Chocolate Pies And Marketing Lies


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The world is full of systems of belief, which for the most part try to over simplify a very complex world.  All to often though things change but the mantra sticks.  It gets repeated under all circumstances creating more confusion along the way and misleading followers who stand by these beliefs and fight for them no matter what.

The world of business is not isolated from this tyranny, which I’ll cover in more detail in a future post, and what important in marketing and sales for that matter seems to be come under their own sets of misguided beliefs.  This was wonderfully demonstrated at an event I attended as an independent consultant which included companies like Yell, Google and the maker of chocolate puds, Gu.

You Must Question Marketing Mantra Especially If Its Not Working Or Has Never Worked For You

One particular mantra that Yell kept repeating was that images were the single most important thing in marketing and that your website must have excellent graphics and imagery or it wont work.

This however was in direct contradiction to what Google and Gu were actually saying themselves, albeit the whole thing was a bit of a pitch with a hefty one sided slant which many participants had noticed and were now beginning to switch off.

I asked myself, if images are the single most important thing in marketing why is this room full of speakers, using words, which are supported by slides with bullet points and occasional images.

Whilst its true that if your product is simple and is already accepted as common knowledge like clothing, cars or food and;

  • It has mainstream appeal
  • Can visually differentiate itself

Then graphics can and do play a big part in the front end, however they are not the single most important part.

Image Based Marketing Alone Is Just Plain Risky, Expensive And Pointless If Your Going To Thrive Long Term

Using marketing to build a brand based on image alone can be a very expensive and risky game, Gu themselves spent over £60k to get started which was small compared to similar campaigns and would be considered a lot for many SME’s.  Gu now has 3 brand managers full time as well as its on-going marketing spend.

By comparison can you imagine the imagery of an accountants office, its staff or the work it does being compelling enough by itself to make customers consider buying ?

Unless your product truly fits a gap in the mainstream market, which can also mean being forced to deal with giants like supermarkets or huge retail chains then you’re wasting your time taking this approach.

It also creates a degree of risk as very quickly you can loose a large chunk of your business if things go wrong between you and your giant customers.  Smart manufacturers who recognise this though, move beyond image based marketing which Gu cleverly demonstrated.

Niche Marketing Is Far More Effective If You Don’t Have Mass Market Appeal Or You Don’t Have A Fortune To Spend

Instead businesses should be niche focusing like many of the wine and clothing retailers who are not established high street brands and don’t go to market through mass marketing channels like retail chains and supermarkets.

Their appeal is more targeted and is a carful blend of demonstrating their understanding of the end user, delivering a product or service that matches the buyers needs and desires well and creates a long term relationship typically at a distance. Some businesses may then choose to move into main stream channels once they’ve built a loyal customer base.

Later on Gu showed how smart they were as a marketer and what their single most important asset was (apart from customers and staff of course) and that was a segmented database of end consumers which ran into 100’s of thousands of consumers, even though they only had 7 direct customers themselves all of which were supermarkets.

So why bother going to the trouble of building a customer database when image is all you need ?

Marketing Is The Journey Right Through Your Business And Into New Markets Not Just Your Front End

Well, Gu understand that marketing is not just about presenting an idea to a customer, its also delivering on that idea and whilst their product represented chocolate indulgence, it also had to deliver chocolate indulgence. To do this you need to live, eat, sleep and work with that very idea so that it become part of the very things you do to service your customers.

You cannot express that with imagery alone as its more about what you do and say, than what picture you draw at any given point.

Not only that but how do you move into new markets and develop products right for your audience when you don’t have a relationship which is really a two way conversation based on language and words.  How do images alone help you do that ?

Marketing is not just your front end, its also your core and back end.  Its the journey right through your business and so you’d expect every part of your business to perform in the same say.

Marketing And Sales Must Be Congruent To Be Effective

It’s congruency on all levels and at the end of the day whilst the image may grab somebodies attention and even get them to part with their money, on that occasion, you have to keep delivering your idea on all fronts and at all levels if you’re going to build a long term business and grow.

Unfortunately for Yell, as well as missing an opportunity to really excite and educate their audience and demonstrate their know how they also failed to deliver on any kind of relationship when their sales team engaged its visitors.

While I was talking to a group of companies, a Yell sales consultant turned up and without even bothering to listen or interject smartly into the conversation just asked who wanted to move forward and book an appointment.

The response said it all, total and utter silence.  Then came a string of excuses as to why these visitors wouldn’t proceed any further and the sales guy went away with his tail between his legs and I was left still engaged.

He may as well turned up with a picture of the Yell logo and just stood there.

Other Problems With Image Based Marketing

There were also a number of other issues that I would like to throw out prompted by this topic.  Images or photos are one of the simplest and fastest ways of misleading a customer as you can simply knock up some marketing material that looks great but delivers very little substance.

Have you ever seen a McDonalds that actually looked the same as it did after you bought it based on the photographs you saw ?

What’s to stop somebody else presenting an equally exciting image to a customer, how do you differentiate yourself on that basis alone ?

Sure, words can be made to lie just as equally as pictures but if go beyond just pitching and into the real substance that is where you’ll find a solid case for customers to take action and give trust.

During the event there was a lot of talk about statistics which included things like the number of impressions or click trough’s, but they never got related to anything measureable or tangible like lead generation or actual sales which would come from closed loop marketing which is exactly what most businesses need to be able to justify their marketing spend.

There was a lot of talk about only dealing with resellers and no mention of certified partners or consultant from Google which is a bit like saying that a qualification pre-concludes capability, which in my experience is never a guarantee.

Lastly I’ve never got in the press or media because of pictures, I get exposure because of what I say and do.

I would certainly agree with Yell on one point, and that they were right about the Emperor’s new clothes analogy in marketing.

Finally I’d like to finish with what Google really has to say on the matter and I happen to agree with them.  Note the comment about marketing moving from creative to content.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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