Ten years ago as an angsty little marketer, I wanted to explore why I was leaning more and more towards “No-Name” Products, so I wrote this; The No-Name Strategy. You know the No-name brands, every supermarket has their “own”. At Superstore: No Name, and President’s Choice. At Safeway, Select (my Grand parents never bought regular pop), at Sobey’s it’s Compliments, at Costco it’s Kirkland.
Almost every grocery store has their own brands which tend to be cheaper than their comparable branded counterparts. So why are we buying the more expensive one? Do you feel you trust it more? What bad stuff could be in the generic version?! For a long time I’ve bought generic pop citing that I still can’t taste the difference. Though teaching my first class I did divulge the fact that when I first moved out of my house and living with a roommate, we used to purchase no-name pop for the house but branded Coke or Ginger Ale if we were going to a party, why in the heck would we do such a thing?
It’s moments like this that I love marketing for, moments that make you feel so humble, so, well, dumb in moments of pure showing of ego.
The fact that we didn’t want to be seen at a party with “No-name Cola” was a sign of where our confidence was at. After all, you know what the studies show, the larger the brand name on your chest, the smaller the ego. Or what the economics community calls Conspicuous Consumption; buying things to signal to others your wealth. Not a healthy practice to be into, I know because for the majority of my life I loved brands, wore brands, and had to have the new “cool” thing.
Buying quality products is one thing, refusing to purchase items because they are unbranded is silly. The problem with that is it’s not sustainable and teaches the wrong lesson. Life’s not about stuff. It’s about impact, experiences, and love. Things help you measure your status, but the moment you purchase something just because “you can” doesn’t mean you should. Humility goes much further than the person with the newest “thing”.
You aren’t in the in crowd unless you’re doing what the cool people do! Who decides what’s “cool”? Since the dawn of time some people have just been better trend setters than others, those that understand it know what to look for. They easily convince us to buy the next iPhone, headphones, Xbox, TV, etc. The best brands are the ones to trust…..right? You can’t possibly buy the generic brand, can you?
Product, Price, Place, Promotion. They’re dead. Though I can’t take credit for their annihilation, John Jansch talked about it in The Referral Engine. The 4 Ps is what you were taught in Marketing class in University five years ago, from the text book that was five years old, based on cases that were 10 years old. Hell of an education it was!
The four Ps are dead, enter the four Cs:
Content, Context, Connection, Community
But first, the funeral.
It’s no longer wise to focus a large portion of your time on your “Product”, as the Innovators Dilemma points out, companies rarely develop a product on the first iteration, usually not even on the second adaptation but more likely on the third try. Instead of focusing on the perfect product, develop your product quicker and seek out feedback on it faster than your competition. If you know exactly what your target audience (community) wants (context), it will be much easier to provide them value (content).
A wise man once said “If you think having the lower price in your industry is a good strategy, remember that someone is always willing to go broke faster than you.” That wise man was John Morgan, the author of Brand Against the Machine. What he means is that if your one major advantage over your competition is price, you’re in trouble. Pricing will continue to be a contested topic in business circles because of the ease of communication (one Tweet can notify thousands of other about an abnormally high or low price). I can find out what anyone pays for just about every product imaginable with a few Google searches.
You must price your product or service in a reasonable range and be sure as hell you’re ready to justify it. Negotiating contracts where the price far exceeds the value is a sure fire way to go out of business fast. Deciding on your pricing shouldn’t be difficult as long as you’ve set up a strategy to garner the feedback from your customers and clients (community), and are willing to act upon their recommendations (connection).
Location in the past may have been one of the most important factors in the success of your business. Have a lot of foot traffic near by? Your coffee shop will do well. Do a lot of cars drive by your dealership? Again, you used to benefit immensely. But today, while doing most of your in depth product research at home on your iPad, location doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Businesses that solely relied on their location for their success will face a major uphill battle against the kid in his basement selling the same product for the half price.
Promotion is still relevant today but in a different context. Thirty years ago you could blanket the population with your message and people would buy. Today, it’s very difficult to saturate your message on the masses. With an estimated 2,000-5,000 “brand” impressions every day it’s no wonder we have to ignore so much of the advertising.
