April 17, 2014

The Power Of Sloppy

Have you ever wondered how McDonald's and Coca-Cola and Nike and Toyota and Apple and all the other enormous worldwide brands became successful?

For one thing, they were sloppy. They had to be.

They didn't have big data or precision targeting. They couldn't punch a key and immediately identify left-handed Lutheran dry cleaners who rode recumbent bicycles.

So they had to use mass media and talk to everyone. Not only did they not suffer for it, they prospered from it.

Mass market advertising is the most powerful media tool ever invented for the building of brands. In fact, despite the blather of contemporary marketing pundits, it remains so today.

If you walk through your local supermarket, you'll find that these mass advertised brands are the brands you'll find on the shelves. No "Facebook" brands. No "Twitter" brands. No "banner" brands.

Is there a lesson here? There is an enormous lesson staring us right in the face.

It is this: precision targeting may be an effective strategy for direct marketers and niche brands, but if you want to build or grow a big brand, mass advertising is by far your best media strategy.

Of course, some degree of targeting is essential. You don't want to try to sell golf balls to tennis players or run beer spots on "Oprah."

But there is a point you reach very quickly at which slicing and dicing the population into finer and finer fractions becomes counter-productive. Your assumptions become less accurate, your reach becomes less fruitful, and your focus becomes too parochial.

When you target too explicitly, you lose the value of unintended consequences. You lose the power of the unknown. Who would have guessed that 88% of "youth cars" would be sold to people over 35?

The simple fact is that marketers are not as good at predicting the ultimate make-up of their customer mix as they think they are. And the best way to mitigate against this is to be a little sloppy and tell your story to as many people as you can.

If you want to be a niche brand, do niche advertising. If you want to grow a big brand, you need to do mass market advertising.

You need to harness the power of sloppy.


Jim said...

I will probably get shot down for this but along with their advertising they are decent products too.

All these products over took brand leaders because their products solved a problem, albeit a mundane one in some cases.

Nick Hirst said...

Don't you think those brands are also sloppy (loose, wide, broad) in their definition of themselves? Seems to me that Coke's "Open Happiness" represents a pretty broad idea, executable in loads of different ways. Same as "The Power Of Dreams" or "Just Do It" or "I'm Lovin' It"...

Conversely, isn't it a bad idea for brands to narrow their definition of themselves too tightly - just as it's dangerous to overtarget comms?

Eric Mathewson said...

The irony of targeting is that the most productive targeting segment after a targeted campaign is usually anything but the target.

BrendaKilgour said...

I would not define it as "sloppy" so much as the act of behaving as though you have something important to say. There is nothing that announces a brand's "significance" like the megaton wallop of a network TV spot.

Mark W. Schaefer said...

This post got a lot of buzz and I finally had time to read it. Now I'm wondering why it got so much buzz. Social media is dead because of a video you disliked? Because of the reaction from a few young people to a speech you gave? Because of some un-identified studies you've read? Come on. Bring some data sir.

Sure there are plenty of charlatans in the field and I understand how that can be exasperating (it happens in advertising too), but there are also plenty of amazing successes -- creative, meaningful and even measurable in dollars. But if you only expect the same short-term results as a well-funded and and well-executed ad campaign, or even some short-term couponing, you probably need to expand your view of the possibilities.

I'm best-known as somebody who writes about social media but first and foremost I am a marketing strategist and college educator. I have been immersed in this field for six years now (a relatively short part of a long career) and this is certainly an important and vital channel despite the fact that most businesses still don't understand the distinct opportunities.In fact, they are probably just beginning.

LeShann said...

A great example of this is Xiaomi, now one of the most successful device manufacturers in the world (top of my head I think 3 of the 10 most sold phones in the world are now Xiaomi). They started off niche, digital only (even the purchase was made through e-commerce) and purely focused on value for money (they make no profit on the phone, only on the services you get through softwares). It took them no more than 24 months to become popular and realize that in order to grow, they had to invest... in mass media marketing (mostly TV).

Doug Garnett said...

In my marketing training, I had a boss who observed that marketing is a lot like a slipstream. That I've taken it is that we have to choose a direction & make a statement to those people we think are our most likely potential consumers. But, like a truck driving 60 mph down a highway, there's a slipstream that brings a lot of additional stuff (i.e. consumers) along - consumers that are quite often a long ways away from your theoretical "target".

AND, that boss was talking about selling highly targeted, very niche, computers. (This sloppiness isn't just important in mass marketing - although it's extraordinarily important there.)

One benefit of direct marketing is we can call back people who buy --- to find out who actually cares enough to purchase & whether the target market theorized is related to the actual people who buy. There are always differences.

Thanks for a great read.