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All Marketers...

The value of style

I took this photo last summer at a hotel in the Hamptons where i attended a meeting.

When you buy a hotel, the only thing you need is a dark, quiet room and a decent bed. But that’s pretty cheap. What you’re paying for is the story–all the little things that make you believe you’re getting way more than just a room.

This sign is certainly functional, but it adds no value. It has no flair, no excitement, no promise of wonder or quality.

If you asked your customers, “would you like better signs?” the answer would be, “of course not! We want lower rates or bigger portions at breakfast!” But a walk down the beach to a hotel that charges three times as much wouldn’t find pancakes that are three times better. It would, instead, reveal a sense of style that’s worth paying for.

All Marketers...

Milton Glaser is a Liar

Milton Glaser is a world-famous designer. Here is a list (some are lies he and his clients participate in) (from an old speech):

  1. Designing a package to look bigger on the shelf.
  2. Doing an ad for a slow, boring film to make it seem like a light-hearted comedy.
  3. Designing a crest for a new vineyard to suggest that it has been in business for a long time.
  4. Designing a jacket for a book whose sexual content that you find personally repellent.
  5. Designing a medal using steel from the World Trade Center to be sold as a profit-making souvenir of September 11th.
  6. Designing an advertising campaign for a company with a history of known discrimination in minority hiring.
  7. Designing a package for children whose contents you know are low in nutrition value and high in sugar content.
  8. Designing a line of t-shirts for a manufacture that employs child labour.
  9. Designing a promotion for a diet product that you know doesn’t work.
  10. Designing an ad for a political candidate whose policies you believe would be harmful to the general public.
  11. Designing a brochure for an SUV that turned over frequently in emergency conditions known to have killed 150 people.
  12. Designing an ad for a product whose frequent use could result in the user’s death.

Thanks to Billy Sobczyk for the pointer.

All Marketers...

Who’s Your Daddy?

I was going to stick to one post a day, but this stuff is just too good.

Waye Yeager points out that who your great great grandfather is just a story. It’s a good story, a powerful story, a story that opens doors and creates all sorts of advantages. But it doesn’t have a lot to do with who you really are, does it?

HSC Advisory Council

All Marketers...

The Billion Dollar Water Story

Chris Busch writes:

Take Evian ?? origins in the French Alps, mountain aquifer, special bottling process.  Feel fresh, young, and beautiful with Evian, the original beauty product.  The story tells of the Cachat Springs located in the quaint town of Evian-les-Bains on the southern shore  of Lake Geneva in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps.  Suddenly I’m having a European experience through the bottle of chilled water I just procured at the c-store with the filthy floors.  I feel healthier.  I’ve redefined cool.  It’s not just water, but water from the French Alps.  It’s superb water.  Beyond all other waters.  I feel smarter.  I look better.  You’ve lifted me out of my mundane, middle-class existence.  Thank you, Evian.  I love you.  I need you.

And for those that are missing the point: hey, it’s just water.

Of course, it’s not just water. You can solve your thirst problem for free. You buy bottled water because of the way it makes you feel, because of the impact the story has on your mood, not because you need the fluid.

All Marketers...

What is the truth?

Have you ever been abducted by a space alien?
Reporting in the prestigious Psychological Science (as seen in this month’s Scientific American) reports that it doesn’t matter whether the victim was really and truly abducted by a space alien (and who knows what sort of Walmart-induced otherworldly liberties were taken), the psychological effects are identical. Patients hearing a script recounting their alleged horrors experienced identical response to soldiers and others suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome.

In other words, if someone believes something is real, then the effect on them is the same as if it were real.

Psychophysiological Responding During Script-Driven Imagery in People Reporting Abduction by Space Aliens

Leaving ET aside for a second, this is a profound (if obvious) result. What we experience is far more driven by what we believe than by what the objective truth may report. Stories come first. Authentic stories hold up under scrutiny. Manufactured stories dry up and fade away. But stories come first.

All Marketers...

Malcolm Gladwell’s Insight

We all know about The Tipping Point: (gladwell dot com / books.)

Most people, though, have missed the key teaching from the broken windows theory. This is a crime prevention idea that says that if a neighborhood is filled with small signs of community disrespect (litter, broken windows, etc.) it’s way more likely to have violent crime. If you clean up the little things, the crime rate goes down. Malcolm talked about how well this worked in NYC.

Well, here’s the latest: it turns out that it doesn’t matter at all what the neighborhood is like. New research just published says that what actually matters is what the people who live there think it’s like! The absolute ranking of the neighborhood doesn’t matter. The truth of the neighborhood doesn’t matter! What matters is the story that people tell themselves. The story is the truth.

All Marketers...

Are they all the same?

So, here’s a glimpse at the ski rental rack at Paragon.

Lots of skis to choose from, obviously.

Except, of course, that the biggest difference is in the graphics. Skis today have a lot more in common than they have in differences. But that won’t stop the prospective customer from spending quite a few minutes trying to decide which ski to rent.

Each ski tells a story. It’s a lie about image and performance and suitability. But if that lie makes the skiing more enjoyable, gives us the confidence to try new things and do them better, then it’s not a lie after all.

People desperately want to believe stories. Even if that story is just a few drops of ink on a plastic sheet.

All Marketers...

Piles and piles

Costco fever, this time at my local Stew Leonard’s. It’s not clear to me that the price on these socks and snacks (of course, socks and snacks, right next to each other!) is particularly good. And there’s certainly no reason to stack them up in such a huge pile.

Except there is. The reason is that the stack is lying to you, telling you a story about volume and value and urgency. This must be a great deal! They bought so many! They’ve got to clear them out! (and then, paradoxically, “They might run out soon!”)

The punchline: this works because people like us like it. It makes us feel good to buy what feels like a bargain, even if it’s not.

All Marketers...

To serve you better?

No promotion lasts forever. Got that. But when you end a promotion and start a new one, why lie about it? The reason that the unredeemed points become  worthless is  not  because they’re taking up valuable room and need to be moved out the way for an even better program. Consumers are too smart for this. They usually ignore it, or, if they do notice it, they just get more cynical.

All Marketers...

6 million stickers.

Today’s entry in the marketing stupidity hall of fame is for Simon Malls | More Choices – Simon.com. (note the ironic web site name). Simon runs shopping malls.

Last year, Simon sold 6 million “Giftcards”. That’s a gift certificate that looks like a credit card. This is great news for them. Why? Because 4 to 20% of all gift certificates are never redeemed–which means that if you figure the average one is for $20, they’re making as much as $12,000,000 in profit with no effort.

Is that enough for Simon? No way. The Simon card is boobytrapped. After six months, Simon starts deducting $2.50 each month. Which means that if you don’t use your card right away, it becomes worthless. The astonishing thing on top of all the other astonishing things is that Simon should want you to not use your card right away… they get the interest on the money!

Simon added all sorts of other stupid features, like an expiration date (cash doesn’t expire!) and other fine print charges.

So anyway, Simon got caught. Eliot Spitzer, NY Attorney General, is suing them. Instead of saying, “Hey, this is a dumb policy, let’s just overhaul the thing,” Simon is fighting back, arguing jurisdiction, putting little stickers on the back of the cards, claiming that now it’s okay.

No, it’s not okay. It’s dumb and it’s deceitful. It’s dumb because it involves tricking customers (and their friends, the gift recipients). It creates nothing but negative conversations.