Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 15, 2009



Hello everyone.

“And the beat goes on.......”


A paper: The dangers of common sense in the June 2009 issue of Market Leader, authored by Les Binet (as reported on the eggblogg website) dispels common basic advertising assumptions.

This from the Eggblogg site. The stated comments below each bullet point are the blogger’s on that site, not mine:

“ The crux of the piece is not that advertising doesn't work, just that the way we think it works just isn't the case.

• Advertising works by increasing sales - no

Campaigns that focus on generating sales don't do particularly well. The best thing to focus on is reducing price sensitivity. 'Using ads to firm up prices is almost twice as profitable as trying to increase sales'.

Comment: In my experience, small businesses are more likely to try cutting prices rather than bolstering them. A sobering thought.

• Advertising works by increasing brand loyalty - no

Brand loyalty hardly ever changes, and it's not something that responds to advertising. Focus on increasing market penetration, however, and your campaign is likely to be three times as effective as trying to increase brand loyalty.

Comment: small businesses need to nurture brand loyalty, but it won't happen through advertising.

• Awareness and image are the keys to a strong brand - no

Here, Binet is adamant. What you really want to aim for is fame. Fame means people are thinking about and talking about your brand. 'Fame is the real key to business success, and in particular word of mouth seems to be crucial,' says Binet. 'It seems we're willing to pay much more for the brands that everyone's talking about.'

Comment: word of mouth, fame... these are not the sole preserve of global brands. With social media on the up, even small brands can make the big time.

• Advertising works by communicating brand messages - no

Oh dear, another lovingly-held tenet bites the dust. Forget the strategic messaging, says Binet. Emotion is why people buy. 'Ads that simply aim to generate pure emotion turn out to be twice as profitable as ads that use emotions to support a rational proposition.' So what about those ads that make you want to chuck a shoe through the TV? Surely they won't make me buy? No, you have to like it...

Comment: I love this idea! No seriously... as they say - 'people may not buy what they need but they always buy what they want'.

• Advertising needs to stand out to work well - no

'According to our data,' says Binet, 'what matters most is not how well the ad stands out, or communicates, or persuades, but how much people like it.'"

So if we aren’t expanding our audiences, and our advertising budgets are, at best, static (and more probably in this economic climate), even shrinking, what kind of advertising should we be embracing? Should we be spending money on traditional print ads, glossy direct mail brochures, radio ads, billboards and other forms of standard advertising, if in fact those venues aren’t really working?

A Big Mac ideally is a consistent product – of the same quality wherever and whenever you buy it. Art – in the generic sense of all the “arts” - isn't the same kind of product. Selling ‘art’ is a different ball game. Some might, I suppose, argue that our audiences are shrinking because we have done a poor job in selling ‘art’ as a viable alternative to other choices consumers have for their scare time and dollars. But I think that begs the question. We are more like a film release. Going to a movie is already accepted and perceived as a good choice for our leisure time dollars and time, but each movie is not of the same quality. People like movies and long ago decided it was a good entertainment option. Perhaps we could do a little better at positioning arts events on the same platform, but our challenges are more in getting people to attend specific arts events. Experience may suggest to patrons of a certain organization (like a major dance or theater company) that the works of that particular organization are of consistent quality, but that corre audience isn't what we are talking about when we discuss expanding the audience beyond that core. People don’t go to Warner Bros. movies anymore than Paramount movies – it isn’t the studio brand that attracts an audience. It is each individual movie that is a winner or loser. I think the same is true of our performances. And while studios spend a lot of money making people “aware” of each new release, it is word of mouth that makes or breaks each one. Art is a good product just like movies are a good product. The reputation (or brand if you will) of many of our organizations may play some role in individual decisions to attend a specific performance, but each offering is largely judged on its own merits.

The question is what kind of advertising works to sell that individual product.

Consider that marketers are increasingly coming to the conclusion that word of mouth is the most effective advertising of all – particularly for those in the kinds of businesses we are in.

There are a myriad of stats on what is fast becoming the holy grail of advertising Word of Mouth as summarized on the BuzzCanuck blogsite.

