Can We Fix Marketing? Most Best Practices Are in Fact Worst Practices.

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by: Idris Mootee

On average I receive 2 calls a night if I am lucky enough to be having dinner at home and not traveling; these calls are properly timed so they know I will be having candlelight dinner with my family and that’s exactly the time for interruption.

This direct-to-consumer telemarketing business should never be allowed, the worst thing is they call you and put you on hold while they finish up their other call. (Business-to-Business is a whole different story as often they do have a value exchange and conduct in a very professional manner). They don’t know or care what I want or my interest and only interested in a "yes" answer after reading their script to me. Is this (direct) marketing?

Dear direct/tele marketers, are you really proud of what you do for a living? You build your career primarily by using late night direct TV commercials targeting the elderly and the vulnerable. Direct marketing is in trouble as it kills million of trees and bombard my mail box with garbage that no one reads let alone buy. These marketing firms belong to the same category as used car dealerships, both are in the business of fishing for some vulnerable folks and sell them something they don’t want, need or will ever use.

You think there’s nothing you can do with telemarketers; in most cases they don’t leave messages and will simply call you back, resulting in an endless cycle of you not knowing who’s calling and having to call back to find out–something you’re unlikely to do. Here’s Web 2.0 answer to this problem, solution, introducing Caller Complaints, a crowd-sourced index of the phone numbers of law breaking companies that have called folks on the do-not-call list. Users list these numbers, what was being pitched–and the frequency of the calls. If you find someone else has already listed the number and shared their negative experience, you can pile on and leave your experience, which votes it up.

The most popular (or in this case unpopular) companies rise to the top and are tracked on leaderboards. Users can also browse by area code and what type of call it was, from political phone spam to prank calls and debt collectors. The idea is that there will be enough resources to help you get to the bottom of who’s calling to either leave a complaint with your carrier or simply blacklist the number from calling again. So far the site has amassed nearly 200,000 number searches from curious call recipients.

Here’s some advice to marketers in general: please stop describing your product/company/service as "world-class" or "state-of-art." State-of-art lasts about 30 days today and what does world-class really mean? “The "latest technology” means something I need to invest 50 hours to learn how to use it. “Free” means you will end up charging my credit card if I forget to cancel the services and that’s what you’ve factored in your marketing plan.

Stop calling me to subscribe to your magazine or newspaper. I have something new at home called the Internet (it has plenty of free content just in case you don’t know) and I can cut and save any content for future use. Besides, I am already subscribed to 18 publications from Harvard Business Review to Wired Magazine; I don’t need a general lifestyle magazine because I don’t have a general lifestyle. You must be able to see the problem as the economics of direct mail are failing rapidly and it costs too much to mail, and fewer response.

Having said all that, there are still many smart applications of direct marketing including the Blackberry campaign below. I am mostly referring to the bad practices of the industry.


Stop knocking on my front door while I am in the middle of an important battle with my Halo 3. Stop telling me I need to buy this energy-protection plan or replace my windows. Only Microsoft can tell when to replace my windows, not you. Police in some parts of Nothingham, UK are setting up four "no cold calling zones" in a bid to rid vulnerable residents of uninvited doorstep visitors. I really like this idea. Householders are being asked to ignore uninvited callers – and put stickers in their windows telling potential doorstep sellers they are not welcome. They can report suspicious behavior to a special trading standards hotline.

And for those electronic retailers, stop trying to sell me that warranty. The odds are small that I will remember that I have a warranty, know where I placed the receipts, or even bother to file the paperwork. I was buying a MacBook the other day from a retailer and he was trying so hard to sell me their extended warranty and tell me it is better than Apple care because they have better service. They don’t even service those products. Now even if I buy a CD or battery, they still try to sell me warranty. I guess they sell everything else at costs.

Advertising is not working even when it migrates to the virtual world. Coldwell Banker hung out a shingle on the site as “the first national real estate company to sell homes within the community.” The real estate firm is in good company. H&R Block, Adidas, IBM, Dell, Reebok, American Apparel, Toyota are among the dozens of firms already there. More than 70% of the site’s users say they are disappointed with the marketing that goes on in SL, according to a survey by Komjuniti, a Hamburg, Germany, research firm. This could be because companies are approaching it like a traditional marketing channel. Advertising is still advertising, it is losing its power. These brand sites on Second Life currently look like they’re being treated in pretty much the same way as traditional ads.

Many ad guys still believe that television is still the most important medium and will still be the most important medium for the next 20 years because: a) people have them; including people abroad and b) people know how to use them. Now that’s the kind of BS from the old school ad agencies. The engagement power of television has been drastically reduced and they have now been reduced to digital wallpaper. The future of advertising is NOT in the advertising; it is in “Service Design”. Service Deign is like advertising in the mid 50s, no one knows enough about it but sooner or later it will be turned into an industry. It will be the backbone of what “Engagement” is all about. There will be no Creative Directors in that world as marketing communications will not be built on one cute idea, it becomes “experiential”. User Experience Director replaces Creative Director.

Most customer experiences today are simply revolting, sometimes disgusting, particularly banks, airlines, telecom and many more. The idea now is (instead of) just focusing on a 30-second TV spot, to start a simple idea to engage, empower and energize customers. These Three Es is the future. It is NOT a creative director’s job to come up with an idea; it is the multi-disciplinary creative class that gets the job done. Advertising agencies need to move from a factory model back to the idea model, put down the 50 years legacy and collective egos (creative awards) and look to the future. You are in the ideas business. We live in the age of the idea. “Service Design” is the new discipline for the manifestation of the idea business, not product design alone and "Social Networks" are where circle of trust will be formed. That’s where the game is.

On a closing note, here is great guerrilla promotion for the DVD release of the movie Death Proof is gory, attention-getting and totally appropriate for the movie it promotes. Marketing meets "Happening Performance Art". Have a great weekend.

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