Tag : Marketing

Has marketing become the screw aisle?

Lisa was cutting my hair and talking about how she fixed her own toilet.

“The worst thing about hiring guys is that they talk so much about the job,” she said. “They get to your house and start talking about all the things they need to check, all the things that could go wrong, and how the project is probably doing to stretch out over a few weeks  because the distributor might not have the right parts in stock.

“In the time it takes a guy to tell me all this I was able to go Home Depot, buy the toilet kit and finish the job.”

Empowered by her success with the toilet Lisa was now building a deck in her backyard.

“The standard sized boards made the project straightforward,” she said, “but the challenge was the screws. Have you ever walked down the screw aisle? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different sized screws. To make matters worse you need different kinds of tools for different screws. I mean, c’mon, how many different kinds of screws do we need? Why can’t I build my deck with one or two types of screws? I really resent the screw aisle. Why do people make things so complicated?”

I closed my eyes as she started cutting again.

Screws. Financial investments. Health care plans. Government legislation. Business strategies. “Expert” advice. Diet plans.   15-step proven methodologies on everything from marketing to living a better life.

Over-complicated, over-thought and so overwhelming that most of us just freeze. The paralysis numbs us and dumbs us. Making us reliant on experts, products and services that we may or may not really need. Or, like Lisa, just making us resentful, angry and suspect.

Has marketing become the screw aisle?

I fear that it has.

While choice is a wonderful thing, have we gone too far in product extensions?

Have  ‘content marketing’ emails started to sound like the guys who drive us crazy yakking about how complicated the job will be, how tough it might be to find the right parts, how they’ll have to come back again to measure and that’s going to be tough because….”

Are too many preying on people’s fear, uncertainty and doubt? Exacerbating anxiety to sell more than a person really needs?

Is our marketing building a screw aisle or making it easy — and maybe even enjoyable — for Lisa to build a beautiful deck?


CA: Good intentions but muddled marketing

Computer Associates, now to be
called CA, today featured multi-page spreads in newspapers like “The
New York Times” announcing the company’s new growth strategy.

But darned if I can figure out what they’re talking about, which is too bad because CEO John Swainson seems
so passionate about cleaning up CA and making the company matter again
to its corporate customers. I’m rooting for him to succeed, but there
are a few things in marketing that he’s going to have to change to win
me over – and his customers. (Newsday
interviewed some of CA’s customers following John’s speech in Las
Vegas, and they too are a little befuddled.)Here’s what CA needs to do

Readjust your assumptions and tap into what’s really going on with your customers

The ad headlines are “Remember when technology had the power to inspire
you? Believe again.” Technology has been extremely inspiring in so many
ways to so many of us. We never lost the belief. CA may have lost its
inspiration along the way, which accounts for so little company
innovation and growth. We don’t need to be told in ads to “believe
again” in technology. What we do need, however, is to be told why we
should believe again in CA and its technology and services.

Explain what you mean:

Which brings me to point two. What the heck is your big new vision,
Enterprise IT Management (EITM)? Your communications talk about how it
“unifies and simplifies complex IT environments across the enterprise.”
The press release headline says, “Unified Management of End-to-End
Infrastructure Enables IT Organizationsto Overcome Complexity and
Ensure Performance Of Business Services.” But hello, what exactly is
it? I really know technology, yet I can’t figure out what the big aha
is here. More context, examples, maybe some helpful metaphors, and just
plain speak would really help.

Rid yourself of the trite lines and tired talk

I’ve heard John talk and he’s engaging and direct. So why is your
letter, advertising and Web site so full of empty corporate speak,
which, by the by, uses phrases that date back to what other tech
companies used in the 90s? Phrases like “transforming business,”
“unifying and simplifying complex IT environments,” “reach a higher
order of IT,” “simplify the complex,” “deliver fully against your
business goals,” “align IT to reach business goals,” are empty, boring,
and tired.

Talk about something fresh, in your own words – not a copywriter’s:

CA must have some points-of-view on enterprise technology that are
contrarian, counter-intuitive, unusual, insightful, or surprising. How
else can you innovate, as you say you have, if you weren’t turned on by
some big insights? What customer insight triggered the passion of your
developers? What do you know that you can do better than any of your
competitors? Talk about those ideas. In the real words of real people.
In today’s business world, a new logo and name change don’t matter all
that much. People want a reason to believe in you. They want fresh
ideas. And they want to connect with the company and its people — not
with a new acronym.

I love the technology industry and hope that
there is great thinking and innovation going on at CA. Maybe the
marketing approach just needs to revamped.

When many of us see
this old style marketing, with to much hoo-ha around logos and category
acronyms and not enough clear explanations of what is new and valuable,
we often think that there is no new strategy. Just a great shade of new
lipstick that is likely to quickly fade.

The bland merging with the blind: What will Sears & Kmart promise the consumer?

I shop at Target because I understand its point-of-view – cool stuff at
good prices. While I don’t choose to shop at Wal-Mart, I understand
what the retailer is all about. Wal-Mart is successful because it, too,
has a point-of-view that people understand: almost everything you need
at really low prices.

But Kmart and Sears? Neither company has a
point-of-view. The merger announced last week is like the bland (Sears)
following the blind (Kmart). What do these retailers stand for? What’s
the shorthand reason to shop there? Beats me. I’ve seen many
new Kmart television ads this fall but they confused me more than
helped me understand Kmart. Why exactly would I shop there? The ads
seemed disconnected from any bigger positioning. And Sears? Aside from
buying Craftsman tools, I’m not sure why I’d shop there.A
point-of-view helps we consumers understand what a brand is all about.
It’s the promise that helps us understand why to buy. Done right, it
drives brand communications so it all adds up to set the brand apart.
(And it makes it easier for marketing managers to plan, prioritize and
really integrate different marekting communications techniques.)

gets this. Its promise is to “make buying office products easy.” And
they do. Last week I bought cartridges for my home office printers and
received a rebate. Rather than having to fill out forms and mail them,
which I never get around to doing, Staples let me go to a Web site,
fill in a couple of numbers, and presto, the rebate process was
complete. That was easy.But merging two dying brands rarely
succeeds. It would have been far smarter to resuscitate K-Mart or Sears
with some real marketing. I tend to agree with retail consultant Howard
Davidowitz who says that the Kmart and Sears merger will produce one
thing: a cadaver.