Marketing Myth Busting

Remember the old Rolling Stone campaign about perception versus reality?

Rolling Stone Ad from 1970's- 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.

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…

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.) 

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.

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