Talk To Your Customers, Not Yourself

January 6, 2018

A danger all marketers face, whether you work for an agency or on the client side, is falling victim to the echo chamber effect. The temptation is there to hear only what we’re saying about ourselves, to the exclusion of what the customers need to hear about how we can address their needs.

 

In other words, be sure you’re not talking to – and about – yourselves, and instead keep it customer focused.

 

Check out the recent Mercedes-Benz ad below. Good for you, Mercedes! Pat yourself on the back a little harder. Oh by the way, what does this statement matter to the consumer? Remember, people don’t want your product – they want what your product can do for them. It’s about benefits for the customer. Even an aspirational brand can benefit from benefits. Marketing writer Belle Beth Cooper has a good post about this on her blog.

 

Figure 1: Hooray for us!

 

 

 

So what’s a good way to make sure you’re not just talking to yourself – or your boss? Here are a few ideas.

 

1.  Avoid the “Me Too” Message. Check out this old Blackberry ad below. What a great way of saying that you’ve finally brought your product up to the minimal price of entry into the category. The market’s inevitable response to the “Me too” message is always “So what.” I feel bad about piling on Blackberry, but c’mon RIM. You could have done better.

 

 Figure 2. Finally, we're just like everyone else!

 

 

2.  Avoid Conventional Wisdom. Richard Huntington, Group Chief Strategy Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, puts it very well: “The online echo chamber may have turned Facebook into the globe’s pre-eminent outlet for fake news and made Twitter an engine of abuse and haven of hatred. But it’s time to recognise that there is an echo chamber in marketing every bit as powerful and damaging as the echo chamber online. An echo chamber in which a frightening number of beliefs about marketing are constantly recycled and reiterated until they achieve the status of incontrovertible rules. Like the belief in engagement over reach, like the obsession with content over communication, like the millions spent keeping brands always on rather than always available.” Check out the whole interview at campaignlive.co.uk.

 

 

3.  Break out the B.S. Meter. Invite constructive criticism. Fashion an environment where anyone can freely call BS on an idea, claim, approach. Ask (or listen to) your agency partners about your core messaging. Speaking from personal experience, agency creatives can be a cynical lot. That’s not a bad thing. Copywriters must turn marketing briefs into believable, compelling ideas that will inspire consumers to take action. That’s difficult to do when you’re only talking about yourself.

 

 

4.  Avoid Superlatives. Embrace Differentiators. Words like Best, Ultimate, or Finest, mean nothing. They’re empty hyperbole. Which is fine if you’ve nothing else to hang your hat on. But even for an aspirational, luxury brand that’s lazy positioning. The public is more sophisticated every day, with their own BS meters, and quickly pick up on meaningless braggadocio. Instead concentrate on differentiators like Proven, Only, or Unlike. Superlatives are focused inward on the organization; differentiators are focused on customer benefits.

 

If anyone has a suggestion for a marketing topic they’d like to see discussed, mention it in the comments section and I’ll be happy to post my take.

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