Stats from that site posting (again editorial comments in each numbered point come from the site, not me:

1) 67% of all consumer decisions are primarily influenced by word of mouth (McKinsey) - That's right - word of mouth governs 2/3rds of our economy and yet the Wall Street Journal doesn't have a page dedicated to it, I've never met a VP of Word of Mouth and I've not yet seen a marketing budget code that was labelled "word of mouth or buzz". Egads.

2) 1 out of every 7 social conversations are word of mouth based (Northeastern University) - Think for a moment from a media perspective - how valuable is a two way, in-depth, interactive medium from a trusted source which answers all your questions and validates the way you think about a product and is something we tap into 14% of the time we talk. Ching $! Ching $!

3) Only 3.4% of face to face WOM conversations are stimulated by a marketing organization's promotional efforts (Journal of Services Marketing) - It's not that it can't be done by a marketer, it's just that we refuse to heed the cardinal rules of word of mouth. Involve your consumer, don't carpet bomb everybody and their cousin, identify the right early evangelists, create a hard edge that stand out in your product, be honest...and a number of other word of mouth road signs we tend to drive past blindly as marketers.

4) 90% of customers identify word of mouth as the best, most reliable and trustworthy source about ideas and information on products and services (NOP World) - It just makes sense, we tend to believe things when we receive information from a trusted source - be that friend, family or colleague. People lay their reputations on the line when they recommend something to somebody else. The currency word of mouth is thus enhanced by its most valuable characteristic - "honesty" - which makes it the purest marketing form we have.

5) 44% of consumers claim to avoid buying products that overwhelm them with advertising/56% of people have stopped doing business with a company that doesn't respect them (Mood and Mindset Study Canada) - The consumer in 2006 has three extreme scarcities that are creating diminishing returns from mass marketing and leading to a consumer exodus - no time, no attention and no trust. Think of advertising and word of mouth as two of your best friends - who do you want to hang with - the friend who is flashy but brags to the point of lying, doesn't listen, doesn't even let you speak, interrupts what you like doing and makes you pay a lot to be with them or the friend who you trust, has the same interests, listens to your concerns, is there when you need him, introduces you to stuff that isn't widely known or available and gives just as much as she takes. Cheers to my best drinking buddy - word of mouth!

6) Where does word of mouth happen? Answer: Everywhere. (Agent Wildfire Canadian Research) With whom, do you participate in word of mouth?
  • In your family 88.9%
  • In your social networks 77.1% In a work environment 71.0%
  • In an online community 55.0%
  • In your neighborhood 53.9%
  • In a hobby or interest group 45.7%
Word of mouth is prolific - you find it everywhere. The more groups you're part of, the more valuable you become as a word of mouther. It doesn't come by appointment, it doesn't force you look at a screen or shout at you from a billboard - where there is oxygen, you'll find spontaneously generating word of mouth. So for the most intrusive, omnipresent form of marketing in a supporting role, please put your hands together for "word of mouth" (clap, clap).

7) On product recommendations, 90% trust their spouse and 65% trust their friends, however only 27% trust manufacturers, 14% trust advertisers and 8% trust celebrities (Yankleovich) - to what levels have we sunk, when our profession is ranked among the least trustworthy professions alongside politicians, stockbrokers and lawyers. Gone are the days when Franklin Roosevelt considered the role of adperson as the noblest profession of them all. In 2006, if you want brand credibility, you don't invest in advertising, promotion or even many forms of PR and editorial, you invest in your friends (and the much overlooked group -employees).

8) 7,500 - the number of committed, talented word of mouthers you would need to seed your message with, so that every single Canadian would hear about it in 12 weeks (providing you had the right product & newsworthy message) (Sean Moffitt & Multiple Sources) For those reading this in the U.S, we have about 24 million adult Canadians, so this is no small feat. The war for consumer adoption is no longer a game of "how many eyeballs" but "how many conversations". It's potency lies in its "Blair Witch"-ian nature. With conventional media, one impression means one consumer. With my word of mouth scenario above, one impression means 3,200 consumers. How 'bout those apples!”

Then the question becomes: How do we promote and facilitate effective, consistent (and positive) word of mouth campaigns for specific performances?

I don’t pretend to know all the answers to that question, but it should be something we explore and work at.

