Musings on Marketing
The SEO Game
A couple of days ago I was talking with a startup CEO about SEO’s and how they are SOP as QED before his company’s IPO.
It got me to thinking about SEO consulting firms and how they are the flavor of the period, so much so, that if you aren’t employing/deploying one within your marketing arsenal then your company is somehow inadequate, not with it, and as such, diminished in value.
I call bunkum and balderdash!
This is a myth that was most likely created by the very same SEO firms to produce an unbreakable marketing cycle. Well, I’m here to break that cycle and prove that what these firms are selling is, in essence, modern day snake oil. To do this I am going to use that ancient tool of Aristotle against this cyclic rationalization – logic.
Are the SEO dark arts magic or science?
If they purported their services fall within the realm of magic then I wouldn’t be here today calling them snake oil salespeople. Rather, I would trumpet their service and marvel at their accomplishments for they truly would be providing a unique service.
No. They proudly state their methods scientific while holding aloft reams of data with lists of keywords. Touting the latest in search engine algorithm fighting algorithms, they project charts and graphs of forecasts touting astronomical success rates if you just douse your content with these specific terms. All well and good because their research is full of numbers and numbers don’t lie.
Let’s do the math.
Fictitious Firm A constantly comes up after Fictitious Firm B and C under a normal net search of Fictitious Firms, yet it desperately wants to get ahead of these competitors. So it hires the John R SEO Company to help it move up to that exalted location. John R SEO supplies Firm A with a list of terms that have been identified as positive search engines flags and dutifully begins to incorporate them in their content. Meanwhile Fictitious Firm B has gone out and hired John Q SEO to help them maintain their position as Fictitious Firm C, deciding to pull a no holds barred campaign to become number one in the Fictitious Firm game, hires Hector P SEO to squash the competition.
Who knew the Fictitious Firm game was so competitive.
Since all three of these SEO firms are generating lists based off of numbers crunching they are, in essence playing off of the same list. And that means that firms A, B, and C will be using identical keywords in their content and ultimately remain in their respective positioning regards to search engine listings.
Am I telling you not to use SEO’s?
No, I am just saying, you should watch the P’s and Q’s.
How to Build Brand
What’s it take to create Brand in the realm of popular culture?
Cementing a brand into the zeitgeist of a culture is not that easy yet, not an insurmountable task either – it just takes a little science and magic.
There are some key ingredients that, although they will not alone guarantee success, will set a sturdy foundation with which to build success from.
The first, and most important, (taking a page from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”) is ‘Quality’. If you lead with Quality then no one can fault your efforts. Add to this, ‘Uniqueness’, which separates your brand from the hoi polloi of corporate beige and you are well on your way to building a distinctive brand. The third, and most elusive, ingredient is, ‘Desire’, which, if you can capture it, will create a product loyalty that turns your noun of a brand into a verb.
(I was going to use ‘Exceptionality’ instead of ‘Uniqueness’ so I could do a whole riff on QED, but then thought the better of it…)
Quality and Uniqueness are elementals and, as such, can be defined, measured, replicated, and therefore fall under the heading of science.
The magic comes from Desire, as it is an emotion, which can be far more difficult to manifest and hold on to as it resides in an ephemeral realm.
(I could go into a whole thing here about how Apple has exploited these three ingredients to massive success, but I think we all know that story)
Let us assume that your product or service has the first two ingredients, Quality and Uniqueness, in spades!
How can we capture Desire?
We go back to school. Someone once said: (I think it was me) “Real life, with all of its cliques, hierarchies, and social dramas, is just college without the campus.” One thing that college does better than any Madison Avenue marketing firm is build Desire for Brand – in this case, the football team. Schools are known for their sports teams over any other aspect of legitimate curriculum – reaching the realm of Icon. Teams are rallied around and players worshipped – it’s tribal in its nature, creating us versus them fervors tapping into fierce primordial protective veins that can carry on throughout life.
