Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Play marketing

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The barrier of entry to making and sharing creative projects is so low today that there is an explosion of people entertaining themselves and their friends with things they’ve made. For some people it replaces most of the time they used to spend watching television, movies, or reading books. They still consume those things, if only because those are considered something akin to ‘high art’ and serves to define the things they make. Sometimes they’ll even borrow bits and pieces from, say, a TV show and add it to whatever they’re making.

This creator culture making serious ripples that may break out into the mainstream and become a dominant form of entertainment. I’ve already talked about the Favrd Crowd, a group of very funny and creative people busy entertaining themselves instead of letting others in mass media do it for them. Often times they will take a little piece of something else and add it to something new, or morph a phrase or meme into countless variations*, usually to hilarious effect.

We (for I consider myself a part of the Favrd Crowd) aren’t the only ones building a community out of making and sharing things online. Other groups have been started or will start that only serve to entertain its members. Some are based around books or movies (Harry Potter fans), fantasy sports, videos, or simply who can make the most offensive thing possible (4chan which, like it or not, exerts a major influence on the creativity of others online).

These online communities will only grow and spread over the next few years, and they will become more important to the daily entertainment of millions of people. People who are smart, creative, and who very likely have disposable income (or strive for disposable income).

See where I’m going with this?

As long as companies respect the intelligence of these people, it is possible to market your product and use the structure of the community to spread your message to others who are mere spectators.

For lack of a better term, I call this play marketing. Create advertising that encourages people to riff and evolve the idea into a meme that is fun for the consumer, but spreadable and effective. The big caveat is respect: respect the audience and respect the product. Any lack of authenticity will be quickly found and the campaign will be in the audience’s hands, and they won’t be very nice.

*The memes of the Favrd Crowd are very ephemeral and die out after a few days, save for a few particularly clever phrases or concepts. This makes it hard to archive and find link to examples. I’ll try to collect some examples from Twiter and Tumblr that demonstrate the creativity of this group. For examples of funny tweets that aren’t necessarily memes, check out Twitter Wit, which compiles some of the funniest tweets of the Favrd Crowd and others.

How to market to the largest group of people with disposable income, 2009 edition

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Okay, listen up. This is now how to get the attention of people that have the money to spend on whatever they’re selling. Technically this is a very shitty economy, but not everyone is hurting, and those who have cut back still want cool things. In fact, for the kind of people you wan to sell your products to, the amount of their income they spend on necessities is obscenely low by historical standards.

That’s a good thing. So how do you get them to spend their disposable income on your product or service?

Here’s what you do. Keep in mind this is ‘big picture’ stuff:

  1. Create a product that is useful or ingenious. That’s the easy part.
  2. Make it either easy to use or intuitive. Pay very close attention to the user experience, because everyone has more to do and needs their tools efficient and friendly.
  3. The branding abstracts the product into an easy-to-comprehend symbol. People need visual symbols to help identify complex concepts.If you can’t do this with your product, either go back to step one or sell the product to non-consumers (businesses, government, etc.).
  4. Focus all of your attention on internet marketing. Now this is a little tricky. Here are some guidelines for marketing online:
    1. Be honest about what your product does.
    2. Make the juiciest pieces of marketing open-ended to encourage play. Let your potential market play with your ads: let them make fun of your product, incorporate your advertising into whatever their working on. Trust me, the people most receptive to your product (and the ones most likely to spread the word for you) are smart and creative and will mess with your messaging anyway. By giving them permission you increase your chances of reception. (More on this part later).
    3. You can forget about viral marketing. Ideas will spread if you have a great product. So spend money on that and not on making sure your marketing will spread fast. Besides, most viral marketing putters out after a few days, and everyone knows when viral ad is manufactured and not something genuinely compelling.
  5. Design the best customer service program you can afford, and implement something better. Your product will fail, and your customers deserve the best treatment you can give. No amount of skimping is allowed. Plus, people will talk about your customer service, even if it’s good but especially if it’s bad.

Yeah yeah, I know all about this. You don’t have to tell me,” you might say. Or that Seth Godin covers these points over and over on his blog and in his books.

That’s true. This is basic stuff. But modern corporations aren’t designed to take care of the basic stuff, and human nature makes us want to look further, to the problems and worries those bigger and more successful than us should worry about.

Consider these points where you can start. There are lots of details that you’ll need to figure out, such as how to make your internet marketing as efficient as possible to be shared, or the hard work required to pull off a successful customer service program. But there’s no hope for you if you can’t figure out the basics.

[Note: slightly edited to remove the most blatantly douchey passages.]

No Compromises

Monday, December 8th, 2008

I work in the marketing profession. That means I try to stay on top of the latest trends that marketers are using. Keeping abreast of things like email marketing, social media marketing, Twitter marketing, etc.

Almost all of it is bullshit. Thinly-veiled fads. In reality, we don’t really know what makes products and services sell, we can just convince people to buy part of the time. And what may work one day will be ignored by consumers the next.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

There’s a lot of people starting blogs and signing up on social sites who aren’t there to connect with their friends. These people are there to sell stuff and try to make money. It’s only inevitable that consultants are hawking Facebook as the next great sales tool.

As a result, those of us marketers who write and blog about marketing are getting in on the whole business by giving ‘advice’ on how to take advantage of social marketing. It’s just like moving to California in the 1840s and selling groceries or liquor instead of mining for gold: in the end you’ll be the one making the money.

Here’s what they’re saying:

  • Create a blog that focuses on a single topic, preferably in your field of expertise.
  • Create accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and ‘friend’ other people in your profession.
  • Use Twitter to sell yourself.
  • And other silly rules

Please don’t listen to them. You’ll turn all of those tools into chores and it won’t be fun or interesting at all.

Instead, think of the reason blogs and social sites were created: to communicate with other people.

If I were to follow the advice of my fellow marketeers, Budaeli would be writing about marketing and workplace culture, my Twitter account would be hawking my posts and my employer’s products, and I’d connect with every sleazy marketer on LinkedIn – while my posts and tweets on technology, music, movies, and gay rights would be relegated to separate blogs. “Oh no,” they’d say, “you can still talk about those topics, but you should concentrate them – more people will read your work.”

Bollocks, I say. This blog still exists because of the fun I get from occasionally writing on whatever interests me – and it’s all interesting, so I’ll write about every little subject area that worth writing about. Since having separate blogs, or just writing about a single topic is unappealing and so goddamn boring to me that I won’t do it. Hell, if I want to diss people in the same field of work I’m in, I won’t be stopped.

All I’m going to worry about is not doing anything that will get misconstrued or doesn’t represent who I really am.

What this means to you:

Do what feels right to you, personally. If you shine with a 140-character limit, but can’t form complete thoughts in much larger blocks, stick to Twitter. Even if you’re not that great with Twitter but you’re comfortable with the limit, there you go. Perhaps you are more compelling when speaking: start a podcast.

Just don’t compromise.