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18 Oct 2010|Added Value

The title of this blog entry is a lie.  You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve just read All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin and I must have gotten a little carried away. 

I read the book as part of the Added Value book club.  When we started the club a few months ago, I suspected that we would have some heated exchanges and philosophical debates, especially when reading a book entitled All Marketers Are Liars

But, despite the controversial title, we found very little in Godin’s book get worked up about.  After my initial disappointment that there would not be a vigorous battle of wits, I realized it was actually quite cool that a recognized marketing thought leader had written a lot of things that we could agree with. 

An example was Godin’s main point; that in order for a new product, brand, or marketing campaign to succeed, you need to identify a previously undiscovered group of consumers who share the same worldview (i.e. caterpillars are the greatest creatures on earth and not enough is being done to protect them) and frame a story that fits into their worldview. 

“Basic market segmentation,” Executive Vice President Brian Kushnir pointed out at the book club meeting.    Many of Godin’s points have been made before, but whether it is your first exposure to the subjects in his book or your thousandth, there are some good lessons to be learned (or re-learned) that could help you get your business off of the ground. 

The type of shared-worldview grouping that Godin discusses is essentially a different way of labeling psychographic segmentation, which breaks the market up into groups by personality, values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.   Based on each of our client’s specific situations, we do many types of segmentation, from needs and values-based to our Market Mapping approach which involves understanding the five W’s (who, what, where, why, and when) behind a purchase.  By doing this, we can explain more than 80% of consumer decisions.  A sixth W (why not) is pretty useful too. 

One of the key arguments against segmentation is that focusing marketing on small segments will consequently limit sales.  Godin makes the great counterpoint, that if you have to water down your message (story) so that it appeals to the masses, it will appeal to no-one.  Godin explains that, ideally, you want to narrow your target segment down to a small group and get those people to buy into your story.  Once they are believers, they will share the story of your brand/product with others.  This is especially important in established markets with plenty of competitors who have already taken ownership of certain segments.  Once consumers have bought into another brand’s story, it will be very difficult to convince them to switch over to your brand.  Godin argues that in order to cast aside their first brand choice and choose your brand/product, consumers would have to admit that they were wrong, and that rarely happens. 

However, Godin states, “the desire to do what the people we admire are doing is the glue that keeps our society together.”  He continues with a theory that was echoed in our last book club read, Buy-ology by Martin Lindstrom, “it doesn’t matter if you’re selling $3 socks at Kmart or $3,000,000 paintings in Miami.  A lot of people want what everyone else is buying.”  So rather than try to directly change a large consumer segment’s mind, find a clump of people with a similar worldview, tell them a story that adds to that worldview and they will hopefully begin to purchase your product.  Once people from already-spoken-for segments notice their friends using your product and listen to them tell the story, they will also want to buy. 

Another related and interesting point that Godin makes is that most of the time, a consumer’s first contact with a brand is not the first impression.  Most of the time the “first impression is no impression,” he says. 

Godin implores that a brand/company must tell an authentic story and live by that story all of the time.  Not just in advertisements, but in the store, on the website, within the customer service team, and in the homes of consumers who purchase the product.  We share Godin’s sentiments but also believe that the most successful brands also have character.  When a brand has character, it takes on an identity of its own. It’s every word, gesture, action become natural expressions which make the brand instantly recognizable.

You never know when a consumer will finally have their first impression of your brand, so your brand/company/product must always be living its unique character and telling its remarkable story.

By Robert Heavrin, Added Value Los Angelese

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