Imagine if you could foster that same emotional Desire – that loyalty – with your customers. What would you give to have your customers painting your logo on their chest? You could get rid of the marketing department – oh, wait…
How do we achieve that level of customer commitment?
I’m not going to go into all of the Jedi mind tricks and team building exercises that play out and into building a schools’ team loyalty because, in the real world, things need to be adapted to a more diverse and dispersed audience. What it distills down to is building loyalty by engaging the customer and making them feel as if they are partners with you in your product – in your Brand. You make them part of the team. Make them want to defend the Brand and, in doing so, promote the Brand. Because they know that it is the best and, by virtue, they are the best.
Pie in the sky stuff is great, but what about practical apps?
The best content is the content that users supply! Youtube and Ebay are two examples of a user supplied content business model showing extraordinary success. Now your business model may be set to a different frequency – you provide a service or sell a product, yet the basic concept of user supplied content can still work to your advantage. With Social Media now in heavy rotation, customer loyalty and customer engagement campaigns are now easier than ever to execute and with minimal budgeting by allowing for a USC program. And by utilizing this approach you are well on your way to building a team with your customers.
How can we create Brand Loyalty?
Indoctrination. Let’s take a page from a company that I believe most people have a passing acquaintance, Starbucks. The success that Starbucks has achieved: Coming straight out of Seattle and growing to ubiquitous world domination that will most likely see its morphing into a chain of upscale sit-down Bistros that no longer serve coffee, is truly amazing.
Yet their success is based upon simple brain hacks that led to the creation of what could be termed “The Cult of Starbucks”. (And, along the way, ruined a perfectly good 25¢ cup of “Joe” – free refills, with a $2.00 cup – sans refills) This was accomplished by using a term substitution reprograming method – Tall, Grande, or Venti anyone? You ever notice how they patiently, and subtly correct anyone who ordered small, medium, or large – as if we were all children? All by design. Once you know the language you are already part of the culture. But, there is more to it than just that.
To further amplify the Starbucks strategy I have inserted below a section from another piece I wrote that delves into the subject. Several years ago I was creating this character, a disillusioned film school professor, and story over a series of blog post – chapters, if you will. What follows is an exert from one of these posts as he discusses the success of Starbucks.
“Of course all my students want to know what makes a film successful – monetarily – critically they don’t give a crap – this is the show me the money generation and they’re going to get theirs – come hell or high water. So we look at the latest box office bonanza’s to try and figure out the common thread. But they are too close to their subject to formulate any kind of rational observations beyond the technique. So I suggest to them that we pull back – re-establish our point of reference – look at the bigger picture – and that takes us to Starbucks for a mocha-frapa-latte grande.
So, after we all order our steaming hot milk foamed caffeinated beverages from – I always delight in pointing out to these vapid Terrantino’s – some of my former students now happily ensconced in the rat race of their destiny – we sit and ponder the great mystery of life – how to make a shitload of money. I ask them what they think it is that makes Starbucks the success that it has been. Brilliant marketing plan – filling an untapped market – seductive indoctrination into a cult-like situation with brain programming word sets that redefine objects with alternate language – What? Marketing major – go figure.
I tell my teaching assistant to get me one of those maple scones – I swear they’ll be the death of me – while I ask this group of excuses for sentient beings what their first memory is – the one buried deep in foundation of their misfiring synapse. I won’t bother with the myriad answers – all incorrect – it’s good to be the professor – that geyser forth from this mob of miscreants. Their first real memory is of that fleshy orb – bloated and heaving – the directions clearly marked with a dissimilar color – protruding bull’s-eye – rushing heaven-sent towards the visage – docking naturally – a perfect fit – with the oral cavity. Ah sweet nectar – life’s sustenance – this honey of the gods. And that’s what made Starbucks the success it is today. Breast-feeding. They are speechless – dumbfounded – they thinkest me offest my rocker. My teaching assistant returns with a blueberry scone – they’re out of the maple. I throw a fit – she flips me off and eats the scone.
