blog: Advertising Truths

Rebranding America: who’s buying?

From a marketing perspective the dramatic shift in how the world perceives America since it downgraded its rhetoric with Syria is an interesting study in the potential risks of rebranding, without fully determining the consequences across all your customer segments.

Politically speaking, America has, like any other country, 2 markets – domestic and export.

My interpretation of its brand message (since 1942) for export markets was: “WE TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE ENEMY.” Its brand message to its domestic market was: “FEND FOR YOURSELF.” That dual aggression translated into US commercial domination of global markets from the ‘50s through to the ‘90s.

My interpretation of the current domestic brand message for America is: “WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN” (as demonstrated by Healthcare reforms and quantitative easing). Its export brand message could be similarly interpreted as “WE DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED UNLESS IT’S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.” It could be said that this was a reversion to America’s brand pre-1942.

I have no political agenda. I am simply interested in who is buying?

Domestically, US Government is shutdown through partisanship and the economic decline is skirting a fiscal cliff. In export markets, every country that recognized America as the ‘come out swinging’, ‘save the day’ brand is feeling the void and the main beneficiaries seem to be America’s ideological competition.

In 1942 America became a hero on the world stage. The arch-nemesis of USSR helped it mold its hero brand into a powerful marketing weapon both politically and economically. How does the hero transition into a stay-at-home family man? Is this not a cautionary tale to all marketers how to consider the broader implication of rebranding? Something to think about.

Reference: http://www.hydrogencreative.com/thinking-of-refreshing-your-brand/

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The significance of truth in advertising

Did you know, zero gms of trans fat may not be a perfect 0? FDA regulations state 0.5 gms is permitted to disclosed as zero. Yet nutritionists believe that more than 2 gms of trans fat per daily diet can be harmful. How harmful? Who can say? But the notion that 25% of a harmful level is negligible seems to be an acceptable lie. (See: Are Marketers Out Smarting Us, by Stating Zero Trans Fat? http://everydayhealthforlife.com/zero-trans-fat-doesnt-necessarily-mean-zero/). Also, since the Organic Trade Association lobbied Congress to allow toxic additives in organic foods, you can probably only get true organic produce if you grow/raise it in your own backyard (See: What Does the USDA Organic Label Really Mean? http://www.care2.com/causes/what-does-the-usda-organic-label-really-mean.html)

Can we handle the truth?

Can placing a veil over the truth in order to gain acceptance really be considered a sustainable business model? Even if there is a standard return policy on most advertised offers, and a 1-year defects warranty, does the customer really want to make choices based on those caveats? Should shareholders be concerned that a high-speed advertising train might run out of track at some undefinable point when consumers flee having felt they were misled? Or, like the character Cypher in the Matrix, would consumers bask more happily in the glow of an illusion that whatever they are buying today is better than what they are replacing.

Truth is subjective

Self-image sets the tone for all forms of rationalization in making decisions. Self-image rarely aligns with how one is perceived, creating a perpetual ‘truth dichotomy’. For example, celebrities struggle when their public persona is not in synch with their self-image. Young, talented musicians sing about their personal frailties, yet the public demands role models of perfection. Take that idea into the democracy of consumer markets: when a brand overstates its claim in order to maintain its public persona it can fall from grace as easily as a Starlet of today becomes the Tabloid mockery of tomorrow.

Perception is Reality

In marketing and sales we would say it a bit differently: Expectations, once created, are like Promises. If you advertise to build customer expectations, you have to deliver on that promise.

Truth is also highly experiential and therefore highly subjective. While Customer Experience Departments aim to make the brand honest, it doesn’t mean the customer will have their expectations met.

Risk in advertising

Generating lots of awareness and response is not a true measure of success if the advertising sets expectations that are not sustainable. I am not talking about grounds to sue. Most mice-type at the bottom of the page protects the marketer. I simply mean where customers believed the ad and couldn’t sustain that belief in the product, either pre- or post-purchase.

On whom does the burden of truth  fall: the ad agency or the marketer? Does a creative ad deserve industry recognition if the brand that it represents sees a high rate of customer churn? To say ‘Yes’ puts the onus on the client. Is there any responsibility on the agency to do due diligence and inform the client when there is a misalignment between the advertising promise and the product delivery? When advertising is regarded as entertainment at the Superbowl, perhaps we have already accepted that it has entered the realm of fantasy and we have adjusted to that. But when it comes to hard cash that we feel was not well-spent, whom do we blame? The manufacturer or the ad agency.

