What happens when you invite a bunch of people, let them sample your product and allow them to speak their mind? Let’s see…
This month marks my third year as a fulltime freelance copywriter. And if you add the 13 odd years I was an agency-employed copywriter, you can say I’ve seen many groundbreaking campaigns.
From the era of experiential marketing and digital 2.0 to current industry buzzwords such as disruptive marketing and hashtag-strategies; the ad game has evolved to the point of mutation.
But no matter what you do, people will continue to form their own opinions – be it positive or otherwise – about a product or service.
The blind ‘taste test’ for Laphroaig (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) reveals an important aspect of consumer behaviour.
They prefer to think for themselves.
We as advertisers can only mould consumers to think a certain way via a concept, proposition or message. But often have no control of how they might interpret our messaging or imagery.
In the case of Laphroaig, they embraced the opinions of their focus group – made up of people who may or may not have consumed the product previously – and went on to create print ads without filtering even the negative comments.
Now, that took some balls.
Granted the product is an intoxicating beverage and there is a certain degree of creative freedom afforded.
But come on… ‘tastes like burning hospital’ as part of a headline? You got to give the people at Laphroaig some props. There are more versions of the print campaign actually, which I urge you to check out.
And the best part, the agency’s copywriter didn’t even have to think of a catchy, punchy and juicy headline; the consumers did it.
Now I want to do a focus group-inspired campaign too… anyone?
Would you speak to a client like how you speak to your spouse? Or would you try to find a drinking buddy at an AA meeting?
It used to be ‘Location Location Location’. Not anymore. Even if you are located in the world’s busiest street, you’re screwed if you don’t know who you are selling to.
Even if you are selling online, a network where you can tap into millions of potential customers, knowing exactly who you want to sell to is imperative.
You don’t shoot without taking aim. You don’t engage without studying your opponent. You can’t – no matter how many times people say it – sell ice to an Eskimo.
Targeting is the first order of business in any marketing communications plan. But sadly, it is grossly overlooked with ancient mass advertising techniques still employed in today’s niche-filled world.
The act of mass advertising is a concept of reaching the maximum number of people, and then hoping for a miracle. It’s like a fisherman who casts his net in waters filled with piranhas only to end up with a huge net to mend.
We all live in our own world these days. Each with our own interests, dislikes, philosophies and preferences.
Even your best friend – who you enjoy many mutual interests with – is a different person. Just compare your Facebook timeline with that of your best friend, you’ll be surprised how you became best friends in the first place.
Targeting sets the tone, especially with copy. It also provides insights and context while ensuring your sales message has a higher chance of being well-received.
What’s more? Targeted advertising campaigns are often a whole lot cheaper, easily managed and often very measurable.
Sell to all, or sell to the select few who could be waiting with their wallets open? So please aim before you shoot.
You hardly get a ‘thank you’ these days. Service with a smile? Forget about it! Being served up to expectations is as rare as a working public payphone. Yet we let companies, businesses, service providers and brands get away with it.
The truth is we have become so accustomed to shoddy service that we don’t really care anymore.
“Just give me what I want, and I’ll be out of here” we say to ourselves.
A business can make its employees wear as many “Service 1st” or “I Serve with a Smile” badges for the sake of improving service levels. But if the person delivering the service is not bothered, the badge may well be another piece of office accessory, and nothing more.
Humans, by nature are proud. We want to be recognised for our efforts and every mini achievement is celebrated like a roaring success. Over time, we think we are better than the people around us.
A simple example; how many of you think you are better-than-average drivers?
My guess would be that everyone thinks he/she is a good driver than the next person. It is this kind of thinking that has killed customer service.
“I am doing my best already”
“Nobody can do it better than me”
“You think standing behind the counter is easy?”
The practice of overestimating our ability actually serves as a confidence booster. This egotistical behaviour is great for overcoming challenges or problems but only makes one look disinterested and nonchalant when delivering service.
And a customer service personnel that looks or talks like he rather be somewhere else is exactly the kind of stuff we customers hate.
So get your customer service guys or front-liners to lose the ego or get ready to lose customers.