Settle down everybody – let me explain. Look at what’s in the cup you’re holding – a little coffee and a whole lot of warm frothy milk in a perfectly designed container – the lid of which has a little hole to suck out the contents within. Now, let’s look at mother’s milk – the remnants of this mornings caffeine fix – courtesy of the blood stream – and a whole lot of warm frothy milk – courtesy of the aerobics workout mom just finished – all neatly delivered in a perfectly designed container with a little hole to suck out the contents. I tell you its genius – while we were all out searching for our inner children to give them the eviction notices they deserve – the bastards at Starbucks plotted to give aid and comfort to the enemy within by feeding us and feeding off our most base desire – to be nurtured – to suckle once again – to regain that precious innocence. And, of course, we fell for it – stupid inner child.
I wonder if Starbucks changed the color of their cup lids to a pleasing shade of brown might that boost sales. What does this have to do with money making films you ask - I haven’t got a clue - I just wanted to get some joe…
I’ll have two Vente Cappuccino’s to go, please.”
And that is a part of the Starbucks success formula – another other is, they make a darn good cup of coffee.
How do these observations translate out to your enterprise?
Easy, if you have a quality product and you can create a culture to surround it you can engage your customers in ways that make them care about the culture and the product.
What is Marketing?
The general consensus is that marketing is about developing a message behind a product or brand and then broadcasting that message, in one form or another, to a targeted audience and beyond.
That’s old school thinking.
We want to break that mold by developing a more holistic campaign dynamic that feeds its channels out of an elemental singularity of concept derived from a distillation of narrative that resonates outside projected receptors.
Basically, I just said the same thing twice.
Why? Because, write this down, there is nothing new in marketing.
Since the dawn of time, when humankind first set foot on the planet, we have, all of us, been marketing experts – it was either that or die. Life has always been all about the marketing – from proliferation of the species by making ourselves more attractive to the opposite sex to dodging death by making ourselves less attractive to carnivores – we have been doing the marketing shuffle. That’s why sex and death are the underlying motivators in modern marketing – they’re the only two things we really understand – motivationally speaking. They are at the core of our existence.
How does a thoroughly modern marketer tap into those elemental core motivators?
Easy! No, I lied it’s not easy. As humans have developed society and insulated themselves from the harsher realities of the natural world, one has had to develop a more sophisticated approach towards cracking that marketing code – yet it still comes down to a basic element. It’s all about telling stories. The first thing to do is discover and develop the narrative of your client, their company, their product, their brand – make their story. Once you’ve created that then you need to distill this narrative down into its most base component. From that you grow the message. And the message is: This product/service makes you look good or makes your life easier – sex or death, baby - that easy.
Now comes the hard part.
Who is your audience?
Look in the mirror. If you can’t sell it to yourself why would anybody else buy? You’ve created this new narrative that you want other people to absorb into their narrative – that’s right, everyone has got their own narrative –and believe me, they are the stars of those narratives and very protective of them as well. To do this you need to disrupt their flow of narrative momentarily with something that is attractive enough they can’t help but weave it into their own story. It’s all about getting them to make your story part of their story and if it’s a tip on how to get laid or avoid the grim reaper then they are probably going to pay attention.
Where are your clients’ customers?
It doesn’t matter. That’s the easy part. Finding an audience is like a lion looking for lunch – find the right watering hole and wait. The particular animal you are looking for is bound to show up. You should really be asking: Where are your clients?
That’s a 30 for now.
What to look for in a Marketing Company
A fresh approach! That’s right, just as the best pizza is created with the very finest of fresh ingredients, a great marketing campaign – in this age of hyperbolic media bombardment – is one that can rise above that fray and present itself in a fresh and compelling manner that ultimately acts as a shiny lure to capture your audiences’ attention and convey your message in a singular and unique fashion that will make you and your product distinctive from the rest of the pack.
Shouldn’t we weigh experience against enthusiasm?
