14 October 2009

Getting Real: Baked-In Marketing

"Baked in: Creating Products and Businesses That Market Themselves" is a brand new book by the two US authors Alex Bogusky and John Winsor about marketing. This book provides a refreshing perspective on the purpose and the progress of marketing.
(Disclosure: I do have no business relationship with the authors or their firms; they have sent a free copy of their book for review to me.)

Actually, the authors are top ad guys in the U.S. with Crispin Porter + Bogusky. They know what they are talking about and they have made a convincing case why mass marketing is dead.

And, they show, what we can do instead. Because, it is time to put a stop on this kind of "marketing", where the CEO orders the marketing manager to try to sell some kind of product or service that nobody really wants.

Add-on Marketing Is Extinct
In fact, this "add-on" marketing - first to produce something and then to try to sell it - was never really marketing. However, the fact that this worked at all was temporarily possible due to an era when mass media reigned supreme.

Because, there was a time - our parents know it - when nearly all families viewed the same news, shows, soaps and, yep, advertising.

These times of mass media are long gone, but the advertising industry is still struggling about how to regain the power of the campaign: Spending millions and moving the masses .... It was just so simple and profitable. And it´s over. Face it.

The Single Most Powerful Marketing Tool
However, Bogusky and Winsor propose in their small, but essential book that today, marketing must be baked into the product and service.

Basically, they demand that we should use our creativity and integrate marketing, product design and advertising into one highly useful, value-loaded package of consumer delight.

The message of the book is clear: the product / service itself is the most powerful marketing tool. Yes, we all know that. However, why don´t marketers act on this knowledge?

In fact, the new product failure rate is up in the 90% range. At the same time we get dozens of similar offers every day. We are flooded with communication, ads and direct mail garbage shouting at us to buy a me-too version of some commodity.

Instead of pouring their hard earned money into really hot and useful products and designs, the marketing guys are trying to dupe us to buy the same-same once more. They call it "creating awareness", "brand preference" or "purchase intent"..... Shareholders call it: a waste of money.

Creativity Is the Key to Baked In
This is the key idea and premise of the book: Stop wasting money and start using your creativity of your people to deliver something consumers really want, love, take part in, co-create, embrace, recommend, enthuse about, adore, desire, etc., etc.

The biggest part of the book consists of 28 "recipes" on how to go for creating value and how to bake in marketing into the product itself.

Some recipes are really tasty, others we have cooked before (with Tom Peters, Blue Ocean Strategy, Market Busters, Lateral Marketing / Kotler, etc.), and others may turn out inedible (that´s okay, at least we tasted it).

Nevertheless, they provide a great many ideas with examples on how to make it better. From culture, through organization, to stories, to thinking habits, to attitudes, to processes and so on. Each recipe can bring some flavor to the process of creating a better product with baked in marketing.

One of the strengths of the book are the real world marketing and brand examples, which make the read easy and enjoyable, but also provides a tangible dimension to applied creativity.

Twitter @Bakedin #Recipe
There is a cool twist to the recipes. Because for each recipe the authors set up a twitter name that can be found on their blog www.bakedin.com where the cooking is going on in real time. This is user generated brewing & boiling of the finest cuisine, a la Web 2.0.

This crowd-sourcing allows every reader of the book to actually help to write forth a current and online version of the book. So if you do not like the taste of some recipes, just change it or make an entirely new one and post it on @Bakedin.

Does Baked In Work in the Real World?
When starting to "bake in" the marketing in our business, does the book help? Yes, definitely. The best way is to just test some recipes and you will cooking for a while on each of them.

When applying the recipies, I found the book makes a somewhat idiosyncratic journey in terms of the suggestions. For more structured minds, we would miss an organizing bracket that relates the various recipes to each other. Even if it would restrict the highly creative spirits.

We should not hold the authors´deep background in marketing and their strong creative streak against them, however, there are some non-marketing issues that are neglected. In fact, many of the suggestions aim to improve the processes of organizational learning and applied creativity.

These change management issues are tough challenges, especially for companies caught in functional fiefdoms and traditional structures.

Nevertheless, the book provides more than enough value for anyone seriously interested in winning the trust and the business of customers.

Baked In Applicable for European Marketers
Sometimes European marketers are sceptical towards the great enthusiasm of their US colleagues about such new trends. Therefore, the question of how the book is applicable for the European situation deserves an answer.

My answer to this is: even more; In many respects the Europeans need the lessons of this book even more badly. Because the attitude in Europe still too often is: "we know better" than the customers or a "we tell them what´s right" kind of elitist smartass arrogance.

The best cure to that kind of delusion is to jump right into the kitchen and - together with your colleagues, with real, tangible customers and with other creative spirits - "bake in" real marketing innovations in your products and services.

09 October 2009

How to Ignore the Customer

A case study on how not to attempt a marketing campaign has just launched in Austria. The BawagPSK bank announced its new "Unternehmen Österreich" campaign. It is a well intended, but however badly advised, effort to regain lost trust with their customers. Because, it will destroy trust. Why?

First of all, the problem of lost trust cannot be healed by telling people: "Trust me." A better approach would be to behave in a trustworthy way: in all branches, in all dealings and in all interactions with clients. This is hard work, yes, very hard (much harder than airing some commercials). And, it takes time and a lot of effort on the ground. However, BawagPSK is on the right track on this, see my post from January.

Second, in advertising school we learned, once the CEOs and/or animals appear in commercials, then the ad agency has not targeted the company´s clients, but the executives. Would the BawagPSK executives like the ad campaign? I bet! Do customers gain any immediate, specific benefit? I doubt it. So, why should customers be interested in listening to it?

Third, the campaign Web site has been announced as an interactive platform. If this would be a joke, then it would be a cruel one. The so-called interaction on the internet site is limited to that you can click on pictures of executives which produces pop-up windows (boring).

Then you can read their great ideas! Yeah, that´s what customers were waiting for.... In reality, interactivity in the Web2.0 era means a real dialogue with customers. And, banks do not have a choice in this. See the Bank of America Debtor Revolt Begins Now, here and here. Better to give them a voice on your own terrain, than have them complain in youtube.

Fourth, clients need banks they can trust. The ideas and the concept of making banking business transparent, simple and safe are correct.
However, the most damaging advertising is that which promises too much. Because, when clients enter a retail bank branch and have high expectations on the "Unternehmen Österreich" promise, but if then get badly disappointed, that creates a terrible damage to the brand and destroys the trust they had.

Fifth, what really is missing in this campaign are the customers. The stilted dialogues in the videos do not invoke a real need in the viewer. What, you got loans? What a surprise, I knew that! Banking clients do have real needs in dealing with banks, but they are sorely lacking in that campaign.

Sixth, today customers do have choices and are better informed than ever. The real proof of the pudding is in the eating. People decide about their relationships with banks on the basis of their real world experience:
  • how they are greeted in the branch (not!),
  • if the teller get´s up from his butt to serve the long queue (is not),
  • if transactions are processed correctly all the time (who cares?),
  • if the bank manager takes responsibility for service mistakes (does not), etc. etc.
No news here: the retail banking business is a service business, and it is tough to deliver great service all the time for every customer. Therefore, it is easier to launch a nice ad campaign.

However, it does not work, because banks have no place to hide. Customers look through the advertising veil and judge on the performance they actually receive. Today. Tomorrow. Every day. In every branch.