Is it Human?

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Welcome to a new post on my blog that I be updating regularly called, “Is it human?” We’ll look at real marketing examples and assess the human quotient (or deficit!) in each.

Not too long ago I was contacted by a company on the East Coast that sells add-on fireplaces. After reading my blog in several syndicated sites, I got a call from the company’s founder. A nice man, he was looking to increase sales of his add-on fireplaces and was convinced they had a “messaging” issue. If only they could make it “human,” and use humor, he stated, he was sure they could sell their piles of inventory.

I wasn’t so sure. Granted, I would love to have a new client that wants to work with me. Yet, his jump to self-diagnosis of a “messaging” issue had me a bit concerned. So I asked him a few simple questions:

“How do you know it’s a messaging issue?” I restated.
“Because they are not selling?” he said.
“Why aren’t they selling?” I asked.
“Because people don’t want them?” he said.
“A-ha. Now we’re getting somewhere. Why don’t people want them?” I inquired
“Because they are add-on fireplaces that don’t sink into the wall. They stick out, and can’t easily be customized,” he answered.

The bottom line here is that he had a product problem, not a messaging problem. His product wasn’t “human” because it didn’t meet a need. It wasn’t what people wanted.

There is no amount of great messaging or messaging humor that will compensate for a product that misses the human mark. Great messaging on top of a great product does wonders – but it never substitutes for a product that ultimately fails to pass the “human” test. Yep, even Santa’s magic couldn’t turn that product into an idyllic, romanticized Norman Rockwell painting that people would buy.

Interestingly, he told me that I was the first marketing person to actually discuss the product with him. I was surprised. Yes, I could create a funny campaign with Santa, a few elves with “nog fog,” and an add-on fireplace that got noticed; however, without redesigning the product to meet the concerns expressed by his audience (they didn’t want an add-on unit; they wanted a built-into-the-wall unit), he would never get the lasting results he needed. It seems too many “marketers” didn’t care about the human need part of the marketing success equation. I did.

In the end, this product didn’t pass the “human” need litmus test. While human messaging is critical, it’s only as good as the human need the product or service serves. Keeping it Human isn’t just about slapping tasty icing on a poorly made cake. Rather, Keeping it Human means making darn sure that the cake AND the icing both taste great! It’s the entire customer experience end-to-end that matters. Just ask Santa. He *knows* fireplaces!

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