Truth is hard to find

Advertisers, politicians, lawyers, real estate agents, journalists: we live in a world where Truth is constantly subject to distortion, concealed, deleted or being reinvented. But, isn’t it refreshing when an advertiser starts telling the truth? How do agencies manage this process? I believe that customer-centric marketing is the best advocate for truth in advertising. When major brands like McDonald’s opens up the kimono on how it creates ads and delivers its service we see consumers sit up and pay attention. I like that.

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My Google AdPicker, My Choice

When “Single Women Want You” ads started to appear in so many of the news and information sites I was browsing at my office, I became suspicious. Before that it was ads for a downtown hotel with a good reputation. I am not suggesting there was a connection, but my web-browsing exists solely for business (at home I prefer to read books), I am 25-years happily married, and have no reason to stay downtown in a hotel, so I was mystified why I was being haunted by these ads.

In Firefox I tweaked a few settings, so that now my cookies delete daily and the Women vanished.

Big news: Microsoft’s web browser default is now set to “Do not track”. This has earned the resentment of advertisers in general, because being able to track and insert ads wherever the customer searches and browses gives the advertiser a lot of impressions.

The beauty of Remarketing online is that the advertiser doesn’t have to pay Google until there is a click-through. Remarketing means your ad will follow an online web user through their successive browsing experience until you stop decide to stop paying for the campaign. This earns lots of impressions at no cost. Google is supposed to manage it so that the insertion of ads from sites you have visited does not become obvious or annoying. I don’t remember visiting any dating web-sites, but in my business I do a lot of research on advertisers, so it is possible I did, but not as a punter. Any tab left open in a browser, the duration-of-site-visit is clocked, even if you don’t look at the page. If my advertising market research tripped Google’s Remarketing program, then it became a very annoying feature!

Will this type of campaign flourish, or will the Do Not Track caucus win out?

Here is where I think the online ad universe is headed:

Users will start to set their browser privacy settings to “Do not track”. A lot of online advertisers will get bummed off.

Google will then present me with a personalized database of advertiser opt-ins called MyGoogleAdPicker so I can elect which ads to view based on my search and browse history, to enrich my daily browsing experience. I will also be able to add my own list of opt-ins of anything trending in Social Media, or word-on-the-street. Google will also be able to suggest – based on my search history, and some canny algorithm using demographic assumptions – any marketers that I might also find of interest under the category of MyGoogleAdPicker Plus. Google will offer incentives to use MyGoogleAdPicker Plus that will be charged back to the advertisers like an inverted PPC model.

Within this model, as an Internet-browser, I will have the expectation that every online banner I see is tailored to my interest. The advertiser will get a highly-qualified conversion rate and the web will have less clutter to worry about. You can’t get more customer-centric than that.

What is the down-side? Why isn’t this happening yet? Because the consumer market is not yet that savvy. It hasn’t pushed Google to take the initiative. But it will and they will. Not soon enough for single women perhaps. If the concept is my invention I’ll be happy take a percentage, but I hope someone is already hacking away at this model, because I am happy to appreciate the benefit, like every other Internet user.

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Social Media and other bubbles

Read Social Media Skeptic (MM 11/30/12), for the commentary on BJ Mendelson’s new book “Is Social Media Bull#*%!?”. It reads like a wail of dashed hopes and dreams. Once a social media neophyte, the author became jaded after a miserably-failed campaign in the cause of something great and beautiful. He calls a ‘crime’ the hoopla that surrounds any ‘next big thing’. There is a smack in his words of: “The more things change the more they remain the same”.

Yes, he may have a perspective, but the big question is: “Why do we have to pay money to read a book about a truth that has remained constant throughout human history?”

MORE, BETTER, FASTER ISN’T A GOAL IT IS A PROCESS. 

The goal is perfection. Perfection is unattainable. So the bubble is created out of human expectation.

I like expectation bubbles. They drive change. The reason they burst is because the expectation is either flawed in logic, or beyond the reach of achievement with the resources currently in place. Nobody likes a bubble to burst, but they do, eventually. Flawed logic can create a devastating burst (housing market in US, .com meltdown etc.)

BJ Mendelson saw his expectations pop when he followed the rules laid down for success and it did not work. He is pointing to a ‘flawed logic’ within the Social Media bubble. Does anybody really see Social Media so rosily-coloured? I hope not.

