Be Thoughtful or Be Silent.

It’s been forever since I’ve posted here. Hey there.

Well- a little bit has changed… Oh, 2020… we will always remember you.

As I’ve been watching more TV and, consequently, Coronavirus quarantine-era commercials, I’ve had something marketing-y (real term) on my heart and was compelled to write. We’re about a month into quarantine, and with repurposed footage, revised voiceovers, and sentimental music, TV spots are starting to reflect this moment. And I’m cringing.

The last time I remember seeing such moment-specific spots was during the post-Trump election Super Bowl, when it felt like every single brand- regardless of equity or category, was trying to talk about uniting the country and bringing people together. It felt like a forced, collective blur.

I understand the temptation to jump into the moment and adapt messaging. 

I also understand the obvious limitations of everything typically available to develop new creative at this time- you know, small stuff- like people, places, things, time, and money. 

That said, we still shouldn’t be hearing the same message from everybody. If you’re tempted to settle for boilerplate messages of reassurance (‘We’ll get through this together! Hurrah!’ …shrug) frankly, just don’t say anything at all- it’s not particularly memorable, additive, or, in most cases, authentic. There is no pandemic marketing handbook, but it’s fair to say people will remember how you served or offended them when they were at their most vulnerable. 

Your brand existed before this moment. And it (hopefully) stood for something. I’d like to challenge those few who are compelled and actually in a position to commission, to create, and ultimately to air messaging at this time, to remember their brand’s values, and dig deep on its timeless value to your consumers, and how that might be relevant now. 

What’s more timeless than:

  • The reassurance of maintaining small ritual of a morning cup of coffee when everything around you is unpredictable.
  • Being a fundamental, trusted staple that can be transformed with even a limited pantry. 
  • The magnetic joy of a loved snack or activity – relevant to any parent, especially now. 
  • The empowerment of accomplishing a DIY home repair, whether a new homeowner asserting their independence, or someone quarantined and unable to enlist a professional.

Moreover, category messaging can be an even more practical and relevant approach. Given supply chain disruption, no matter how much it’s desired, your brand may simply not be an available option. But competition is realizing the same challenges; How powerful would it be to collaborate with your competitors to speak to this moment collectively to steady, or even rise your collective tide in the long-term?

If you are in a position to develop or run communication right now, just please be thoughtfully relevant. Use this moment as a torture test that develops messaging that speaks to your core, timeless benefits that remind consumers how you can best serve them right now, and in perpetuity. 

Otherwise, save your money, save your reputation, and don’t say anything at all.

Stay safe.

Alliah

P.S. I’ve started another platform where I’ve been posting more recently, visit grownesque.com. Feel free to check it out online, or via facebook @grownesque and instagram @grownesq.

Why we fail at gift giving (but keep trying).

Behold, the holiday season!  A time equally filled with joy… and riddled with anxiety.  While the stress associated with the holidays can go to endless depths, for the more privileged among us, the question “What should I give?” is anxiety-inducing enough.

In some ways, gift-giving can be likened to a marketer’s experience developing a new product. While a marketer’s end goal is profit, both the marketer and gift-giver are determined to deliver their target recipient an item or experience that they’d love and didn’t know they needed (AKA ‘surprise and delight’).  Marketers (often) do research on their target via surveys, interviews, social listening, focus groups, and/or ethnographies.  The gift-giver’s research is the many interactions they’ve had with the recipient throughout their relationship. But despite having years of insight, it can still be so hard to find that perfect gift!

Inevitably, a significant (or other word that starts with ‘s’ 😉 load more time and resources are going to be spent on the gift than the actual value that that individual will get from it.  There. I said it.  Note* Please do NOT use this as an excuse to forgo gift giving if you have not yet discussed that arrangement with your loved ones.  One gift I do not enjoy is hate mail.

We make up for that gap by saying ‘It’s the thought that counts.’  And maybe some people really mean it.  Or maybe you did succeed at finding that one, amazing gift that the recipient didn’t know that they needed or wanted.  But don’t feel bad, that seldom happens in life and in product launches.  I don’t have any precise statistics around what percentage of holiday gifts fall flat (think about your own experience!), but I can tell you that 70-90% of product launches fail.  Granted, product launch failures can be for a number of reasons, but the top reason tends to be lack of consumer adoption – people simply didn’t want it.

I come from a family of shoppers.  We shop for ourselves.  “I bought this thing for myself, you can pay me back for it and wrap it.” Boom. Done.  There’s absolutely no surprise, yet at least some delight – I guess one out of two ain’t bad?  But sometimes people just don’t know what they want!  So we have to guess.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if all consumers were like, I really wish you could make this exact thing…and on top of that, they meant exactly what they said (that’s another topic for another day…).

Once I was really excited about the gift I planned to give. My dad is a creative guy, and he had an invention idea that he had been toying with for a little while.  So I learned how to use 3D design software and created a prototype using the 3D printer at our local library.  I didn’t try to estimate what it cost me in my time, but it cost no more than $1 to print.  But the look of surprise and delight on my dad’s face when he opened it is something I will never, ever forget.

This is why we give gifts to loved ones – to achieve that nirvana of the delight and surprise that helps your loved one know that you appreciate and ‘get’ them.  As marketers, we try to do the same with the personas we have identified and researched.  Ultimately there is some element of guesswork involved, but there is nothing like the euphoria of hitting the nail on the head to deliver that item or service somebody never realized they needed.  It’s not easy – which is why it rarely happens – but all of those misses are worth the hit.

With that, I wish you the best of luck with your gift-giving efforts this year, and a very happy holiday season.