Absolutely! And we have a multitude of experience as generalists, which allows for us to be completely outside the box, viewing a concept or campaign from numerous facets and therefore coming up with unique formulas for creation and implementation.
Think of it this way: If you hire a firm that has been in charge of marketing for the past ten years at McDonalds what do you get?
Tens years worth of McDonalds marketing. In other words, you get very conservative corporate messaging; because big corps can be loathe to do anything that isn’t tried and true. And they don't have to be 'edgy' because they have the long dollars to bombard you with their middle of the road messaging. What you don’t get is disruptive messaging - something unique to the market - something that gains the attention of the short attention span masses. You also don’t get that startup mentality that really is the framework for this new economy.
Let’s face it; in this age everyone is a marketer. People have tried to label this as the age of the celebrity – ultimately, I feel it will be deemed the age of the marketer, because isn’t that really what all these so called celebrities are doing? I’m marketing myself right now.
What is marketing?
Marketing is an enigma wrapped inside a riddle. If anyone tells you that you need to adhere to the rules of marketing you should run away as quickly as possible. Rules imply a confinement, a rigidness that seems the very antithesis of what great creative marketing should aspire to become. I am not advocating anarchy here, there are guidelines – formulas, if you will – that one can utilize that will go a long ways toward producing the desired effect – engaging your audience.
What is the easiest and most effective way to engage an audience with your content?
Ask a question. That’s right, human beings are hardwired to want to try and prove themselves worthy so they will go out of their way to engage and either prove that they know the answer or learn the answer for the next opportunity. It’s a brain hack. I bet you can’t tell me the next best way to engage. Yes, issue a challenge.
Great marketing is all about creating compelling narratives that inspire your audience. The most basic of narrative formulas goes as: Present a problem, reveal a solution. This could easily translate as: “Don’t want to cook dinner tonight? Get your pizza on at Zaaa's.” It is this distillation of messaging that has become a requirement within this media bombarded short attention span society.
What is the difference between a picture and a work of art?
A work of art is the distillation of a narrative down into its most singular form, whereas a picture is just a painting. I try to achieve art in everything I do.
What are you looking for with your marketing?
How to Make a Viral Video
How can we make a “Viral Video”?
You can’t. Anyone who tells you they can create a viral video should have a great deal of distance put between them and you. They may make a video that goes viral, but… you get the idea.
The term “Viral Video” in this instant gratification society has come to replace more moderate terms like; commercial, video, marketing spot, etc. Sure, it’s full of hope and glory that whatever content you are creating is going to set the Internet on fire yet, its ubiquity of use has rendered it meaningless. There is no magic formula to creating a “Viral Video”, no holy grail. Now, there are videos that go viral and most of those have content that contains cats or epic fails or are of a salacious nature. Rarely does their material come anywhere close to a quality and substance, or provide a messaging that one would want to relate to their brand.
There are some guidelines that can be used in creating compelling content that will, if not make a video viral, produce messaging to engage and compel your audience in ways that really matter – actionable results and brand development.
Keep it simple.
The best content has a clarity of voice that conveys concise messaging to a targeted market. It knows what it is and what it wants to achieve. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people. It is precise in its motive and execution because it is better to reach 100% of your market than it is to reach 10% of the Internet.
Keep it short.
Small is good. It has been noted that the attention span for just about everyone has shrunk considerably – to the point where it is now around twelve seconds. So how do you get someone to make the commitment to watch a video that has some length to it – sell popcorn? The best messaging is such that has been distilled down to its elemental ingredients – in other words, stay on message with a singular call to action.
Keep it entertaining.
Compelling content allows for the unexpected. In this mad-dash din of a hypermedia world where everyone is trying to sell everyone else it can be a challenge to elevate above the horde and amplify messaging to an audience. When you do connect, its best that your content be entertaining. One way to achieve this is to inject an element of the unexpected – add some whimsy. Make it so that your audience reaction is: Hey, that was cool. Doing this will leave a positive and memorable impression. And, isn’t that the goal here? To have your audience remember you – your brand.