The way promotion can work is to determine an audience that wants to hear your sales pitch for your new product and “wow” those people. Blatant Promotion only works if it’s anticipated, pleasant, and something of value.
Simply advertising is more of an awareness tactic and very difficult to do effectively. I’d suggest getting familiar with Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick”, so you can begin making advertising that is, Simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotion, stories.
So why are the four “C’s” the new marketing norm? Let’s discuss.
What are you creating specifically for your target clientele? Is it original, real, and compelling? Yes, I’m talking about that generic monthly newsletter you’ve been sending out, that’s potentially great content that can help sell your product or service. All your outward facing communications are some form of content you’re in control of. You can develop your own voice, your own style, your own company personality and optimize the way you communicate over time.
What’s your key talkable difference, your competitive advantage, your key differentiating factor? If you’re just doing what everyone else is doing remember what Scott Ginsberg said; “there are no cover bands in the rock n roll hall-of-fame.”
Example: Nike produces some of the most amazing, original sports content in the world, see the star studded cast of their latest video series, The Kobe System.
In what context do your target customers interact with your brand? Are they searching for you? Do they see your commercials on TV? Do they look at youebsite? Is your website a positive representation of your brand? Is it easy to navigate? Are your services easy to purchase? Remember Mark Cuban’s Quote “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.”
The context how how you represent your brand on and offline tells us a lot about how you treat us, your customers.
Example: Redbull knows precisely how to communicate with their target audience, so much so that they even have a button on their home page titled “Holy Shit”.
If you shut down business tomorrow, would your customers miss you? If not, you have a serious problem. If you’re not making an emotion connection with your audience/customers it’ll be extremely simple for your competitors to undercut your price and steal away your customers. Do you think Blockbuster was making an emotion connection with their clientele? Do magazine publishers actually care about you, the reader, or are they just trying to maximize their advertising revenue?
Yes some industries are immune to needing to connect with their customers to survive, but if you can create a connection that’s more than transactional you have a major competitive advantage.
Example: Mitch Joel of Twist Image (an Agency in Montreal) writes regularly on his blog, produces a Podcast every week and will answer you on Twitter when asked a question. He’s humanized his agency and gained a lot of trust in by running his business this way.
Creating a connection doesn’t have to be creating a blog, podcast and monitoring Twitter 24/7. If you ask Capital Ford in Regina, sometimes all it takes is one Tweet: I think the Regina Police would agree that making a connection will exponentially grow long-term value.
Who’s got your back? Who would stick up for you when people post defamatory comments on your Facebook page?
If you’re not developing a community, a tribe, a following, a group of raving fans then you may have to go back to the drawing board. If your product or service is really as good as you say it is, it shouldn’t be hard to tell a few people and have your message spread organically. That, however, is much easier said than done.
Growing a mutually beneficial community around your brand isn’t an easy task but as with anything in life, doing the difficult work will pay off in a big way over time. What does your “community” want? A place where their voice is heard? A forum to connect with like-minded individuals? Maybe they just want the most up-to-date information on your area of expertise. Whatever it is, the only way to find out is to begin to ask and try to help potential customers without trying to make a sale. I’ll say it again if you missed it. Help potential customers without trying to make a sale, engage them, seek feedback every step of the way and provide more value than you’re extracting from your tribe.
Example: I have a paid subscription to SEOMoz software, I pay for tools to measure client websites more effectively. They send out a monthly list to subscribers, of the ten top articles they’ve found over the past month and every single article is extremely valuable. They also put out a video every Friday called White Board Friday, which usually consists of some advice or case study on how to improve your online presence.
Finally, a lot of the copy and writing on their site is done in a lighthearted, even funny way. I really enjoy a website that makes a relatively boring experience just a little bit better with humor.
They’ve established a community that goes way beyond a simple transaction.
So you see, we’re living in a completely different marketing era. What you did even five years ago may not be relevant today. You must constantly be measuring to understand where to make your largest return on investment and conversely, where you should be readjusting your strategy to systematically rid your marketing mix of useless tactics.
Have an example of one of the four C’s? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.