Big impression, poor results

Now and again, an organisation will engage in a marketing communications campaign that you can’t help noticing but… which leaves you wondering ‘What’s the point?’

Some marketing communications initiatives have great entertainment value. They are beautiful or technically elaborate. Who doesn’t remember the Sony Bravia adverts featuring 250,000 brightly coloured balls bouncing down a San Francisco street?

This year, Sony revisited the advert to promote its 3D TV sets. This time, it used tennis balls, instead of rubber ones, to promote the 3D coverage of the Wimbledon finals.

Admittedly, the second advert did not have as much impact or broad appeal as the first one, but it was entertaining, nonetheless.

Other marketing communications initiatives try to capitalise on shock value. Benetton is the classical example for this.

More recently, Belgium’s Organ Donor Foundation launched the Reborn To Be Alive campaign, in which suggestive pictures of a female model in lingerie accompanied the provocative slogan ‘Becoming a donor is probably your only chance to get inside her’. This advert surely got tongues wagging but I doubt it changed behaviours or attitudes towards organ donation among the target group.

Yet another common sin in promotional campaigns is for organisations to jump on the bandwagon of the day just because it is available or it is possible to do it. For instance, some organisations create Facebook pages and proceed to collect ‘friends’, ‘fans’ or ‘likes’ without a clear strategy or discernible benefit. One such interesting case is described by Josh Bernoff here. The author noted that HMS Host, an operator of travel restaurants worldwide mostly on behalf of other brands like Starbucks, asked restaurant customers to become a fan of the company on Facebook. Inviting customers to become fans on Facebook is something that many other companies have been doing – so, why would this be wrong for HMS Host? As Bernoff points out, HMS Host does not have a brand that customers identify with, the actual Fan Page is very difficult to find and it does not match the company’s brand identity. Moreover, there aren’t many obvious reasons why customers should track the company on Facebook and does not seem to be a strategic reason for the company to have an official presence on Facebook.

Too often, when companies jump into social media without a clear strategy, pages or accounts fail to generate the desired level of engagement. Soon, they become poorly maintained or are altogether abandoned.

Another bandwagon is the use of QR codes. What is the purpose of adding a QR code on the back of a shampoo bottle, as in the picture below?

The additional information provided through QR codes makes sense in high-involvement products because it helps consumers make a decision and may increase the value of the product. For instance, digital marketing consultant Philip Tapkov (a bright former student of mine) added 2 to his CV as a gateway to additional, relevant content and, naturally, to demonstrate his eMarketing skills to potential recruiters.

Nintendo, too, uses QR codes to great effect in the Nintendo 3DS.

They are also used in tombstones in Japan (where else, right?) to create mini-social networks among people connected to the deceased.

But in shampoos… what is the point?

It’s time to get back to basics in marketing communications.

Integrated marketing communications is a process of exchanging messages with the customers (existing or potential) or other stakeholders, with the aim of eliciting a desired response. For that response to happen, the messages need to invoke the characteristics or attitudes that drive the desired behaviour – consumption or otherwise.

Does lust drive organ donations? Does high-drama drive purchases of fashion clothes? Does a QR code help shampoo buyers make a decision or does it improve customer satisfaction? I doubt it. It is time to get back to basics. To focus on the drivers of behaviour.

Campaigns driven by psychographics, like the ones described, may make a strong impression. However, they will fail to lead to sales because they do not tackle the key reasons for consumption.

Why do marketing managers sign off these campaigns?

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