Remember the old Rolling Stone campaign about perception versus reality?
The ad ran in Ad Age and other trade publication in the 1970’s
when Rolling Stone was getting started and wanted to convince advertisers that
their readers weren’t poor hippies but were actual well-to-do yuppies with lots
of money to spend on cars, vacation and expensive whiskey. Advertisers had one perception about who was
reading the publication yet the facts were very different. In this case,
Rolling Stone put the advertiser's perception (hippie) next to the reality (yuppie) and backed it up with
solid audience research. It helped fuel enormous growth and success by
addressing this market myth. There is a great lesson in this story.
|Rolling Stone Ad from 1970's- Perception versus Reality|
This ad always reminds me of how a marketing department,
when it is doing its job, is the listening
department. They have to serve as the ears of the organization, hearing from the
market the objections that keep coming up.
|Marketing should be the listening department |
Marketing teams must be like independent sponges absorbing
misperception about your product and services. Then, you have to bring in the
bleach to wipe away the viral and bacterial lies infecting your brand.
Perhaps your brand has been positioned by a competitor and
you are fighting an inaccurate portrayal of what you do and how your product is
misunderstood. Someone has to take up the charge to convince consumers or your
business customers to see you in a clear light that doesn’t cast a shadow on
the value you can bring to them.
I like to think of this work as myth busting.
I have some suggestions that can help you examine these
problems at your business.
First: Survey your sales team to ask them what the
top 3 reasons are for not making a sale besides price. You will learn a lot as
you start collecting these objections. Soon you will see that several of these
objections are based on a false view of how things work. Write down all the objections you hear from
your sales team. Here are a few examples to illustrate the concept…
- The product we sell isn’t as robust as the competitors
- Our service isn’t as reliable as the competition
- Our new products don’t really perform as we say they do
- We are seen as cheap and inexpensive quality so we don’t
deserve a higher price
- Our product is just used in the cheap segment of the market-
there is no way we will get used in the more expensive part of the industry
- We are seen as polluters where our competitors are seen as
supportive of environmental issues
|What do you think?|
Second: Survey people who are industry thought
leaders like journalist, bloggers and authors- to name a few, who have strong
opinions and influence in your industry's marketplace. Ask them to give you their perception of your
company (product and/or service). Have them describe to you how they view your
business. Ask them to use one or two words to describe your product or offering. Add any new thoughts or
perceptions to your list from sales.
- Your company has an inconsistent performance record
- People who work at your company tend to be arrogant
- Your last new product was a flop yet you didn’t recall it
from the marketplace and stuck customer’s with the problem
- Your warranty is weak compared to everyone in the industry
- In a word, your company/product/service is:
|Examining the myths about your business |
Third: Assemble the key management team of the company
and examine each of these objections, qualifier words or positioning statements and ask the hard question---
is any of this stuff true? Or is this a misperception? Look for common themes and take each objection and see if you can honestly, without bias, deny the charge. Is the statement true, false
or somewhere in between? You have to be
frank about this or you are just deluding yourself into believing your own “crap”.
(crap is a technical marketing term that I don’t think needs explanation.)
Fourth: Pull out of the list all of the objections
that are just plainly false and you are confident that you have data to counter argue your case. Next look at those objections that may just be misunderstood and need to be repositioned in the
minds of your customers. This is where the marketing team should start sorting the list of myths that you need to bust and prioritize them. The goal of this step is to focus on the top 3 myths that are the most important perceptions to alter. Don't tackle everything at once.
Fifth: Now, take each of these three major myths and talk to customers and
stakeholders and ask, what would convince you that the following myth is false? If you can about this myth, without being defensive, and listen carefully, some tactical ideas will
emerge to help you bust this myth. The marketing team’s role is then to determine how to best communicate to your different audiences the counter arguments that can change from a perception to a reality. Marketing has to take up the sword to fight back.
|Picking up the sword to fight the myths|
As a marketer, the fun part of this work is determining what is the best
way to illustrate or demonstrate the opposite of the myth so you can bring
customers closer to the reality. Rolling Stone brilliantly illustrated their problem with two photographs showing what the advertiser saw versus what the truth looked like. Sometime a focus approach to showing the data can work- but you must communicate it in a way that can get through to your audience.
Simple ideas are always best and usually you have to fight one myth at a time.
A brochure or video that counters the perception needs to focus on one argument on a single topic. Don't expect to fight all your myths with one sword.
MYTH: YOUR PRODUCT IS ONLY GOOD FOR CHEAP PRODUCTS, NOT EXPENSIVE ONES
If your products or services are seen as being used in cheap market segments, how can you
overwhelm customers with examples where your product or service is being used with the more
expensive part of the market? The solution might be to inundate them with evidence of the opposite. Show them a tsunami of examples to counter this falsehood. They believe one thing but shine a light on the information they aren't seeing.
MYTH: YOUR PRODUCT IS UNRELIABLE:
If your product is seen as unreliable, but you know this is
not true, how can you offer customer a guaranty that knocks their socks off and
takes their breath away. Be audacious. Let the guaranty reflect your own confidence in the product's reliability. (Hint: If you are afraid to do this- maybe the perception is true and you need to fix the product.)
MYTH: YOUR PRODUCT IS A POLLUTER:
If your product (and your company) is seen as a polluter or
a bad steward of the planet, how can you shine a light on the truth? It may
require a change in your attitude that is honest, transparent and forces you to
change your tone. Demonstrate this new found attitude and help illustrate the
record which may not be perfect, but might be much better than people think.
And, it can demonstrate your commitment to change.
|Fighting the Myths |
Myths. If you don’t fight them, you will eventually be
infected with someone else’s perception about your company. Listen. Act. Take up the sword of truth.
Labels: Marketing Moments, myth busting, myths