Sep 18, 2007

More On Conversations

It’s inevitable that certain clients are going to want their agencies to try and insert them into online, Web 2.0 type conversations. And that certain agencies and websites will woo clients by promising that they can do so.

There are certain brands that elicit conversation because they’ve built the elusive better mousetrap. Starbucks. Apple. Porsche. Mini. (You know the roll call.) Now all these brands have competitors whose products generally get ignored. They’ve never managed to capture whatever it is that makes a brand sexy. And so like the desperate nerd at the dance, they wind up throwing themselves at consumers, approaching groups of uninterested consumers with some tidbit that they hope will stir up some sort of “conversation.”

It might be a text message about a dollar-off coupon. A fake blog posting about improved passenger side airbags. Or a MySpace page with music from an obscure London-based DJ. Regardless of what form it takes, the communication comes off like the aforementioned nerd: sad, desperate and ultimately unsuccessful.

Now it’s easy for us to say “well just make a better product and people will talk about it.” That sort of magic isn’t something you can just order up. So what’s a marketer to do when the competition’s become the darling of cyberspace, when random consumers build entire websites devoted to their competitors products. Or create message boards with millions of posts from devotees worldwide?

Let me suggest something that’s both obvious and radical: do nothing. You’re never going to be the prom king. But that doesn’t mean your life is over. You have strengths, even if they’re nothing more than your low price. Recognize that social media sites aren’t the place to tout them. And then go somewhere else (TV, radio, banners) and promote the hell out of them. Play to your strengths and people will start to like you. They’ll realize you’re not trying to be something you’re not. That you’re not lying to them or trying to fool them. They’ll appreciate it and they make actually buy something from you.

Because at the end of the day, they’re customers. Not friends. And customers generally don’t want to stay around and talk to you after their transaction is completed. Remember the Toad Credo: Your Brand Is Not My Friend™

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