Posts Tagged marketing
This post is in reaction to an interesting blog from @econsultancy. If you read through it, though I don’t advocate the notion of attacking a competitor, you’ll likely find it common sense. But the thing about common sense is that its often rare in practice. How often do we really consider how our customers feel emotionally about their problems or our products in the B2B environment?
It seems to me we, as marketers, spend way too much time articulating features / benefits and not necessarily about what drives customers emotionally. Some key emotions that come to mind relevant to B2B –
1) Security and peace of mind
2) Fear of complexity (and a need for simplicity)
3) Fear of obsolescence
4) Disdain for the big, evil OEM or corporation (that could even be you)
5) Need to be top dog or seen as a thought leader (not necessarily as an organization but as an individual)
6) Fear of unpredictability, inconsistency or failure (not at the product level but as a team or organization)
7) Desire to be perceived as charitable or benevolent
Obviously not every customer in your world is going to share all (or even one) of these emotional needs (that’s where the segmentation comes in). But when it’s all said and done, hard as we try, people are irrational decision makers.
How often have you tried to rationalize a purchase that in your head you knew was irrational? We see it all the time in the consumer world – products and services become emotional extensions of ourselves and we rationalize in our heads why we need something that we really don’t. I refuse to believe the same can’t be said in B2B. Buyers are still people, and people are still irrational. There are just different emotions at play.
In my current role we are commercializing a new solution playing to some extent on #s 4, 5 and 6 from above. That said, we’re still in the early phases so I won’t try and convince you of my genius…yet. In the meantime I would love to hear about what others have seen or done to tackle emotional needs in B2B. I’m all ears, so what have you got?
A few weeks ago I was in Chicago wandering through the water tower shopping plaza with my family. Foot traffic was light to moderate with the exception of two stores.
The Lego Store – Looking beyond the life-sized Darth Vader, the store was standing room only. At the pinnacle of co-branding from Starwars to Cars to Toy Story, there is no end in sight to Lego’s product evolution. All the while you could argue the fundamental product hasn’t changed or evolved since inception. More importantly people love it. My kid loves Starwars and he loves Legos (I know, apple…tree). Together, they’re a co-branding force (no pun intended).
The American Girl – I’ll admit I’d never heard of this brand until a few weeks ago. But just about every little girl below the age of 10 was carrying around an American Girl doll. I didn’t think much of it until my wife pointed out The American Girl’s store front. In it was a packed floor of girls and their moms. Of course the dads were all huddled to the side staring into their smartphones, no doubt reading ESPN to compensate for a general lack of testosterone… but you get the picture.
Now I’m not sure how much market research these organizations invested in (I’m sure they did enough) but clearly these two companies have their target audience hanging on every word. More importantly, whether or not they did any market research is completely irrelevant. My point is that these concepts just make sense. And sometimes that’s all it takes; finding whatever it is that excites us as a user. Case in point the movie clip below, from one of my favorite movies growing up…
Walking through through both of the stores mentioned above, I was reminded of this scene from the movie “Big”. It serves as an important reminder not to get caught up in nailing down all the facts and figures. Forget for a moment the conjoint. Forget the exact market size.
Does the idea make sense?
Clearly, the idea of a Transformers skyscraper made little sense what-so-ever. But, two of the coolest innovations of all time, Legos and Starwars make perfect sense. Dare I say like chocolate and peanut butter. And while I’m not exactly the most female savvy consumer, a customize-able doll that little girls can carry around and build as a reflection of themselves, something they can actually create – that too, makes sense.
I’ll end with this thought. We all (myself included) need to do a better job of embracing our inner child. Embrace that impulse to just run out and do something if it makes sense; to let ourselves get excited about an idea, not about a market size; to get passionate about creating something, not selling something. You just may find yourself on the verge of something big.
In classical mythology, the concept of hubris is often illustrated by the story of Icarus. The son of the master craftsman Daedelus, Icarus let his pride overpower his humility and paid dearly for his mistake. Wikipedia says it best:
Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which melted the wax. Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms.
How many times have you been in a meeting where the topic of competitive threats come up? And how many times are those threats answered by assertions of “Maybe, but we’re better!” Better technologically, better in some specific attribute, or just downright better overall. Whether or not the customers believe you (and one only look to the sales and market share numbers to quickly learn the answer to that question), some people will forever hold on to the idea that being better is enough.