This was a slightly long community service message brought to you by a freelance copywriter who’s pretending to represent all customers.
I must admit it; I was rather cheesed of with Maxis to start with. And then they go and air that stupid ad claiming they put customer service first. Of course, I sharpened my pencil and gave them a piece of my mind lah.
Maybe I was slightly rash and less eloquent in that post. And since this is a blog about marketing communications; let’s see what really went wrong with Maxis in that perspective.
Here’s what my favourite branding blog – Brand Strategy Insider – had to say about Brand Arrogance.
“Consumers don’t value brands; they value the idea the brand represents to them. This idea will always be worth more than the product, or the actual bricks and mortar of the business enterprise. When marketers behave arrogantly, the value of the idea people care about is instantly diminished. And once this happens, the road to redemption is long, difficult and expensive”
Simply put, you like a brand not because the logo is red or that the product is great. Consumers actually value the personality that the brand projects more than anything else.
It makes sense because telcos offer essentially similar products and services. But what made you choose Maxis or Digi or Celcom? Think about it.
It’s like making new friends. You only click with certain types of people; as you do with brands. But once a ‘friend’ crosses you, it becomes really hard to be good friends again. There is just something intrinsic about this process that science can’t explain.
Once you screw up with a customer (especially a loyal one), you usually have to work really hard to win him over again. And most times, the defected customer will never return.
There’s a classic Direct Marketing adage that goes like this:
It’s more profitable to retain a loyal customer, than to attract new customers
For all the advertising and promotions brands conduct to conquest new customers, why not sincerely care for existing customers instead? Those who are already customers may even advocate the brand to their friends and family for free.
And we all know nothing beats the power of word-of-mouth communication.
Clearly Maxis does not see it that way. I guess we are nothing but Ringgit signs that make their cash registers go Ka-Ching!
The concept is mind-blowing. The art direction will make one cry. The copy could sell a bootleg DVD to a Unifi user. But if you disregard what should be the superstar of any piece of communication, then even the greatest creative could become B-grade.
This critical ad element is called a Call-to-Action; and you’re losing potential customers if you don’t have a strong one.
The purpose of almost all marketing communications is to make people do something: call, SMS, walk-in, log-on, click or purchase. The thing is if you want someone to take a specific action, you actually have to ask them to take that specific action.
Yes, this belief is borne from my many years as a direct response copywriter. But here are recent researches on the matter to help illustrate why a strong call-to-act is important:
1. A research done by Marketing Sherpa to their e-newsletter readers show that a specific call-to-act increased response by over 8%.
Click-through Rates on different Call-to-acts:
“Click to Continue” = 8.35% “Continue to Article” = 3.3%
“Read More” = -1.8%
2. A research done by University of Connecticut asked 2 groups of people to mail back a stack of 30 post cards, 1 each for 30 days.
– The first group was given the request while under hypnosis
– The second group were just asked nicely
The result? The second group mailed back more postcards, which goes to prove that people will usually do as they are asked; as long as you ask nicely of course.
And this is true across all media; be it print, TV, web, social, radio, BTL, POS and what-have-you. Clear, powerful calls-to-action can make or break a campaign.
Ask and you shall be given. Now share this post with a zillion people, please? Don’t make me hypnotize you!
Most people think I go to work, write a few headlines and then scoot off to lunch only never to return until the next day. Come to think of it that would be nice; but we all know it doesn’t work that way.
So what it is that I do? I Sell.
But I’ve come to realise that I do not only sell products to consumers; but also sell advertising to clients. So to be able to sell, I need to be able to sell the idea to the client first before being given the go-ahead to sell products to the end consumer.
Sounds confusing? But here’s the kicker.
Before I can even think about selling anything, I first must sell the idea about selling an idea to a client to sell a product to a consumer to my partners first. And I haven’t even written a single line of copy yet.
So with all this selling going on, you tell me… Isn’t advertising fundamentally about selling? Or rather shouldn’t it be all about selling?
