A 12-Step Program for Marketing Failure.

Posted by truecreek on March 12, 2010 under Opinions. Everyone has them. | Be the First to Comment

Tongue-in-cheek, but valuable none the less.

By Steve Cuno

We rarely hear about the fourth law of thermodynamics. In brief, it states that whenever a server says, “Careful, this plate is extremely hot,” an invisible force compels the customer to touch the plate. The compulsion grows as the cube of the number of decibels with which the server pronounces the word extremely.

It seems that, given a choice between heeding a voice of experience and sabotaging ourselves, many people do not just opt for, but positively execute, a mad dash for the latter. This can be as true of marketers as it is of other human-like creatures. So, for those who prefer wasting time and money, I offer the following personally witnessed, surefire shortcuts to screwing up your marketing. (I should add that narrowing it down to 12 wasn’t easy.)

Sabotage Tip 1: Don’t set firm objectives. You’re much safer stating that your goal is to “get your name out there” or to advertise because the competition does. That way, even if sales tank, you can sit back and say, “I did my job.”

Sabotage Tip 2: Put the goal where the ball lands. With a little practice, anyone can learn to retrofit objectives to results. Soon after a VP of marketing proudly showed me a new sales video, it became apparent that the video appealed to employees, but offended customers. No problem. The VP promptly claimed that the video was never intended for sales, but for training. George Orwell would have been proud.

Sabotage Tip 3: Write and design for internal approval. Authorize as many people as possible to revise or, better yet, outright veto creative work. This will ensure that creative people avoid trying to connect with the market. Instead, they will focus on creating what is sure to fly internally.

Sabotage Tip 4: It’s all about what YOU want. A major coffeehouse chain lost customers for years by refusing to fill the demand for lattes made with nonfat milk. Why did they resist? Because the CEO liked coffee the way it was made in Italy, and Italian baristas don’t use nonfat milk. Darned customers. What makes them think they should have a say in what they want in their coffee?

Sabotage Tip 5: Misuse research. Herd a bunch of people into a focus group and ask them to evaluate your campaign. Treat their comments, especially the ones you like, as if they’re statistically valid. You can also phone 5,000 people and ask them what they do, don’t, would and wouldn’t buy, and why. Assume they know.

Sabotage Tip 6: Don’t listen to your salespeople. The only thing that salespeople do is interact face-to-face, every day, with real customers who use your products. What would they know about marketing?

Sabotage Tip 7: If it’s wild and creative, go with it. If you have a killer concept that’s destined to take top honors at the next awards show, it would be a sin not to back it with your budget. Who cares whether it’s effective? It deserves to be shared!

Sabotage Tip 8: Avoid valid evidence. Proper testing and analysis let you reliably predict a direct mail strategy’s outcome before risking big bucks. But if nature had intended for us to conduct valid, predictive tests, we wouldn’t have hips to shoot from. Showing the concept to coworkers, friends, family and people in a mall, though not predictive, is faster and easier. And, only in the short run, cheaper.

Sabotage Tip 9: Don’t trust your agency. Your agency may have experts on staff, but you can still hobble them by overruling their expertise with your intuition. You can also focus on minutiae. For instance, make the art director change a border on that mail piece from black to dark blue.

Sabotage Tip 10: Trust your agency. Not trusting experts is self-sabotage, but so is trusting non-experts. Many agencies, figuring they can affix stamps as well as anyone, list “direct response marketing” as a core capability. If you are firmly committed to failure, this is no time for due diligence. Just hand them the checkbook.

Sabotage Tip 11: Mistake a slogan for a brand. Imagine a person who is fast losing friends. This person might do well to take an honest look, figure out what alienates people and make changes. But substance is such a bother. Surely this person could more easily regain friends by learning to say something like, “Hi, I’m Alex—where coolness is Number One.”

Sabotage Tip 12: Disdain proven techniques. For nearly two centuries, direct response marketers have amassed information on what works in the marketplace. Moreover, experience shows that what worked yesterday works today. But learning all that stuff is tedious, and using it might hamper your creativity. Mustn’t let that happen.

There are many ways to sabotage marketing, but this should give you a good start. If you fail to implement these recommendations, don’t come whining to me if your marketing succeeds.

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