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« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »

More on passion and pop

The post about the gulf between passion and pop touched a chord.

A few readers remembered Geoff Moore’s classic Crossing the Chasm. This is a super book (particularly the original (used) edition, not the updated one). Geoff has a different take on the curves, but his approach is well worth a look, especially for technology related products.

A few other readers wrote in, pointing out that they are going for both. Both passion and pop because the flexibility of the web makes it easy to do that. Of course, it doesn’t, not really. Going for both is rarely the right strategy.

Most germane: the two humps are not static. They move. Sometimes you can move them (I think Apple did) and sometimes the market moves on its own (music, for example). Most businesses don’t have the patience or the resources to move the Pop hump on their own, and I think it’s usually foolish to try. Passion, on the other hand, is always fast moving, and if you have something extraordinary and there’s a cadre of believers, the passionate will find you.

Avoiding the Passion Pop Gulf

Passionpop Here's a new curve for you: I'm calling it the passion/pop curve.

That bell curve to the left represents acceptance by the focused/excited/tastemaking community. Those are the people who love microbeers and haute couture and Civil War memorabilia. Like all market curves, there's a sweet spot. Go too nutsy on us ($90,000 turntables, for example) and even the committed will flee. Go too pop, though, and we'll avoid you as well.

Simple example: Jazz. If you do atonal world jazz played in the dark underwater, few people will come. On the other hand, you won't get many jazz fans at a Spyrogyra concert either. Too pop.

The bell curve on the right, you'll notice, is bigger. This is a second market, a bigger market, the market of pop. These are the folks who go to the Olive Garden for a nice italian meal instead of the authentic place down the street. They too want something that's not too edgy and not too (in their opinion) trite.

The reason you need to care is that gap in the middle. Every day, millions of businesses get stuck in that gap. They either move to the right in search of the masses or move to the left in search of authenticity, but they compromise. And they get stuck with neither.

A delta blues guy who plays for tiny audiences in Memphis is in the sweet spot of the passionate. John Mayer is in the sweet spot of pop. Both are great guitarists, neither is too edgy or too trite. Both made a choice. But there are a thousand guitarists who are neither. They're afraid to embrace one curve or the other and end up with neither.

You can move a curve one or way or the other... the curves change all the time. Chuck Mangione was pop for a while, much to the derision of the jazz purists. Now, though, the curve of pop has moved and Chuck can't possibly chase it down.

It's not just musicians, of course. Even dentists face this quandary. Should you be the most expensive, best trained, most extreme dentist in the world, catering to the edge of the passion market, or perhaps develop a chain of $19 five-minute whitening shops for the outer edge of the pop market?

You might get lucky and end up with a sweet spot accidentally. Inevitably, you'll itch to move to the other curve (cause it's bigger or because it feels more authentic) and I worry about your ability to do that.

The best choice is to choose.

Four words

Make big promises; overdeliver.

If you can define great marketing in fewer words than that, you win.

"Big promises": treating people with respect, improving self-esteem, delivering results, contacting as often as you say you will but not more, including side effects in your planning, delivering joy, meeting spec, being on time, connecting people to one another, delivering consistency, offering value and on and on. Caring. The stories involved in your promises matter. That's often what people are buying.

This is the first place that the equation breaks down. Marketers often make big promises that appear to be unrealistic or are delivered in ways that don't match the worldview of the prospect. Marketers get carried away with themselves and focused on their greatness and forget to tell a story that people enjoy believing.

And sometimes, they make promises that are too small to get our attention. Boring promises are hardly worth making.

"Overdeliver" means doing more than you said you would, which is the secret to word of mouth.

Here, of course, the pitfall is obvious. You made too big a promise and you did your best, but no, you didn't overdeliver, not really. You didn't amaze and delight and yes, stun me with the incredible results of your offering.

Just because it's only four words doesn't mean it's easy!

The coming backlash over green marketing

Go_green Micah points us to this campaign from Tumi Luggage. Buy some nylon luggage, they'll plant some trees (one tree? A bush? It's not clear how many trees per suitcase). It's entirely possible that Tumi's campaign is nothing short of generous, but as a consumer, it's awfully difficult to tell.

The easiest marketing promise to make is to say you'll do something green if people consume what you sell. That you'll support one green cause or another. No one is in charge of checking out your story, and my guess is that 90% of the time, it leads to a net negative--more landfill, more carbon, more waste.

I can still remember a car commercial that ran when I was a teenager... during the first big energy crisis. It touted that a certain brand of car was the one to buy, not because it got better mileage, but because it had a bigger tank! "Range," the announcer intoned, "is what you need in a car."

Consumers aren't stupid (we're dumb sometimes, but not stupid.) So, when the backlash hits, when every single brand has used up some green angle, then what?

Here's what's missing: a number. When you buy a fridge, there's a big yellow sticker with a number about relative energy consumption. Now, we could argue all day long about how to figure out the right number (should the number on the fridge include data about the amount of energy needed to make the fridge in the first place?) but an imperfect number sure seems better than no number at all.

Drive to Philadelphia: 150.
Take Amtrak: 22.

Stick with the lightbulbs you have throughout your whole house until they burn out: 175.
Replace them all now with something better: 142.

Organic strawberries from California: 88
Frozen strawberries from California: 80
Apple from Dutchess County: 4

The power of a number is the effect we saw when they put a number on restaurants (Zagats) and wines (Parker) and gas mileage (the EPA). People notice a number, and they work to improve it. If every car sold in our country had a real-time gas consumption meter on the dashboard and the rear window, things would change very fast. The only change from the status quo would be the story (communicating impact) but marketing the story is our biggest challenge right now. Once we communicate the most efficient path, I think we'll be delighted at how many people take it. Right now, marketers are doing a lousy job of that, devolving into short-term, often selfish come-ons. That's not going to last and it's not going to scale.

Marketers who truly care about the green thing should be scrambling right now to find a number or an organization that can defend the green brand. If not, it's going to be worthless and a great opportunity for improvement is going to be lost.

Inhaling

Dave Pell has a brand new site.

It's pretty simple. It gives you a popurls type view of the web for any search term you can imagine. Nicely done.

Sucking all the juice out

Just got some work back from a new copyeditor hired by my publisher. She did a flawless job. She also wrecked my work. Totally wrecked it.

By sanding off every edge, removing every idiom, making each and every fact literally correct, she made it boring and dry and mechanical.

If they have licenses for copyeditors, she should have hers revoked.

I need to be really clear. She's not at fault. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. The fault lies in the job description, not the job. If the job description of your lawyer or boss or editor or client is to make sure everything is pure and perfect and proven and beyond reproach, they are making things worse, not better. (Unless you're in the vaccine business).

Almost everything you do has some sort of copyediting filter. It might be the legal eagle or the graphic supervisor or the customer service police. They're excellent at making round things fit perfectly through round holes.

Boring and ignored is fine with them, because no one complains.

Fortunately, copy editors have a remedy. It's a word called STET. Which means, "leave it alone, it was fine." Time to teach that to your editors, wherever they may be. Maybe there should be a t-shirt.

If all you want is safe, have baby food for dinner. Just leave me out of it.

Let's skip the meeting

Meetingsad Chris sends us this classic "ad."

Today's resolution: skip at least one meeting every day for the next two weeks. Watch what happens.

The first rule of b2b selling

If it gets to the RFP stage, you lost.

Great business to business marketers (and profitable ones) make the sale long before that happens.

The RFP is an organizational punt, it's a way of saying, "it's all a commodity, we can't decide, cheap guy wins."

The cheap guy, of course, never wins.

« April 2008 | Main | June 2008 »