Social Media has created a dynamic platform of communication that can scale easily and rapidly. Exactly what content will scale is as predictable as rain in the Sahara. It is also more subject to the whim of influencers than to content creators. And what scales could equally be trivia or significant; of commercial value or zero value.

If your expectation is a guarantee of success then it is your individual logic that is flawed. If you can make money selling a book about it, good luck. You might save someone with logic as flawed as your own from investing in Social Media.

I don’t participate in Social Media much, because I personally don’t enjoy the interface. But I understand the genre of user that does. As humanity continues to bond with Digital Interfaces then Social Media platforms and their like will remain essential hubs of human interaction.

If the bubble bursts, it will be because something else evolves to create a higher expectation, not because the logic is flawed, as BJ Mendelson implies.

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5 reasons why your marketing might cost more than you think

Regardless of staying inside creative, media, production, programming, and fulfilment budgets

In this article we will try to look under the hood to reveal some hidden costs and reasons why marketing projects can fail to achieve the maxim of “Quality, delivered on time and to budget”.

1. Unclear expectations

Different expectations that were not properly communicated early in the process can derail a project until everyone’s expectations are met. These delays have a significant impact on ‘time to market’.

Remedy: It is essential that all the stakeholder expectations are documented, that they are agreed upon upfront, they are reasonable and that they form the blueprint for the delivery.

2. Too much rush

Rush has become the norm. Rushing increases the risk that important details will be missed and that quality will suffer. Less time does not mean less cost. When you pay more to get less you depreciate your marketing investment.

Remedy: Rush may be unavoidable. But the stakeholders need to be flexible, to either spread or focus resources within the timeline. Workload that can be shared should be spread across the group. Specialized tasks should be handed to those with that capability. Be sure to relieve them of distractions so that they can focus on those critical tasks. It takes a collective responsibility to make sure that rush projects receive the care and attention they need to succeed.

3. Process-driven to distraction

Too much process can also drive up cost and reduce efficiency. Rush projects should not be decapitated by too much bureaucracy. Larger projects that involve more stakeholders need more process, checks and balances, but the stakeholders are not always familiar with the rules.

Remedy: Don’t apply one process map to all projects. Prepare a fast-track and an optimal process for project management, to engage each situation efficiently. Make sure that the stakeholders understand the scope and nature of the project they are undertaking and how it affects the organization so they can learn and benefit from the process instead of being bogged down by it.

4. No thought to the financial cost of delay

Most organizations equate the ‘cost of delay’ with ‘loss of potential revenue’. In fact it goes much deeper.

Use a simple equation: Divide your labour cost for each project by its timeline to calculate your cost per day of delay. Then add it to your budget for the project after final delivery to see the true cost. For example, $100,000 over 10 months, if the work continues to the 11th month you have just invested an additional $10,000 to that project and lost 1 month of potential revenue.

Your agency is also affected when paid per-project. Your agency anticipates its revenue according to the project period. Delays will affect its cash-flow even if no additional work is done. If your agency is on a retainer you could actually be paying them a bonus for your delay. These are also hidden costs to add to the equation.

When you can’t achieve your objectives within the time and resources allocated, other projects in the pipeline get deferred, stacked, or are given less attention than they need. Agencies and clients feel these effects, but they don’t usually monetize the impact on their bottom line.

Remedy: The solution is to track this and then review at appropriate intervals. When you start to measure the cost of delay and discuss their implications it brings your team closer to understand how to maximize efficiency in the future to become more productive with less effort. When you have a good audit trail to measure you might consider using bonuses as an incentive for meeting performance expectations.

5. Getting it right; but not first time

How much effort does it take to get creative that is on-strategy, and then push it to final approval? If the creative and content is not in alignment, progress can be painfully slow and require multiple revisions to get what you need. If your agency demands too much of your time to get final approval, add this to the cost of your marketing investment.

Remedy: The greatest efficiency is where all agencies are in tune with the needs of the business, with only fine-tuning required at each stage of review. If you are not achieving this then it is time to either review your team or review your agency.

Conclusion

It may require some time and some careful crafting to build a marketing engine that flows smoothly through your department and your external agencies, but the productivity rewards makes it worthwhile to build. If you are not tracking these intangible costs you won’t know which changes could reduce your overall cost of marketing.

