Safety is the Riskiest Marketing Strategy in 2010
Why? Because everyone is attention deficit today – with too little time available and too much competing for what time is available. There’s simply so much noise all around us, we’ve been forced to filter most everything out in order to get anything done.
It used to be that all you had to do was find a market need, develop a great product and advertise it to your target market. That’s the safe strategy – and it no longer works in 2010 (and it didn’t work in 2009 either). There’s simply too much noise for broadcast signals to penetrate.
Today, you need a Big Idea that’s so extremely remarkable that it actually feels risky to use in order to get noticed…
When I was 12 years old, I got my amateur radio license and first learned about the concept of the “signal-to-noise ratio”, which applies here. Signal-to-noise ratio is defined as the ratio of a signal’s power to the noise power corrupting that signal. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise.
In less technical terms, signal-to-noise ratio compares the level of a desired signal (such as your marketing message ) to the level of background noise. The higher the ratio, the less obtrusive the background noise is and more likely your signal will get through.
In the past, we could simply turn up the signal level to break through the noise by running more ads, sending more emails, saturating the market with our message. And as everyone became more efficient at this, the noise became unbearable, so people found ways to “tune out”, treating virtually everything as noise because it’s simply too much.
Break Through by being Extremely Remarkable
To break through today actually requires a completely different strategy – you must be “extremely remarkable”. When you are extremely remarkable, what you have to say rises above the noise and gets noticed, because it gets passed onto people directly from others they know, listen to and trust.
Seth Godin talked about the need to be remarkable to get noticed. Today, you must go a step further. You must be extremely remarkable. Instead of a single Purple Cow standing in the field, you need a small herd of Purple Cows – and some of them need to break through the fence and graze by the roadside – then you will get noticed.
In a world where everyone knows they must stand out, you must become more extreme about your differentiation – and when you do this, it will feel very risky – hence, the title of this post.
And being extreme isn’t the only qualification. Your extremeness must resonate – with your target audience.
So what does it mean to “resonate”? The word “resonate” means to “strike a chord; to relate harmoniously”. When something resonates, it strikes a perfect balance within the mind of the audience, if just for a moment.
This doesn’t mean we need to go crazy with everything we do – far from it. But on the “front-end” of our marketing and advertising, we must become extreme in order to break through the noise, get noticed and heard, then have our message passed along (because it’s extremely remarkable).
And as Seth Godin points out, extremes are as far from the center as possible. They’re “edgy” and way out there. Remarkability lies in the edges: biggest, fastest, slowest, richest, easiest, most difficult. Your goal isn’t to please everyone – it’s to please those who notice and spread ideas.
Here’s a video from 2003 that still does a great job explaining how to be remarkable in 2010:
Stand Out or Stand Down
In 2010, you need a Big Idea that’s extremely remarkable. When you have a big idea that’s extremely remarkable and different, it provides enough weight to break through the signal-to-noise barriers and get repeated – by email, on Twitter, on Facebook, in the blogosphere and by word of mouth.
Delight, Surprise and Amaze
Nobody talks about having their needs met anymore. Do you tell people how great your daily commute was? Of course not. It’s boring. It’s painful. And it’s normal. How about your favorite toothpaste? How about what you had for dinner last night?
Do you tell people about the latest movie you watched and how much you liked it? Of course you do. It’s interesting. It’s pleasurable. And it’s remarkable. How about your favorite TV show? What browser you prefer to use?
The movie Avatar is breaking all kinds of movie records right now. Why? Because it’s extremely remarkable – much more so than any other recent movie we’ve seen. And it keeps getting talked about (this is a case in point), which creates the social proof for it to garner more adoption – not only by the mainstream movie goers, but also by many of the movie laggards (who usually just wait for movies to come out on DVD and NetFlix).
Does Your Marketing Feel Safe or Risky?
As David Meerman Scott is fond of saying, it’s time to “Lose Control of our Marketing“. Find a Big Idea that’s extremely remarkable and resonates and you’re message will take off and surf its way to success riding the social network waves. Don’t be afraid to let go and take that risk.
Unfortunately, many marketing departments want control of all aspects of the company’s messaging – and they see blogs and Twitter as undermining that control. It’s amazing, but that sentiment actually still exists here in 2010 at some companies! (yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true).
Turn your employees loose and encourage them to blog, to Tweet and create YouTube videos. And don’t ask your marketing department to review and approve them. Let your marketing get out of control…
Encourage people to take more risks – to become edgy and stop worrying about what people might think. And consider using multiple edgy messages that appeal to different groups of buyers – not a single, watered-down message intended for everyone (that resonates with nobody).
And if employees do somehow “go too far”, don’t smack them down for it…because everyone must learn how far is far enough to be on the edge without falling in.
People are afraid of losing their jobs today, because they’re not sure they could find another one right now. This fear doesn’t help you become edgier with your marketing. Give people the “safety net” of knowing that unless they post something vulgar or repulsive, they can’t go too far.
And if they do somehow go too far, be explicit that the worst that will happen is they’ll be asked to delete the offending post, learn from it and keep on going faster than ever…
That’s how you can get breakthrough performance, not just in your marketing, but in your business in general – remove the perceived risks and make it safe for people to take calculated risks right now.
Here’s a true story and example of what I mean. When I was with CITRIX in 2006, a blogger named Brian Madden wrote this post that sent shock waves through the ranks of senior management (something Brian did on a regular basis, as I recall).
Some weeks later, the company’s CEO wrote an internal memo to all employees, outlining the company’s new, official blogging policy and encouraging people to start blogging. Within a few months, several blogging platforms emerged and blogging was underway and ramping up.
The point here is that the leader’s memo and official blogging policy acted as a “safety net” for its employees to put themselves out there and a catalyst to start blogging. Prior to an official policy statement, people worried about what would happen should they accidentally blog about something considered internal, non-public information (and apparently some who had tried to blog before the official policy had received negative feedback, so everyone stopped).
Due to the official company blogging policy, transparency has improved drastically and there’s now a healthy, thriving community connecting the company, its customers and other ecosystem members known as the Citrix Community.
Bloggers who care and speak up like Brian did can and do make a huge difference, as Brian did for CITRIX back then. Brian knows where the edges are, and he’s definitely not afraid to go there. In fact, he’s built his site and a nice business on it!
So, are you taking the SAFE road or the RISKY one in your marketing for 2010? Do you have an official blogging policy and Tweeting policy? Are your employees actively blogging and Tweeting about what’s going on? Are they plugged into the conversations going on in your market? Have you encouraged them to find the edges and go there no matter what?
And is your marketing extremely remarkable, so it will get noticed, resonate and get repeated efficiently?
I hope so! It’s the only way your message is going to break through, replicate and move the needle for you in 2010 and beyond.
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