Innovation, Disruption and Groundbreaking

“Our technology is disruptive” said every founder at a recent venture capital pitch fest. If that had been the case, it would have been a wonderful evening. As it turned out, not a single deal was discussed after the last slide deck reached its end. All said, the words innovative, disruptive and groundbreaking were frequently used and never accurate. I have seen the same with marketers. As with startup founders, if you don’t understand the difference between these concepts, or you buy your own hype and assume your product is in a status it isn’t, you are unlikely to be profitable. Innovation: To innovate is to make changes in anything established (things that are disruptive are innovations as well, but of a different caste). If you devise a small enhancement to a product category that creates a minor but marketable advantage, you have an innovation. Likewise, if you overhaul your … Continue reading

Perception is Reality

“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.” — Jules de Gaultier Marketers deal in perception. Great marketers meld perception and reality. The fact is that people perceive what they want to believe. This explains much about politics, religion and brand loyalty. People perceive value in things – concepts, communities, tribes, brands – and either admire or despise them accordingly. A lot of money has been made by creating a brand and charging people for the brand as opposed to the product. You can spend $3,500 for a Saint Laurent handbag which has a manufacturing cost of maybe $10, holds no more than a Walmart handbag, and arguably is a sterile design devoid of individualism. And many people do. One of marketing’s jobs is to decide on the perception the public should have of a product or a brand. This is driven largely by the target audiences and … Continue reading

Problematic Problems

Nothing is as insidious as staring so intently at a problem that the solution is obscured. Back in my IT guru era, I once wasted an entire day staring at a single line of code trying numbly to figure out why the program was misbehaving. It was a simple syntax error (switching between Pascal and C can be tricky), but the problem was about my looking for logic errors when the more simple and likely syntax mistake was staring back at me. Marketers have wasted a lot more than a day by doing the same thing. Long ago, I had a near-client who insisted that the right go-to-market strategy for his company was 100% commitment to social media marketing. He came by this conclusion due to the success of another person who marketed a different technology using the same approach. The problem was that the successful person was selling to … Continue reading

Branding Positions

Branding and positioning during the bowling alley effect

“Branding is making the market think and feel what you want them to think and feel about you and your products.”© We are currently mentoring a London client as they work through their go-to-market strategy. Ground-up strategy development is not a simple process even for well-defined markets. These chaps are in an early adopter arena, and likely in a specific niche. Knowing their product category has been a challenge as even the analyst groups have not yet bothered to classify the space our client is staking out. Yet they are already mapping their next segments to achieve the Bowling Alley effect described in Crossing The Chasm. This situation has brought their branding mission to the fore because of the difficulty of branding a product in an undefined space, and branding it for a larger set of market segments. In a word … messy. As you no doubt recall, market dominance … Continue reading

Escalated Advertising Warfare

The gray puzzle piece on my screen is a sign of why marketers are their own worst enemy. The Chrome browser allows you to disable any automatically executing media it encounters. I enabled this feature after growing sick (and tired) of auto-playing videos on web pages I visited for text content. It is rather annoying when sitting alone in a quiet office, and focusing intently on the meaning within a paragraph, for a loud and often off-screen video to start playing, shattering the silence and destroying your concentration. Thanks to marketers who thought auto-playing videos were a smart idea, now all advertisers using playable media are banned from my laptop. It has been said that 99% of marketers give the other 1% a bad name. These ratios may be a bit off, but it illustrates the point that bad marketing practices cause marketing to fail. This has been the talk … Continue reading

Vague = Valueless

“The very first law in advertising is to avoid the concrete promise and cultivate the delightfully vague.” Perhaps in mass media, 30-second-or-less advertising, this applies. But not in the real world. Most communications need specificity. This counts double in social media, where messages are limited by technology and providers (like Twitter’s 140 character cut-off) or by the scavenger nature of most social media consumers. Vagueness leads to disinterest, which leads to an inattentive or diminishing audience, which leads to a not-for-profit status. Treat each outbound communication like it was your only chance to talk with the intended audience, and make it mean something to them. If the communication is designed to lead them to more communications (i.e., a Tweet and link to a content page), then make sure the terminal content has meaning too. … Continue reading

Prepaganda Promotional

Every politically aware person knows about propaganda, but few know preganda. Surprisingly few marketing people know it either. Prepaganda (sometimes called preganda) is designed to prepare an audience for new thinking, or to convince the audience of something that might not be entirely true. Politicians love to persuade the public that they have deep adversaries on a topic even when their alleged opponents agree with forthcoming legislation. Such Prepaganda makes the politician look strong and ultimately victorious while hiding crony capitalism or undesirable relationships overseas. Marketers occasionally need to do something similar, though for more rational and honest reasons. Prepaganda prepares a market to accept new thinking, and as we all know, unsupervised customer thinking can be dangerous. Marketers often need to get buyers to think differently about their problems, strategic directions, solutions and what they perceive as valuable before a product can be accepted. Back when Linux was popular … Continue reading