Using some of the suggestions in the eggblog piece: Here are some of the considerations that I think are involved in mounting successful word of mouth:

First, you need an “outstanding brand and product”. Our individual organization brands do matter more than a film studio brand. Your brand is the image and reputation of the sum of your previously offered products. Do you produce what is perceived as consistently high quality, entertaining, enjoyable performances, and is your current offering of the same caliber – exciting, must see art? In this regard, the objective probably isn’t to cast the widest possible net and assume everybody is your potential audience, but to achieve greater market penetration into what is your core base audience. You probably need to zero in on that audience segment that is likely to gravitate to what you offer. Boomers may prefer a certain kind of theater experience than do Millennials. I doubt that tailoring your offering to disparate tastes is the solution, but knowing to whom what you do might be exciting is the key. Market penetration. The other side of this coin is to identify those elements of the experience of your audiences that are negative. What didn’t people like? And you have to move to address those issues (inconvenient scheduling, lack of parking, uncomfortable seats, pricing, whatever). If you don’t have the established image of producing an enjoyable experience, it will be axiomatically more difficult to attract someone to your venue to begin with. Consistency of excellence is the barometer tailored to your audience segment. It might be a waste of time and resources to seek boomers to a hip hop performance. Who is your audience is the issue, and how do you get them is the question.

Second, you need to “stimulate a conversation about that product”. The experience of both your organization and the specific performance must somehow move the audience to rave about it. By and large this is probably largely about content and execution – not unlike going to a movie. People go to movies regularly – one bad one will not stop them from attending in the future. They tell their friends about the ones they like. Some percentage of people will likely enjoy the experience of what you do over time, and developing that base is the precursor to building the brand on which you operate, but that core audience isn’t enough to fill empty seats if each individual offering doesn’t elicit a strong positive reaction. A huge King Tut exhibit generates interest and buzz – for that exhibition – but what about the next offering? Each one has to be marketed as a blockbuster – perhaps not on the same scale – but a winner nonetheless. The aggregate of those individual “shows” makes for a positive ‘organizational’ brand, but each one will have to stand on its own.

Some people love George Clooney, and his being in a movie may bring people to the audience for that movie, but if that movie falls flat in terms of the audience’s reviews, it will not fill seats merely because Clooney is in it. Take his most recent movie – Men Who Stare at Goats. The studio advertising made people aware of the movie and Clooney being in it created a little “buzz”. But critics and audiences panned it, and that was that. You can’t start a conversation unless what you offered is generally, and genuinely, regarded by the audience as “worthy” and “special”.

Third, you need to” recruit a rabid audience of volunteer evangelists willing to go to bat for your brand and product”. This one is more difficult for us. Where to start? Assumedly, you have a base of supporters – your season subscribers, your core base of supporters, your in-house staff and boards. All of these people need to be recruited to begin to recruit others to want to attend. We need to pay more attention to figuring out how these rabid volunteers are recruited and motivated. I don't know the answer to this one, but it is obviously the key.

Fourth, you need a “smooth (and simple) message that people want to talk about and get involved in.” This obviously changes with each new offering, but the basic message has to be that your offering is a unique, special event worthy of competing for your audience’s precious, limited time and money. If the Binet report is right, we need to concentrate on “fame” and “emotion” as the triggers for our message.

Finally, you need “marketing tools that make it easy to pass the along the message.” Here is where we in the arts are only beginning to understand and appreciate that different audiences pass along the message in different ways – boomers may prefer direct face to face word of mouth, Millennials may use social networking technology to pass on the message. Somehow we have got to embrace all of the various tools to make it easy to pass on the message.

So two things stand out as preconditions for a good word of mouth effort (for our community): One, is the expectation that your organization produces quality works, and Two (and likely much more important) that the individual performance is truly special. Both of these work in tandem to allow word of mouth to put more bodies in seats.

Clearly word or mouth or buzz is an elusive tool. It is much easier to just spend money on traditional advertising. But that isn't working for us. We have got to get a handle on how to manage and manipulate that buzz if we want to produce concrete results and more bodies in seats.

All I am suggesting is that this should be an ongoing conversation among our marketing people.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit.