Saturday, August 8, 2009

Don't look now, but your fly is down.

Did it work? If you've at least read this far, I won. I officially have your attention. This is the heart of all marketing. We'll beg, borrow and steal your attention and hope to the heavens that we can keep it long enough to persuade you to open your wallet in our direction.

As you wander through life you pass thousands of advertisements in the streets, in your reading material, on your TV and increasingly in new unexpected media. You filter out most of it and are becoming increasingly desensitised to our efforts. It's not your fault, you're genetically wired to pay less attention to constant stimuli. The more we throw at you, the more often you reset your base zero. As a result, we're working harder to come up with new and novel ways to invade your head space.

Advertising is getting harder. You're not paying attention to it and it's becoming remarkably easy for you to avoid it all together. 40 years ago a company could reach 3/4 of Americans if they bought commercial space on the top three networks. Now you've got your TiVo programmed to bypass anything that could interrupt your precious TV show. Can you really blame us for the blatant product placement that results? There are now entire shows that are seemingly devoted to nothing but advertising the latest and greatest for 60 minutes at a time (John and Kate, I'm looking at you here).

Not only is advertising getting harder, but campaigns often fail. It's not easy to keep continue coming up with a fresh spin for a product you've seen thousands of times, so we go for shock value. Though, even those of us that do get your attention can often miss the boat. Unless you get the call to action, the ad is essentially wasted.

So, how do we get your attention? As the consumer you have all of the power, and I'd be willing to bet that even you don't know why you buy. How much thought do you put in your brand choices when you buy sugar, flour or eggs? Even if you did know, you probably wouldn't tell us; how often do you really hear the driver of Porche tell others he bought it so his neighbours would think he's a big deal. Market research is a tough job, we've got to be sneaky.

For the past year I've pretty well been the entire marketing department for one of the largest telco companies in Canada. We do a great deal of our marketing through advertising and are compulsive about tracking and analytics. We've had ad campaigns that generate results that surpassed our wildest dreams, and some that have gone over like a lead Zeppelin. Our entire customer acquisition strategy depends on grabbing potential customers attention and having them call us, and we generally do it flying by the seat of our pants. We don't have a single outbound sales agent on staff. Slowly but surely over the past year we've doubled incoming calls despite the face that our economy is in the gutter. This year we plan to double again.

In order to achieve this goal I have a sneaking feeling that our marketing strategy is going to have to get a little more complex. At the moment we don't brand, not intentionally anyway. We push our price point and focus on acquisition and retention through only direct response marketing. Over the next year as I bleed, sweat and cry over my efforts to double our incoming volume once again, I plan to find the holy grail of marketing. I'm going to figure out what gets your attention and what makes you buy.

Is branding essential?
Do consumers actually consider a brand, either consciously or subconsciously?
What is the validity of price marketing?
How does advertising actually work?
What doesn't work, and WHY doesn't it work.

Follow me along as I figure it out. I'll be sharing.