How Popularity Ends

Popular things can begin to grate on you. Sometimes you wonder when people are going to stop sharing or talking about X item. The good news for the terminally bored is that popularity can and often does end.

The bad news is popular brands and personalities may not like that. Of course, something else will become popular and we can all suffer through the trivial presence of and conversation about new popular thing Y. A select few popular brands will be smart enough to evolve and maintain their popularity.

I was thinking of this in relation to a recent article Richard Becker wrote about social networks losing some of their shine with corporate marketers and PR pros. This popular trend may be losing its shine because of the way social media-based corporate promotion is “supposed to work” versus the very nature of marketing. Rich had a good counterpoint about social networks over-conditioning people to act in certain ways. And he is correct, the like-fest is not delivering the same marketing experience as promised.

The conversation sparked some additional thoughts on what ends popularity, in general. Here are some causes:

1) Reality Sets In

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When a popular trend or fad hits, it often brings a promise. Bell bottom jeans thin your profile, that is until everyone starts wearing them and there is enough of a sample out there to immediately recognize the thin and the thick.

Or say you have a baby boy, and you decide to name him something that ends with an “n.” You like the sound, and want him to have a unique name. That is until everyone does it and the novelty wears off as soon as your kid gets to school and half the boys in the room are named Colin, Maven, Chillin’ and Whateverin’.

By the way, please don’t name your daughter Soleil. Thank you!

In all seriousness, I think this is the case with social networking-based marketing. Rich made this point pretty well in his post: The medium’s true nature may not lend itself to marketing, or the way communicators are being conditioned to market by both the networks themselves as well as industry thought leaders.

The hit or miss nature of many of these tactics creates a need for the analytical revolution of now. Big and small, company’s are tired of the latest gimmick (You need blogs. No, try Facebook and Twitter pages! Wait, it’s content! Now, it’s Facebook ads. Hold on, it’s Instagram for Business!). Experimentation remains the rule, but community activation and interest is an empirical must.

2) Boredom

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Let’s be honest, over-exposure makes popular things boring! I love chocolate mousse. But if I ate chocolate mousse every day I’d get sick of it pretty quickly. Particularly, if it was my own or my wife’s chocolate mousse.

This phenomena is what my friends at Power Supply like to call single source provider. When the same person cooks your meals over and over again, your palate gets bored. Your poor spouse’s cooking is probably better than you think, you are suffering from eating the same thing cooked by the same person over and over again.

Ever listen to top 40 radio? I do now thanks to Soleil (remember, you cannot name your daughter Soleil). I’ll admit it, I kind of like the recent Taylor Swift songs that came out, until I heard them a few hundred times. Now I am bored. I am also severely bored with songs that have sampled deep male bass voices rhythmically chanting “Hey.” Sorry, Maroon5 you were late to this game (love the 5 by the way).

Sooner or later something new comes along, a new innovation or just a different jingle. How does a brand survive? It continues to innovate. You may be tired of iPhones, but you have to admit Apple does keep evolving the product. Every time it release a new iPhone, people get excited. Brands like Apple, BMW, Coke and others possess longevity grounded in commitments to evolve, whether in product or in marketing.

This may be Faceboook’s primary problem right now. No matter how much Zuck and co innovate, they cannot improve the Like, nor can they make it more attractive.

3) Stop Evolving

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The other aspect of ending popularity deals with the behavior of the popular themselves. Perhaps they take their popularity for granted. They believe in their own myth, and then their behavior betrays their ego. There is no greater example of this than Lance Armstrong.

I would also argue that Blackberry lost its market position in spite of clear warning signs and competition. It believed its market form and IOS were superior, and did not respond to the challenges in time.

Or in some cases a personality or brand chooses different priorities, and simply stops taking the actions that maintain popularity. Have you ever seen a popular personality simply retire or retreat to focus on other things such as family matters? David Bowie literally disappeared for a decade to focus on raising his children.

In that vein, some brands choose not to extend themselves into other markets and form factors. They don’t innovate, and just remain true to their basic promise. However, the novelty of the item wears out.

I think Lincoln Logs are a classic example. You won’t see a Lincoln Logs movie anytime soon, nor will you see a Star Wars edition. Nor will you see a Madagascar edition with African animals. It doesn’t mean that Lincoln Logs aren’t a good toy. They are still awesome, but they lack the popularity of a brand like Lego which has expanded its toys and its marketing to meet the culture of now.

Whatever the cause, brands and people stop the actions that created their popularity. So they lose it.

What do you think about popularity and how it ends?

Why Every Marketer Should Run a P&L

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Image by MoneyBlogNewz

A profit and loss center (P&L) is the heart of business. Based on many online comments from communicators and marketers about the way businesses should work, it is clear they have never run a P&L. And until you run one, you really don’t comprehend the totality of a business.

Let’s not confuse a P&L with a consultancy, either. Single person consultancies do not have employees’ families relying on them for wages week after week, month after month. Running a P&L is a serious responsibility that causes greater accountability in decision making. Here are four reasons why a marketer could benefit from this experience:

1) Better Respect for Measurement Statistics

Rather than saying all relationships online matter and that statistics are irrelevant, online marketers would realize they need their social media efforts to produce tangible ROI and outcomes. That’s not to devalue relationships. That means invest more in the relationships that work in social media and abroad, and STOP investing in communities that aren’t populated by core stakeholders.

If two social networks yield better results than one, a company may determine to invest in the relationships that are working, rather than spread themselves thin or burn resources in areas where their natural community is not strong. Whatever the ultimate decision, to not consider measurement statistics is inexcusable in any serious concern. They demonstrate how your P&L is performing.

2) Getting Beyond Attention Into Real Action

Similarly, marketers like to claim attention as a success. Earned media impressions online and in traditional media helps build grassroots momentum and trust. However, these metrics and efforts alone rarely achieve anything more than attention itself. Integrated into a veritable marketing and sales program, attention can help create actions, which in turn produces sales. Running a P&L teaches you to look at the whole marketing picture, not just the hype.

3) Appreciation for Your Whole Team

Marketers love stars. Managers love teams. When you manage a P&L you learn to appreciate how an entire team contributes to your success. For every public star, there are often multiples of role players who actually do the work, keep the lights on, close leads, and generally comprise the business. Great teams make for sustainable businesses, not individual performers.

Stars can play well within teams, but in a P&L you also learn that many of them are ultimately replaceable. Losing many members of your team in a short period can cripple your business. Running a P&L teaches you that talent management nurtures the whole team.

4) Valuing Great Products & Services

When you have a bad product or service, it is hard to promote it. But many companies do, and marketers like to complain about it.

What’s hard to actually do is build a great product or service. Until you actually have a product or service that beats the daylights out of the competing services, you cannot understand how difficult this is. Running a P&L teaches you to appreciate what it really takes to be great. And it goes well beyond marketing advice.

Conclusion

They say executives should spend a week or two a year in front line jobs to understand the full nature of their business. Similarly, marketers should spend at least a year of their life running a P&L so they understand how their brand strategy fits within the larger context of sales, marketing, recruitment, operations and yes, overall corporate strategy.

P.S. Gini Dietrich and I discussed this blog post topic in New York City last May.