Hydrogen Creative believes in producing the right creative, first time. We engage fluid processes to enable more success at less cost. Engage us to experience the difference and see how well we stand by these beliefs.

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The Government is the Nanny of the State

It could have been the worst teaching night of my experience, talking for 2.5 hours about the role of government in business to first year Under-Grad Business students. (okay, we took a five minute break). It ended up not quite so bad after I hit on the metaphor of the Government being the Nanny of the State.

When the children play nice, Nanny gets on with her knitting. Catch a boo-boo? Run to Nanny. Misbehave? Watch out for Nanny. Playing the bully? Nanny takes the bully down. Best case scenario, Nanny stays away until it’s time for treats.

The consensus of the class was: “Keep Government out of business as much as possible.” “Only as a last resort.” “Well, if the economy is completely failing, then of course we do need Government to step in.” I will not rant politics because the general consensus is “Right now we need Nanny”.

One part of my presentation to take home for the customer-centric marketer was ‘The reason why some industries self-regulate: to avoid the imposition of external regulation’. The ad industry is a good example in many countries, where advertising standards are self-adopted, rather than deal with the government as the ombudsman of integrity in advertising. Financial markets were also self-regulating (:o(.

The key point to be made is that, when an industry regulates itself, it generally does so with the goal of protecting itself from the consequences of being regulated from elsewhere. Regulation that is seen to be done, is not designed to protect the average Joe. It protects the industry it serves from a greater imposition of authority. Kids playing by the rules to keep Nanny out, rather than to be really, really fair. Did I mention that Financial markets were self-regulating (:o(

I believe increasingly, that the standards by which all commercial activity will become judged is through the regulatory lens of the CUSTOMER. The customer represents the primary moral imperative to ensure business continuity, customer frequency and loyalty. I wonder how the class would have reacted if I had inserted the word CUSTOMER in place of government throughout the entire presentation? We are not so resistant to the actions of our customers within private enterprise as we are to the Nanny of the State..

The Nanny of the State certainly has the customer in mind in times of crisis. Stimulation of retail activity, Keynesian economics to prime the pump of consumer spending et al. When will the penny truly drop that, by applying the right integrity and values within our business and our marketing, we can bypass the Government and do very nicely?

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MAKING THE CUSTOMER THE CENTER OF YOUR UNIVERSE

One of a series of white papers on Touch Marketing®  Click here TouchMarketing White Paper to download the document.

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Honesty In Relationships: Part II

Honesty In Relationships: Part II

Absolute Truth

If there is such a thing as absolute truth, it exists outside of this world. As much as we regard honesty, integrity and trust as roadmaps for relationships, they are relative terms. This represents a risk to business continuity. Any decision you make could compromise your business relationships because of the external impression created by your actions. This occurs even at the most basic level: to choose with whom you want to have a relationship. It is a practical need, yet it is also confining. Since “you can’t be all things to all people” your representation of your well-intentioned relationship is exclusive to these choices. When those whom you exclude put you on the wrong side of their loyalty values we call it pigeon-holing. Marketers are often confounded by typecast restrictions that have been molded around a business by customers with whom it has never had a relationship. And most customers depend on pigeon-holing to sort through their decisions.

Theory of Relativity in Business Relationships

There is a relativity formula to relationships:

THE BENEFIT DERIVED FROM A RELATIONSHIP IS COEFFICIENT TO THE PERCEIVED VALUE OF THE RELATIONSHIP.

From this we learn that the perceived value of the relationship will increase or decrease depending on the value of the benefits gained. Also that the desire to establish a relationship is based on the expectation of its rewards.

Value-Add

The critical idea is that, whenever the benefits gained exceed the perceived value of the relationship, then the perceived value will increase to match the benefits. This is how ‘value-add’ expands loyalty and frequency into business continuity. Adding value makes the difference between a performer and a super-performer in business relationships. It is the ingredient that can break a business out of the mold of typecasting e.g. to enable a volume discount producer to enter a luxury market (Toyota/Lexus). It is also the most challenging component of sustaining a relationship, as the constantly rising of the bar of expectations represents greater consequences to underperformance. You can never go back to ‘ordinary’, because that would be a reduction in value. But, that issue aside. everyone can live with thought that continually adding value creates a consensus in relative truth.

Pull the Wrong Lever And You Fall

Perceived value and benefit rewards are so closely linked that misguided use of any levers in the relationship can create schism and distrust.

