When Customers Listen but Companies Don’t Send a Clear Message!
How many times has it happened to you that you see a commercial on television and immediately start thinking, “why did they spend money on this crap?” This situation seems to happen quite often to me. As a mutant consumer – one who has a background in business / marketing – it is very difficult for me to bite on the pure message that corporations want me to swallow…“buy this product because your life will be miserable without it”. Did they not plan on people like me or am I simply a standard deviation that has been forecasted in the business plan not to bite at the bait? If they had thoroughly planned their marketing campaigns and spent millions of dollars on advertising, shouldn’t I have been hooked on the bait as well…at least during my first encounter?
Unfortunately, it appears that some corporations have already begun to forget who it is that is supposed to hear / watch their messages and understand them (at this point I’m not even thinking about mutant consumers like me). Some corporations still think that it is enough to have a cute and memorable (or annoying yet recognizable) jingle – ala NuvaRing’s “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, everydayyyy” – that will drive sales or increase market awareness about a new product. I personally prefer the You Tube variation with Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’, but I am just a mutated mind and not mainstream. This first NuvaRing commercial is one of the examples that I always share with my small business clients, suggesting that they always ask themselves, “who are my listeners and am I ensuring that they are hearing what I want them to hear”.
My internal alarm sounded off the very moment I saw the second NuvaRing commercial and heard one of the actresses say “I’m not even sure what it is,” referring to NuvaRing. Boom! Mistake admitted. After a few months and millions of dollars spent, it seems that someone in marketing apparently realized (or perhaps heard from a well-intentioned friend that was confused about NuvaRing) that the response to the ‘thoroughly planned marketing campaign’ was not as expected and that the majority of targeted customers did not understand the product or how it functioned. Beep! One more emergency meeting. One more critical decision. One more costly commercial (I prefer referring to it as damage control). One additional minute on national television clarifying NuvaRing, who it is best suited for, and why YOU definitely have to buy it. Ta-da! Problem solved. Now company sales HAVE TO grow.
In my weird logic of understanding the corporate world (one which I have not had the fortune of working in), a poorly written scenario and a bad marketing campaign are not as disastrous for a large corporation as they would be for a small business. For big business, such ‘challenges’ feel like they are simply one more item on a balance sheet, under ‘Marketing Expenses’, category ‘Other’. God bless the flexibility of GAAP and unlimited resources in the corporate world.
But, many of us live in a completely different world. Small business owners are not as familiar with the ‘Other’ category in their balance sheets. We work on tight budgets, where our annual ski trip will be traded for our marketing budget. We want to know who is out there listening and seeing our product or service and what they need to understand about our offering. I always highlight to my clients the importance of well done research and stepping into the shoes of their customers before going out and spending their entire vacation budget. Even for minor marketing expenses, such as attending local networking events, small businesses should diligently do their homework and identify value before spending their tight resources…which, alternatively, could be the latest shoes of the season.
In my opinion, a wisely spent dollar has to have the power to communicate a clear message to an audience, without leaving any space to perverse marketing minds to twist it. For small businesses, to set aside funds for damage control is a luxury that we cannot afford. All available resources have to be laid out into the open and invested in the right projects – mistakes are not allowed. We have to know who is listening to us and what they need to hear.