hypocritical : talking the talk without walking the walk

March 31, 2005

Good marketing communications: Somewhere between psycho stalker and couch potato

Sometimes, my mind wanders about marketing.

You see, I don't know about you, but I spend a great deal of time thinking about how I can explain what I do to normal people in the most simple manner possible. It's not that I find myself talking to simple people on a regular basis. Although that would be welcome. It's more that what I do is so amorphous that I'm often seeking my own meaning. So playing these little head games helps.

That said, I think a great deal about how I can create analogies that cause my simple-person target market to smile and nod happily and say "Oh! I get it now." Because that makes me happy. And it makes me happy when I can translate the passion I feel about the completely nebulous world of marketing into something tangible for someone who couldn't truly care any less about marketing. And it makes me feel like I do something worthwhile.

But that's just me. I like a challenge.

So here's what was running through my head today: what is the appropriate level of communications?

And that's when it dawned on me: Good marketing communications is considerate. On a variety of levels.

One level is frequency. Even if your brand or the message being delivered is rude, communications is considerate. That is, good communications arrive when and where the target market wants them and is ready to accept them, not before, not after, not too often, not too little.

Considerate is a tricky balancing act. It's somewhere between the psycho-stalker-I-will-have-it-for-you-before-you-ask-even-if-you-don't-want-it-right-now communications and the I-really-don't-care-what-you-want-Sanford-and-Son-is-on communications.

Most, if not all, companies fall into the latter category. I don't know that I've ever run into a company that fulfills the requirements of the former category, but I needed it for comparison. And, come to think of it, there are those folks who call me incessantly that are coming awfully close to treading on the stalker angle.

Where was I? Oh yes. So consideration involves timing. Not too overt, not too detached. But it also involves voice. Ah ha. Another level. You need to communicate to the market in the language and voice it wants to hear.

Now, I don't know if you've heard it, but the latest radio campaign for "Green Foo" makes me laugh. Every time I hear it. It's a parody of a Kung Fu movie with English voice over. Sure. It's been done. But for some reason, just that childhood memory of watching Kung Fu movies on Saturday afternoon, or that teenage memory of watching Commander USA's Groovy Movies on Saturday afternoon, or that recent... oh well, you get my point.

There's something about that commercial that accesses the "happy" part of my brain in a very considerate way -- with the appropriate voice. And it's very acceptable for my brain to consume Mountain Dew's message. Now, if Ford were attempting to access that part of my brain that way, for say the Ford Focus, that would be inconsiderate. Because I do not like the Ford Focus and I would not like Ford trying to trick me into liking it. But I'm not the Ford Focus target market, so I'm not too worried about that.

So, it's good for Mountain Dew. Bad for Ford. Ford using that tact would seem like a stalker: I know what you like. I know what you want. That would be off-putting. I know Ford doesn't understand me. But, for Mountain Dew, I believe that they do. I believe it. I'm willing to trust Mountain Dew, because while their commercials have let me down from time to time, their brand has been fairly supportive. There's trust there.

Which brings me to the third level of consideration: intimacy.

Good brands seem to know what you want without being incredibly overt about it. It's because you're their market. They should be studying you. They should be understanding what makes you tick. And they should be crafting their messages in ways that sound like the appropriate way for that brand to talk to you. Seems a little stalkerish, huh? I know. That's the balance.

Marketing types like to use the word "resonate" to describe this ability to effectively interact with the market. While I don't exactly start vibrating at the prospect of the Mountain Dew brand, I do start shaking a bit after I've ingested 4 or 5 of them. Oh wait, I mean, the voice of the brand does seem to speak to me. And it keeps me attracted and interested in the product. Brands that do not have this semblance of intimacy become very offensive, very quickly.

In fact, you can probably name five or ten companies who have offended you this way in the last week, alone. They took it too far too fast. They assumed too much. Maybe they tried to get intimate. Maybe they tried the wrong-voice cheesy pickup line. Or maybe they just kept hammering you with the same message over and over through a medium where you would rather they weren't. Like those annoying mortgage banner ads that have the strange animals covered with pocks and boils that reference US states all over them. You know the ones. Where did those come from? And who, in their right mind, clicks on those things?

Okay, before I trail off on too many tangents, back to the point: If you're trying to communicate to a market be considerate. Don't be an ugly American who, when faced with a confused market, shouts louder and louder in an effort to make them understand. Don't get in their face. And don't ignore them. Be considerate. Even if your brand is rude, consider how your market wants to receive that rude behavior.

And with that consideration, that understanding, you'll begin to truly understand your market. And, if you're lucky, they'll allow you a new level of intimacy to continue the conversation.

Are you a considerate communicator, an over-communicative stalker, or the couch potato who just ignores the market? Or are you some other type? I, and the other readers here, would love to hear about it. Well, okay, maybe just me. Please comment. And please return.


Good marketing communications: Somewhere between psycho stalker and couch potato
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