Take, for example, wholesale price discounting: once the customer has experienced a price discount, this benefit reward can easily become a defining aspect of the relationship. The customer expects the lower cost. In counterpoint, the retailer gets reduced benefit from the transaction, so its sense of value decreases. We now have relativity divergence in truth and trust: the customer’s benefits have increased and the retailers value of the relationship has decreased. Consequently, the retailer may compromise the value of the relationship to the customer, by merchandising lower quality goods, reducing customer service, reducing product selection etc. Retailer’s view of truth: my customer is a price chiseller.

Customer’s view of truth: my retailer is a price chiseller.

Neither position might be true. The reason for the contradiction is that the retailer used a market lever that was counter-productive to increasing the value of the relationship.

The 365-Day Sale

Price in retail has become the most common lever used by retailers to lure customers, and in juxtaposition, customer service and satisfaction has dropped. It has been replaced by refunds, warranties, and call centres. Recall our formula for relativity: the customer expects more from the relationship relative to price, but experiences the negative impact on other important components of the relationship such as service, quality or choice. When relative truths are in conflict, each party will withdraw to its corner, exploit for its own interests and abdicates loyalty when these are not served.

Addiction Vs. Loyalty

It is the predicament of our market mentality that the most successful business is the bottom-feeder in the cost/price matrix. I would argue that customers are not loyal to Wal-Mart – they are addicted to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has built its customer relationship on the price lever, and expands the benefit rewards it brings to its customer by expanding its range of merchandise with the same promise. By focusing on this one lever, Wal-Mart has worked this relativity formula consistently into tremendous profitability. How does the formula work for Wal-Mart? The benefit its customer gains from shopping at Wal-Mart (price) is maximized by consistently shopping at Wal-Mart for all its needs, and so the perceived value of the relationship to the customer has matured into a dependency. The consequences to the retail sector are widespread. Everyone is chipping away at price and we live with a discount mentality. There is no consumer segment that Wal-Mart will shirk from if it can consistently achieve its goals. PRICE is now the relative truth that has redefined many marketing relationships and reduced them to just this one lever.

But price-sensitivity is not the only lever for the sustainability of a relationship. As long as it is built on honesty and trust as defined by the customer’s needs within the relationship there are other levers that influence purchase decisions.

Segue

I had planned to spend more time in this entry discussing these other levers. Let’s say for now that the purpose of this entry – to demonstrate how truth is relative to the customer and that a practical business action could have a correspondingly unfavourable customer reaction – is served. Every action a business takes has consequences that are broader and deeper than it usually prepares for. This is because it rarely focuses on truth relative to its customer’s perspective.

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Honesty in Relationships: Part I

When goals-achievement is the number one priority of a business, the temptation to disguise weaknesses is a real challenge for marketers and legal departments. I remember a copywriter complaining that her clients always ruined her copy by insisting on accuracy. The creative fabrication sold the product so much better.

Too many businesses market their beliefs without testing their own integrity. Expressions like ‘Best’, ‘Leading’, ‘#1’, ‘Lowest Price’, ‘Largest Inventory’, ‘Top Rated’ and ‘Most Successful’ appear throughout marketing copy. The customer who finds a lower price elsewhere will not trust such a claim again. Once the veil of honesty is damaged by the revelation of deception, whether big or small, trust evaporates and is hard to recover.

The Alchemy of Concealment

The temptation to deceive or conceal the truth is part of the human psyche.

Q: “How’s business?” A: “Busy.”

The truth remains agreeably hidden. But, when truths are revealed there can be significant consequences. Consider the impregnable Bike Lock that was opened using a Bic pen. Is it possible that the market leader in bike security products didn’t want its vulnerability to be known? Or was it an unfortunate embarrassment? However framed, doubt formed in the mind of the customer. There are PR companies that specialize crisis communications, when a damaging truth is exposed in an unforgiving world of customers demanding an explanation. Enron. Blatant. No mercy. Once a lie is exposed, society has the will to vilify the perpetrators and to extract their confession.

A Study of Truth & Deception

As a child my elders posited my future in advertising. My wisdom of nine years replied, “Why would I work in a job that is about telling lies.” I had experienced the disappointment of the picture in the ad being better than the product inside the box. Another rule I picked up was: “Don’t trust show-offs. They only please themselves.” A business that exaggerates its delivery cannot be sustained.

