People Don’t Care

There’s one assumption that I start every marketing campaign with: People don’t care.

Every communication must assume that customers, prospects, and other stakeholders — e.g. people — don’t care, and aren’t looking for a brand to communicate with them. Even with permission, most folks aren’t eagerly awaiting our next outreach. As communicators, it is our job to give them a reason to care.

Yet, self-centered drivel fills most corporate and nonprofit emails, blogs, social updates, etc. An inability to focus on the customer plagues brands through era and medium.

Companies can’t help themselves.

They create a game of messaging tic-tac-toe to satisfy an innate need for their work to be important. It’s important to executives and marketers because that’s how they spend 50 hours of their week together, building something every week, month and year.

Meanwhile, the customer turns to the brand for an answer, a resolution to an issue, perhaps a special something to make life better. And that’s where it begins and ends, with the customer and their decision to buy or not to buy.

So when marketers bore them to death with messaging and facts about why x is important, we actually turn people away. Because we have not delivered an answer or something special.

Where is the utility? How is it entertaining? Why should anyone not employed by the company care?

Native advertising is such a big craze these day because brands have to pay-to-play. They have no choice because their communications bore just about anyone who reads them. The attempts to make them social have failed outside of core evangelist communities.

This continuing failure forces me to conclude that a vast majority of customers, prospects and donors just don’t care about brands. We haven’t given them a good reason to invest in us.

Everything created for them has to focus on giving them reasons to become interested. Communications have to revolve around the customer’s core motivations and needs. Otherwise you create messages that serve as lukewarm rallying points to keep employees and vendors motivated rather than true marketing touches.

What do you think? Do people care about marketing content and messages?

Image by Ida Stalder

The Future of Email or Messaging or…

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What Teens Think Will Happen to Email (Source: Social Mouths)

French company Atos became the latest tech player to declare the end of email, calling it pollution and banning it from its corporate walls. Tech bloggers bagged the move, but in reality, it’s an increasingly familiar proclamation. Basically, the tech industry wants to replace email with the next generation of messaging.

In the online world, we have seen this trend emerge several times. Most notably, the birth and death of Google Wave was the first big attempt to end email. Then there was the not so successful Facebook Messages/Messenger App.

Invariably, these solutions feature a variety of social media or instant messaging technologies. For example, Google’s integration of undelivered Gmail chat messages into Gmail. Facebook’s Messages does the same thing with chat. It can also integrate text messaging. File sharing and workplace solutions like Dropbox and Basecamp still use email to notify users.

None of these solutions have completely replaced an email address, which has the primary feature of a name and a URL, providing routing on the Internet. And none of them replace the core peer-to-peer or peer-to-a few peers communication that made email so popular in the 90s.

Email is just another delivery method. You can shoot the messenger, but…

Can Tech Eliminate Spamming?

At the heart of this debate is ridding the in-box of trash, spam and other useless email, e.g. weeding out marketing messages. In the case of the workplace, employers are also trying to weed out useless banter (forwarded jokes, etc.). So the target is really us, those marketers who engage in direct email marketing.

Obviously, this makes opt-in lists and great email content even more important. And as future technologies come into the fore and marketing becomes strictly permission based, these twin bills of direct success may no longer be optional for companies. Spam tolerance decreases with each new messaging technology.

Yet if the hybridization of messaging succeeds eliminating the IP address portion of a digital message, won’t marketers find a new way to get into the next generation in-box? Historically, spam and bad marketing transcends medium. We have certainly experienced that with social media.

What do you think? Will a next generation technology replace email? Will it eliminate spam?

Messaging Still Fails

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One of the greatest triumphs of the social web remains the open citizen revolt against marketing messages (bored image by Samael Trip). Note how well the Apple iPad name flew yesterday online (ahem, let’s not go there). Nonprofits experience the same disinterest from their stakeholders as companies due.

In fact, a recent report by marketer Nancy Schwartz (hat tip to Beth Kanter for forwarding me these stats), 84 percent of 915 nonprofit leaders who completed the survey last month said their messages connect with their target audiences only somewhat or not at all. Nancy’s post includes comments from survey participants explaining why their messages fail to connect:

  • “Our messages need to be more succinct to communicate how effective we really are.”
  • “We don’t move our base to action.”
  • “We have individual elements that are ok solo, but no unified path.”
  • “Our messages aren’t hard-hitting or targeted enough. So they fall flat.”
  • “We need to shape messages that are simple enough for staff to remember and feel comfortable in repeating it to others.”
  • “Too much jargon. I can’t even understand what we’re saying.”

Maybe, but… Let’s be frank as I’ve written about this over and over again in the past on the Buzz Bin: The Cluetrain Manifesto was right! “There’s no market for messages.”

It doesn’t matter if you have a compelling cause or a public interest, or if your company contributes to society. If you drill people with messages, they will absolutely turn their back on you.

And you know what? You deserve it. It’s like entering a party and spamming people with solicitations, stale lines, and hucksterisms. Thanks for talking about yourself and what you want from me all night. Cause or not.

The 20th century approach of communications is over, regardless of medium. Mass communicating at people no longer works. Even Super Bowl ads are starting to fail now, thus Pepsi’s $20 million (troubled) social refresh program.

Whether its social or not, cause and corporate communicators alike need to stop and retool their strategic approach towards messaging. What we learned in business or communications school has changed. The old dynamics of media, specifically the concept that there are limited channels of media that people get information from, no longer applies.

Look at messages as conversation starters (see this post I wrote on the starter message premise). You won’t control the dialogue, but the fact of the matter is you already lost control and some argue, you never had it. Instead let’s have real interesting conversations that matter to us (organization and person), and society, in general.