never would have released the flawed maps app in the iPhone 5 under his watch.

Google uses a collaborative approach where scientists, engineers, designers and researchers work together to solve problems and create new products.

Open innovation is all the rage now, where companies like Frito Lay are asking their customers and other experts to help them with the development of new products.

So how should you innovate?

Know your culture and design an approach that fits based on the scale and scope of the project.

Asking Microsoft to innovate like Apple would be like asking Rob Schneider to play Hamlet. Sure he can read the lines, but you're not going to like the result.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Question before you measure

It has been said that we manage what we measure.

That was pretty simple when marketing measurements were limited to ratings, readership, reach and frequency.

The world is a little more complex now.

We can measure just about everything: Likes, Fans, Tweets, Mentions, Opens, Check-ins, Visits, Brainwaves, and more. The list is almost endless.

The question isn't "Should we measure?" but rather "What should we measure?"

The answer, of course, is "That depends."

Most businesses don't have the resources to measure everything, therefore need the discipline to measure what's most important. So before you add new measurements to your metrics, ask yourself a few questions:
  • Who is our target? 
  • How does this help us learn more about them?
  • What are our objectives?
  • How will we use the information to improve our marketing?
It's easy to get excited about the latest measurement tool. But if it doesn't measure something that's important, you're better off without it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The problem with advertising

Advertising can create awareness.

Advertising can stimulate curiosity.

Advertising can set expectations.

Advertising can open new markets.

Advertising can generate trial.

Advertising can accelerate the acceptance of new and better products.

What advertising can't do is make a bad product good. It can't make an old product new. It can't make ordinary service special. It can't make an ugly car beautiful. It can't improve the quality of something that's shoddily built. It can't transform a me-too product into something innovative. 

If you're trying to solve a product problem with advertising, you might as well be using a hammer to drive a screw.

In this era of abundance, when you can choose from over 30 mid-size sedans, nearly 100 smartphone models, thousands of flatscreen televisions, millions of mobile apps, good enough just isn't.

Do the research. Brainstorm solutions. Design better products and experiences. Engineer more elegant interfaces. Build things with impeccable quality.

You'll be surprised how much more effective your advertising is when it's promoting an exceptional product.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Be great then communicate

Here's a great article about a small business – the Squeeze In Restaurant – that's using social media to drive its business.

They cover all the bases – website, mobile app, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, blog, etc. – so you can connect and interact with them whenever and however you want. Clearly, they're working it and that's great. But an active social media presence is not what made Squeeze In successful.

Squeeze In has the three ingredients for any successful business: Focus, Personality and Passion.

Go to their website – it isn't pretty by graphic design standards, but it works just fine – there's no missing what they're famous for, omelettes, 66 varieties of them.

Read their house rules, and you'll get a sense of the brand's personality and know what to expect from the service.

Read the reviews and you understand the care and passion with which they prepare their food and serve their guests.

Social media is the amplifier that they've used to help grow their business from one diner in Truckee to four locations in California and Nevada. It helped them get featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay

But none of this would have happened if they didn't have a point of view, great food and great service.

Don't expect social media to fix your problems. Fix your problems and then use social media to help you grow. As the owner, Misty Young, is quoted as saying:
“All our communications tactics are lame and ineffective if we can’t back it up at the table.”