As an adolescent, in order to get out of trouble, I learned that the most believable lie is the one that is closest to the truth. Marketers are often pressured to tell the ‘closest’ version of the truth to make their employers or clients succeed. I learned a law similar to the law of gravity when it comes to misleading people: the bigger the deception, the bigger the fall when the truth comes out. And the truth has a way of coming out. I won’t reveal the details of how I learned that lesson, but it was learned well. The more we mislead customers, the greater the repercussions we will have to endure.

At the age of 19 I came to the realization that, if I acted in good conscience, there would be no cause for deceit. As a customer-centric marketer for 11 years, and a career marketing professional of 20-something years, I am able to demonstrate to my clients that if a promise is not credible and deliverable to their audience, it is counterproductive to their objectives.

Putting Values on Truths

Honesty in marketing relationships is about truly representing and supporting what is important to each customer. Failure to deliver on a marketing promise is tantamount to a lie in the customer’s dictionary of business terminology. Your integrity is really defined by your commitment to the relationship. Any actions and statements that could prove damaging to the relationship need to be thought out ahead of time and revised.

The focus of customer-centric marketing is to understand truth from the customer’s perspective. Touch Marketing, the technique I practice within my studio, is the determination and communication of customer values (their truths) with emotional relevance and the demonstration of commitment to support those values. This is counter posed to the product (or brand) as ‘the hero’

By looking through the other end of the telescope I have come to realize that trust is what bonds a relationship, and honesty is the basic ingredient.

Touch Marketing is not just honest and emotionally relevant – it engenders attachment, loyalty, frequency and continuity within a marketing relationship. Experience is the truth the customer believes.

The next part of Honesty in Relationships will discuss how to shift perspective away from what the business inherently believes towards the customer perspective.

 

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ENTITLEMENT AND THE FREEBY GENERATION

If civilized society has anything to gripe about concerning the psychology of the Next-Generation it is the notion of Entitlement. Everyone feels entitled to whatever they want. Whether it is media attention, petty theft, massive fraud, obscene public demonstrations, more pay for less work, or the calculated elimination of ‘whoever gets in my way’, the overbearing sense of “What’s right in my eyes, is not wrong” is at the core of a society overfed on a diet of Entitlement.

I was musing on the source of this growth of human failing and I arrived at the conclusion that it is We Marketers that have fed the beast. We took a youngling generation and bombarded them, not only with hyped-up aspirations, but also the tempting lure of anything FREE – the unearned reward offered for future gain. Nothing breeds a false sense of entitlement better than providing something for nothing to someone that has done nothing to deserve it. It is the classic case of the parent that spoils the child. And, if you consider carefully enough you will see that the lure of so many competing brands has been carved out of the ‘I’ll give it you for FREE’ promotion. To the extent that mortgages went sub-prime, and that Central Banks are actually contemplating PAYING interest to get you to borrow money in order to keep the economy liquid. The word FREE has become so common place in marketing that it has become a nickname for WORTHLESS.

So I was quite happy to see that Apple had reported its highest profit report in contradistinction to the World Economy having gone SPLAT. Nothing Apple sells is for free. The opposite is true. It sells at a premium and makes a healthy profit. Yet I have attended many conventions and read many marketing experts who say the best way to get your product out there is to offer it for FREE.

How to understand the paradox? It is not so simple as to say that a gift cheapens the giver. Or that entitlement cannot be resisted. A free trial will get the product into the customer’s hands. But then you start to lose control. There are two psychologies at work here. Entitlement and Ambition. If you think about it further, you will realize that these are polar opposites. Ambition is to strive for. Entitlement is to stagnate.

Apply a customer-centric marketing scenario: if the relationship is built on the customer’s Entitlement values, then you won’t find room for growth. Any improvements in service or quality will just feed Customer Entitlement and you will have to keep adding more value to maintain the current relationship, while cutting into your product margin. But, if you focus your marketing on your customer’s values of Ambition, then it drives you to innovation, invention and a means to grow the premium value of your product. This is how Apple is distinct from the other PC vendors.

We have known for a long time in marketing that price promotion kills margin and resets the bar of customer expectations to a lower level. But did we ever consider how we have bred a generation of entitlement sociopaths? The sense of entitlement over all material aspects of our society is deeply embedded. It is only the products that are the fruits of customer Ambition that can truly succeed without the ubiquitous FREE offer. Those products are the ones we want to pay more for. It satisfies our Ambition.

So what do you think? Is FREE a death word in marketing. Any takers?

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