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™


Anonymous said...

Amen. Well said. You have a way of voicing things that are simply spot-on.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Toad.

Now if we could just get all the BDA ECDs who are equally desperate to prove they "get" Web 2.0 to stop trying to turn every little assigment that comes through the agency into a "cover the walls" exploration with a micro-site, fully thought-out Social Networking architecture and oh, maybe an Advergaming component.

Oh yeah, plus they need a TV and print campaign. And the media's already been bought for those two 'cuz that's all the client wants right now. But come on guys, let's think beyond TV.


/web 2.0 wanna-bes are the new hacks.
//doing web for web's sake is as bad as none at all.
///thanks. I feel better now.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

But it can't just be one world or the other.

There's a sweet spot right between traditional and non. It will still come down to the strength of the idea, regardless of where it's executed. If it’s right for online it’s right. If it’s better for outdoor, then so be it.

And MySpace needs to stop taking on any more ads. Their main page is totally overrun as it is.

Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with Bill here. But I understand where you're coming from Toad. There are so many products we need/want but that doesn't mean that we need/want to have conversations with the company that puts out Quilted Northern Toilet Paper or be part of the Ray-O-Vac Battery community.

Anonymous said...

“the Ray-O-Vac Battery community”

If they have this? I quit right now.

Alan Wolk said...

@MTLB (Bill) and JT: We're saying the same thing here. Wasn't proposing that all non-Prom King brands abandon the interweb or even the 2.0 space. Just that they need to use it differently than the Prom King brands, that they can't assume consumers are interested enough for them to initiate a conversation.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya Toad. I'm coming at it from a creative's POV. There's a peception that anyone over 40 doesn't know shit about interactive and anyone under 30 never saw a marker before. All I'm saying, unlike the humans and aliens in Independence Day, there can be peace.