It’s common to hope for new products, books, and marketing initiatives to “generate buzz.” And if something creates a season of buzz early on, that is often looked at as a mark of success.
At first this sounds good. It sounds like it’s in line with one of the core principles of (good) marketing: create things worth talking about. Unleash word of mouth, which is then amplified by the internet as never before.
But it’s actually not. The concept of “buzz” is actually a hold-over from the old methods of interruption marketing where the organization (or marketer) sees themselves as in control. The reason is that there is a difference between buzz and word of mouth.
Buzz is surface level. It is usually based on superficial realities about the product or message. It doesn’t last.
Word of mouth, on the other hand, is substantive. It facilitates meaningful interactions and is based on deeper realities than just surface factors. It stems from a real emotional connection with the product. It is meaningful.
It’s not that buzz is bad. It’s just not enough. Seek for your product, book, message, website, or organization to generate true and valuable word of mouth, not just buzz.
Seth Godin recounts a painful experience filling out a form on the Jet Blue website. Here’s the key point:
The problem with letting your web forms become annoying is that in terms of time spent interacting with your brand, they’re way up on the list. If someone is spending a minute or two or three or four cursing you out from their desk, it’s not going to be easily fixed with some clever advertising.
In other words: Take some of that money you might have spent on advertising (print or online) and make your website more usable. That treats your customers or constituents better and will have more impact because giving your customers a good experience builds your brand far more effectively than any ad could.
Advertising Age has a summary of the biggest media-related stories of the decade. They include:
- The dot-com bust
- The rise of Google
- The marketing of Obama
- The Great Recession
A good post from Seth Godin on the true meaning of “the customer is always right” and how not to fire your customers:
Does it really matter if you’re right?
Given the choice between acknowledging that your customer is upset or proving to her that she is wrong, which will you choose?
You can be right or you can have empathy.
You can’t do both.
It’s not the nature of capitalism to need to teach people a lesson, it’s the nature of being a human, we just blame it on capitalism. In fact, smart marketers understand that the word ‘right’ in “The customer is always right” doesn’t mean that they’d win in court or a debate. It means, “If you want the customer to remain a customer, you need to permit him to believe he’s right.”
If someone thinks they’re unhappy, then you know what? They are.
Trying say this to yourself: I have no problem acknowledging that you’re unhappy, upset or even angry. Next time, I’d prefer to organize our interaction so you don’t end up feeling that way, and I probably could have done it this time, too. You have my attention and my empathy and I value you. Thanks for being here.
If you can’t be happy with that, then sure, go ahead and fire the customer, cause they’re going to leave anyway.
Seth Godin had a good post the other day on the dilemma faced by any organization that wants to grow the base that it serves:
If you want to grow the size of your customer base, you need to confront the buffet dilemma.
Any decent buffet has foods that please 85% of the population. Meats, cheeses, potatoes… the typical fare.
Once your business hits a natural plateau, it’s tempting to invest in getting more people to come. And what most buffets do is double down. Now, they have bacon, plus they have beans with bacon and turkey-wrapped bacon. Now, instead of one chocolate cake, they have three.
This is essentially useless. You haven’t done anything to grow your audience. The base might be a little more pleased, but not enough to bring in any new business. And the disenfranchised (the vegans, the weight watchers, the healthy eaters, the kosher crowd) remain unmoved and uninterested. And one person like this out of a party of six is enough to keep all six away.
What does work? Going much deeper or a bit wider:
Deeper would mean a bacon-focused buffet, a dozen bacon dishes, including chocolate-covered bacon. Deeper would mean a chocolate-obsessed dessert bar, ten cakes, fondue, everything.
Deeper gets you people willing to drive across town to visit you. It’s remarkable. It’s not like every other buffet but a little bit bigger. It’s insanely over the top. People will bully their friends in order to get them to come.
The other choice is wider. Instead of adding a handful of dishes that mildly please the people you already have, why not add brown rice and tofu and vegetarian chili? Now you’ve opened the doors to that last 15%.
Seth Godin has a great post this morning on Marketing Lessons from the US Election. Well worth the read.
Here’s the quick summary:
- Stories really matter
- TV is over
- Permission matters
- Marketing is tribal
- Motivating the committed outperforms persuading the uncommitted
- Attack ads don’t always work
- We get what we deserve (ex: buy from telemarketers, and you’re going to get more telemarketers)
I would add an eight point: sometimes, we don’t get what we deserve. Thankfully.