Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Closet Optimist

Recently I've been watching a TV show (from iTunes, not broadcast) called Mad Men. It's a period drama about 60's Madison Avenue advertising exec Don Draper and the agency he runs. The ad business has changed a lot since those days - or so it would seem. Even though the show's characters are mainly cynics, the heart of each client-enthralling ad campaign is a positive message.

Imagine that - winning a client with a campaign that says something positive about the product. It seems like a simple idea, but you'd be surprised at how many pitches go on and on about the "problem" that a product resolves. This is especially true of direct mail. So many letters use scare tactics and doom & gloom. Ugh.

I notice this, because you see, I am a closet optimist. I genuinely believe that the world is basically a good place, that people are mostly good, and that there are "silver linings" to bad situations. It's not a very popular way to be. And sometimes I do need to focus on problems or challenges - but it's always with an eye toward the resolution.

So here's my practical suggestion for my fellow marketers (and optimists). Analyze your communications - are they identifying problems, or presenting the happy result of buying your product? Are your letters/brochures/emails 50% positive, 75%, more? What could increasing the amount of positive message do for the effectiveness of your materials? Hmmmm.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

To Publicize Success?

Yesterday I wrote about a book called "Better" by Dr. Atul Gawande. One of Dr. Gawande's stories describes the state of affairs with Cystic Fibrosis treatment centers in the U.S. Until recently, the centers did not want to publish their success rates. This left everyone in the dark as to how to improve. The fear was that patients would flock to the best treatment and leave other hospitals in the dust.

An interesting phenomenon occurred - once results of the top centers were published by a non-profit foundation, the bar was raised for all. Lower-performing centers that shared results with patients did not lose out - they kept patients by communicating a roadmap for improvement. And everyone got better treatment and improved outcomes.

The reason I bring this up is that I think many companies (even our clients) decide to keep their marketing results private. Of course public companies must disclose financial performance and other facts by law, but they usually say little about their marketing strategies and methods.

On the heels of yesterday's post, I had an interesting experience with a client (who will remain confidential). When asked if they would like a successful marketing program to be the subject of a case study at a marketing conference, the company's PR department declined. Why? Because they saw no benefit to the firm. Of all the possible reasons, this one surprised me.

Aside from free attendance to a well-known conference, this company's approach means they are missing an opportunity to:
- grow and learn professionally
- see what their competition is doing
- show confidence and increase brand strength
- attract sharp talent at the conference
- raise the bar for their industry.

While I know there are other companies that will step forward and share information about their successes, it is disappointing to see this lack of leadership from a client I thought I knew well. I suppose it will be left to the rest of us to move things forward.

I'm ready.