This morning Dave Winer posted on Google+ and an incumbent’s ability to innovate against the status quo. It’s an interesting piece, especially when he argues that the incumbents become too enamoured with the status quo (aka “Why would we leave money on the table?” syndrome), while anyone they could bring in to shake up the status quo would probably fall prey to office politics. I’m not sure how much I agree with those conclusions, but they are interesting food for thought.
The larger question here is whether it’s possible to get out of your own way long enough to attack the big issues head on. While it might be true that your product is technically superior to the competition’s, if the customer is buying the competition’s products, you’ve got a problem in desperate need of solving (viz: Kris’ piece on Being Good Enough).
If you’ve got yourself convinced that you’re infallible, impervious, or otherwise untouchable, you might spend some time thinking about what happened to IBM, Microsoft, and DEC, or what’s currently happening to Nokia and RIM, or will no doubt ultimately happen to Google, Facebook, and even my beloved Apple, when a young, small, agile upstart comes along and puts a technically superior product out of business.
Ask a physicist what will happen if you fire a projectile like this in that direction, and she’ll know. Ask a chemist what happens if you mix x and y, and you’ll get the right answer. Even quantum mechanics mechanics can give you probabilities that work out in the long run.
I’m not always the biggest fan of Seth Godin’s brand of “crackerjack marketing” – for my taste it generally lacks the subtlety and nuance that paints life in anything other than primary colors 1– but I do have to admit that most of his observations are sound, at least in the broad strokes.
As someone who spent the better part of his life as a scientist, I can tell you that while Seth’s observation might be technically right, it does lack the subtlety of insight. Scientists spend vast tracts of time testing and observing the world, and only after gathering, collating, and interpreting the data do they build hypotheses of how the world works.
Scientists make predictions, and predicting the future is far more valuable than explaining the past.
In reality, scientists predict the future by explaining the past. And to be fair, they don’t so much “predict the future” as tell you what would be consistent with past observations.
But buried somewhere here is a lesson, whether you’re in science, marketing, or any other knowledge worker driven field: future insights are only as good as the summation of your past observances. It is, at times, attractively expedient2 to rely on “key thought leaders in the field”3 to generate your “insights” rather than a full-fledged primary marketing research study. We can’t do large-scale marketing research studies, the argument goes, because we don’t have the budget.
But ask yourself this question: what’s more expensive – fielding and executing a good primary marketing research study, or better on a product that only a small handful of people will like?
- I know there are a great many “Seth-heads” out there. Please understand that I’m in no way saying that being a “Seth-head” is wrong, only that he doesn’t suite my taste. It would be a shame if the only thing you took from this article was this comment about Seth, as I’m trying to address a larger point, which you’ll hopefully see below.
- READ: Cheap and fast.
- READ: A few good customers.
- I can’t seem to find the original source of this quote, so I’ll link to where I first remember hearing it. It now graces a crude printed sign hanging on my own cubicle wall.
Every now and then I come across some really great advertising and when I do I try to make a point of calling it out. Though usually just post it on Facebook, occasionally I may also blog about it. This is one of those times.
Volkswagen has over the last several months put out a handful of really good commercials, a couple in particular that I would say are great. That said, before I make my case, I’ll let you decide for yourself.
OK – so here’s why I think these stand out in particular…
VW tells a compelling story in under a minute. And it’s a story that resonates with a generation of parents across the nation. StarWars, yeah we get that. Heck, that particular commercial could have been filmed in my house, it was so close to home (minus the VW in the driveway). And the parental fear of a kid sneaking off with the car… again, we get that. But they told it without the tired father-son speech about someday this car will be his, blah blah blah.
Besides a great story, and perhaps more importantly, VW demonstrates a clear understanding of their target segment and show cases the brand in a context meaningful to that segment. Affluent suburbanites, Gen-Xers with kids, above average tech savvy, who want functionality as well as aesthetics.
VW doesn’t try to go after BMW here or any other “performance” brand. I mean, it is German engineered and no one would have been surprised nor faulted them if they had. But the car never even leaves the driveway!!! Much less fly around some curvy hillside with the disclaimer of “professional driver, closed course”. Instead, there was a clear focus on NOT being BMW. VW is “your” car… you, the hard working, white collar, family-values parent that clearly has a desire for something above average, but without being extravagant or superfluous.
I love what VW has done. Some might perceive this as a risky route. They’re not talking performance (BMW), they’re not talking safety (Volvo), they’re certainly not competing at the entry level value segment (Hyundai). And yet, I’d argue they’ve captured a valuable segment, one that has long been overlooked.
Well done, VW. Das marketing.