The Resident Connection, Written Posts

Putting Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Red Bull In Your Title Doesn’t Necessarily Make It a Good Post

8 Comments 22 February 2012

My good friend Lisa Trosien shared an article on Facebook recently.  I love what Lisa shares because it’s often informative or thought provoking.  The particular post she shared recently was definitely thought provoking.  I thought, “DAMN, ‘7 Lessons from Great Marketers of Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Red Bull,’ this should be interesting!”  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  It was an advertisement.  The author of the article, Panos Mourdoukoutas, has written a book called ‘The Seven Principles of WOM and Buzz Marketing’ that he has built into a very weak and uninformative post for Forbes.  All in an effort, most likely, to try and get people to buy his book.  When I first read the post I was generally dissatisfied with its content, but then when I read it again and clicked on the link to his book I was even more disappointed.

Why is this so sad to me?  For a guy that is trying to share seven principles of WOM and Buzz this is a lame attempt at it himself.  On top of it, he highlights 4 very popular brands just to get some cheap clicks and shares.  Should he re-title the book ‘Seven Principles of Gaming Your Product to Popularity In the Short Run’?  OK, maybe I’m being unfair without justification.  How’s this, I’ll re-write his post right here and actually share some real perspective regarding Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Red Bull you can actually use.  Feel free to check out his first (click on his post title above to read it) and then come back to read mine.

Here goes:

Let’s get one thing straight, when marketers dream we don’t dream about tipping points or critical mass.  That’s what finance and economics nerds dream about.  Marketing nerds dream about telling stories.  Stories that get shared over and over and over.  We understand that those stories (if told over and over and over) can lead to tipping points and mass, but we’re focused on telling a great story first and foremost.  Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Red Bull are some of the best story tellers in business.  They get it.  Too many other marketers are focused on the tipping point and how to get mass and their story gets lost.  The difference between marketing nerds and economic nerds is how they tell their stories to actually create WOM and Buzz Marketing.

1. Understand your customer

If you are going to provide a product or service you need to understand why your customer would feel compelled to tell someone else about your product or service.  What will differentiate you in the market enough so that your customers can’t wait to share their experience with someone else.  On the surface you may think that Apple just makes better products that fit people’s needs.  What they really do is make products that people want to talk about or share a story about.  Do we really need iPads?  Nope, but we love to talk about them.  Nike does this a little bit differently.  They’ve done it more through marketing by connecting themselves with athletes, teams, and sports that all write the stories for them.  Nike’s customers associate themselves with the stories of these people and groups and they pass along those stories to others.  Starbucks allows customers to create an event (ie – story) by just getting some coffee.  Whether you visit a store for awhile or just grab and go, your order alone “Grande Mocha Vanilla Latte” is a story itself.  And how about Red Bull?  They don’t even tell people what’s in it or what it tastes like.  All we know is that it gives us wings, and if you know anyone that drinks it they have a story for why.

2. Your story must evolve

Sometimes being the 1st in can be what wins, but just as your product or service must innovate your story needs to evolve as well.  Apple wasn’t always about music, but now they are.  It’s part of their story.  Phones, tablets, books.  They’re more than products or services.  They are now part of the Apple story, and the stories all tie together.  The next chapter to their story always ties into what they’ve done.  It’s an evolution.  Not a fancy add on, bell, or whistle.  It’s a new chapter to the same story that Mr. Jobs always told so well.

3.  Target your current customers

So much money is blown trying to attract new customers it boggles my mind.  What’s more powerful, a customer (already buying from you) telling his friends about your awesome product or service or trying to capture a new demographic?  Even if you have a brand new product it can be more effective to dazzle your small customer base than chase people you don’t know.  Of course there is a time and place to push your message out, but just be cautious with your time and marketing investments as you try to expand.  Don’t forgot about your current customers in the process.  Think about marketing to them as well.

4.  Make your story easy to share

It may be as simple as putting a ‘Like’ button on your website or it may require sponsoring a professional athlete, but these steps can make it easier or more compelling for someone to share their story about your product or service.  For example, I remember back in school we all would get excited when the new Air Jordan’s would come out.  We’d all wonder who would get them first and if we could ever get a pair ourselves.  Sure, it was a 12 year old’s story, but everyone is a consumer and everyone is a story teller.  Participating in social media or having a compelling spokesperson can always make a story easier or more fun to share.

5.  Measure your messages and efforts

When I see an advertisement that doesn’t have some type of code, unique URL, or tracking capability I’m just blown away.  In today’s day and age of sophisticated tracking services and technology I don’t see why these things get missed.  Shouldn’t everyone that ever goes to a Starbucks have a bar code assigned to them.  No different than a grocery store or pet store I should be logging in every time I go there.  And for every 10th drink I should get a $1 off or something.  I should be able to scan a coupon or ad for Starbucks with my phone and get credit for it somehow as well.  It just seems odd that marketers don’t incorporate these things to better understand customer behavior.  Sure, Starbucks is doing some of this, but not to the degree grocers have.  Instead we continue to mass message an audience we really hope is our target demographic, and then we hope they care enough to even think about or buy our products.  That makes sense. <–sarcasm

6.  Communicate with your customers

If we’re not listening or asking our current customers questions then we are missing opportunities to learn about our shortfalls or needs for improvement.  In addition, if we’re not handling complaints properly then we’re not seizing opportunities to create customers for life.  How we recover from our failures can be more important than what we believe will be our next big success or marketing campaign.  Don’t ignore the people that already have bought from you.  They will sing your praises if you listen to them.  Check out Starbucks and Red Bull on Twitter.  They’re listening.

7.  Dare to be different

Safe stories are no fun.  That’s why most books don’t get published and most movies don’t get made.  My best blog posts have some risk in them.  Good stories do too.  There’s a fine line, sure, but make sure your story is interesting.  Carve your own path.  The day an economist or financial expert tells you how to write your story I think you’re screwed.  Most advertising sucks because approval rarely comes solely through marketing and  it gets watered down by a committee of executives.  Keep dreaming for something bigger than a tipping point or critical mass.  That’s what keeps your story fresh.

The bottom line:  Effective WOM and Buzz marketing is not about a campaign.  It’s about the stories you tell at each touch point along the way.  Page by page, chapter by chapter.  Create stories your customers want to retell over and over and over.  This stuff doesn’t happen over night or with one idea.  Campaigns fizzle and die.  Stories last a lifetime.  These big brands are so much more than great products and marketing.  They are part of people’s lives.  And those people love to share stories about them.


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