Monday, May 05, 2008

Marketing Musings: What's the Intention of Attention?

Way back in April 07 I talked about being authentic; drawing inspiration from Naomi Klein (who ironically has a great message for marketers) I argue that without a firm commitment to solve real customer problems your marketing is reduced to attempts (often sad) at drawing attention to your products or services. Seth Godin lives and breathes this stuff and true to form, gives his thoughts and views on marketing and authenticity his own “Purple Cow” treatment – meaning he differentiates his message through his Purple Cow metaphor and rises above the noise.

Sadly, at times I still feel like a dog chasing its tail when I try to think through marketing in 2008. A few things we know for sure:
  • If you are not solving problems, if you are not authentic, you are already way behind the 8 ball.
  • You have to bake your genuine solution to real problems into your offering from day one, with all the marketing help there from the start, or else.
  • Social Internet services like Facebook, Bebo, MySpace continue to draw in more people.
  • Getting noticed on-line is not that difficult but if there is no genuine follow-through, all you have is a nice chart to frame.
  • You can still reach people via TV (Obama says you can’t expect to ever be President without the TV budget) but it is far too expensive and mass market for most business owners.
  • Other methods of advertising are flat, if not in decline, and response rates are appalling.

So where to from here, how do I stop chasing my tail and get on with business? I was at a conference last week where one of the speakers stated “ need to understand the intention of the attention.” When you think about it, this is an ultra-simple sniff test for any marketing you do from this day forward. Why is the audience attracted to this video clip or reading this email, or listening to this radio ad or chatting on-line for example?

The rush to carve off ad dollars for digital has resulted in a lot of misses – that’s to be expected in the early days but companies should not be repeating these mistakes. Let’s try to guess the intention of some popular 2008 activities:

  • Chatting on IM with friends – communicate, catch-up, laugh, cry and have fun.
  • Reading emails using Gmail - communicate, catch-up, laugh, cry and have fun.
  • Checking a YouTube video a classmate told you about – laugh, cry, learn and have fun.
  • Looking at a friend’s weekend party pics on Facebook - communicate, catch-up, laugh, cry and have fun.

The public are not listening anymore; they are doing fun things they enjoy on-line. So that’s the test: Is the intention of my audience aligning with my goals as a marketer, on-line or otherwise?

Given most of the traditional ad mediums are very hard to measure accurately, what’s a marketer to do? Go fully on-line and seek out relevant communities for your offering right? Well to complicate matters a little more, the majority of people are still off-line (i.e the real world) 18 hours a day although this is blurred by Blackberrys, iPhones, phone calls, text message and mobile web pages. Bear in mind how this might affect intention.

If your offering is not differentiated and you’re battling others in a commodity business then your only option is to outspend – the race to the bottom. As Naomi Klein asked:

…do you have a “communications problem” or a “reality problem?”

Seek out and spend, but only on those platforms and services that pass the intention test. Anything else is a waste of your hard earned money.

But I sell blenders, show me my audience?

Yes Blendtec’s audience is mass market, but their product differentiation is the star of the show in this example. They are perhaps the best example of innovation before marketing – after all, their marketing is simply turning on their machine and making a video of it.

From Inc. Magazine: “In one memorable spot, he takes an iPhone, throws it in his blender, and watches approvingly as it disappears in a puff of black smoke. The catchphrase "Yes, it blends!" then appears on the screen. Since the video series debuted on YouTube, retail sales of the company's blenders have grown fivefold, to an estimated $10 million, up from $2 million in 2006. The original run of five videos cost only $50 to produce and has been viewed more than 35 million times on YouTube.”

Steve Jobs says Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. I say, “Be an Authentic Problem Solver, and Understand the Intention of the Attention.”

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