Every CEO thinks about how much money he is making as opposed to how wonderful his company’s advertising is, which may be the reason why you see lots of crappy (but often effective) ads out there.
So is there a way to balance a strong sales-driven message with compelling creative? Last I checked, it was called Direct Marketing.
The thing is I am angry. Yes, angry. Not cheesed-off, neither dissatisfied nor unhappy. I am mad. I created this blog so that I can have an opinion. And have a freaking opinion I will
You know, I wanted this post to be a meaningful, heartfelt review of my online escapades of 2010. About how I made a humble yet determined start to create an online presence, which culminated in this site being listed on Page 1 on Google if you’d searched “Copywriter Malaysia”; for a very brief period that is. But screw that and let’s get down to business.
In my 12 years in the advertising industry, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. And I’ve also seen many more committed by brands, marketers, agencies, advertisers and the like. And among all the mistakes; the biggest most unforgivable sin that a brand or company can make is taking their customers for granted.
And I have recently been given the middle finger by a company/brand that I’ve been loyal to for 12 years.
Ask any direct marketer worth his salt and he will tell you that once you become a customer, you should immediately be put into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programme. And most of the time, it doesn’t take much to keep a customer. A hello once in a while, maybe a small discount for purchase and perhaps a free gift or two; if budget permits of course.
The point is you want to keep your existing customer happy or at least contented. Just to let them know that they are valued for the business they’ve been diligently giving to you. And as long as customers know they enjoy just that little bit more than non-customers, everything should be well and good.
So for 12 years I was a happy camper with Maxis. No real issues or crisis-like situations, I simply got what I paid for. And then one day, I stumbled upon the fact that I was paying RM30 more than new customers for their broadband service. I was surprised and honestly thought that this was a small problem that their customer service will easily fix. Boy was I wrong!
Here’s the gist of the conversation:
Me: Hello, Maxis Customer Service?
MCS: Yes sir, how may I help you?
Me: Well, I’m just wondering why I’m paying the old price of RM98 for 3GB broadband whereas new customers only pay RM68?
MCS: Well, you must be still under contract sir?
Me: No, my contract ended just last month. Correct?
MCS: Yes, sir your contract has ended.
Me: So why am I not enjoying the reduced price of RM68 for the 3GB package?
MCS: Well sir, you purchased the package for RM98, so you will have to pay that amount indefinitely.
Me: What?! Nonsense! Are you telling me that new customers can enjoy the new price but old customers still have to pay the higher price?
MCS: Yes sir.
Me: So what do I have to do to enjoy the RM68 price?
MCS: Well you have to terminate your current broadband account and return the modem. Then register again to enjoy the RM68 price.
Me: (not believing this shit!) Errr… you mean I have to cancel and register for the same thing over again?
MCS: Yes sir, that’s the only way.
Me: Errrr… (WTF!… lost for words, hang up)
If the price of a good or service goes up, I don’t see any company saying “oh, you can still pay the old, prior-to-increase price because you have a contract”. They don’t just make the new customers pay the increased price while the existing customers pay the old, under-contract price. But when the price is reduced, every effort is undertaken to make it difficult for old customers to enjoy the new reduced rates.
We don’t even have to look at this from a marketing, CRM or customer service point of view here; just see it based on freaking common sense! Some of my friends claim that I am a bit of a diva here. They say I should just go to the Maxis Centre and re-register to enjoy the reduced rates. But why the fuck should I? I don’t want to go along with the idiotic process of re-registering for the same bloddy thing because that would make me a bigger idiot.
Maxis is seriously deluded and very arrogant to think that I would succumb to their plain bullying. I think I am going to the Maxis Centre after all, but the re-registering will certainly happen someplace else. Yes, I think I’m going to take my business (Broadband + Principal Mobile Line + 2 Supplementary Lines) elsewhere because loyalty obviously doesn’t matter.
P.S. I gave Maxis close to 3 months to explain themselves, during which time I’ve been letting my RM30 a month go down the drain. After contacting their Customer Service, I recently raised the issue in their Facebook Page (with my name and account number). I have since received no acknowledgement whatsoever… not even a squeak.