Last weekend I took a bus from Boston to NYC with my daughter and her dance team, and on the way the coach played the movie Elf. But I have to admit, it secretly delighted me more than the girls.
Elf is up there as one of my all-time favorite holiday movies (along with A Christmas Story), in particular because of the classic holiday theme: Buddy the Elf forces all of New York to see things in a new way, and with a renewed focus on what matters.
But I also love how marketing gets a walk-on. In one scene, Buddy walks into a NY diner advertising “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” and says with his trademark earnest excitement: “You did it! Congratulations! World’s best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It’s great to meet you!” Meanwhile, the staff looks on, puzzled.
That’s marketing at its worst, right? Meaningless fluff. Worthless claims. Untrustworthy.
A recent Adweek Media/Harris Interactive survey of about 2,100 U.S. adults found that over six in 10 respondents say they tend to ignore or disregard Internet ads.
Here are two ways to wind up on the Naughty-marketing list:
Your marketing doesn’t scream “unique.” So your product or service might be unique and awesome, but your marketing collateral, website, messaging and other content (your blog, your videos, the ebook you produced) don’t further your particular point of view or personality. And they don't establish your voice.
What’s “voice”? In literature, “voice” can refer to the way writing sounds when it’s read. But in a business sense, it’s also about how you express your brand. It’s about the tone you take in all of your communications and publishing. It’s about figuring out what’s unique about you and your perspective. If someone landed on your site’s home page with your logo and other identifiers masked, would they recognize your voice? Or do you sound like everyone else? Including your competitors?
Saddleback Leather is a Texas-based manufacturer and retailer that, in its own words, makes “excessively high quality, tough and cool looking leather pieces for a few people that will last a really long time.” What’s particularly nice, though, is the company's unique point of view and lively voice, as evidenced by its website. Even the Warranty page practically tells a story:
“We, at Saddleback Leather Company, pride ourselves not only on our over engineered designs, but also on the fact that we use the greatest thread, rivets and leathers we can find. All of our products are fully warranted against all defects in materials and workmanship for 100 years. If you or one of your descendants should have a problem, send it back to me or one of my descendants and we’ll repair or replace it for free or we'll give you a credit on the website (be sure to mention the warranty in your will).”
You’re a bore. Your content is all about you. Your lead-gen webinars worry more about capturing leads than they do about delivering great content to attendees. Your newsletter crows about your own achievements or milestones.
The inherent tension in marketing is that companies think they should tell everyone about themselves. But it’s a lot more valuable if you can tell people what you can do for them. Good content doesn’t try to shill product. Rather, it creates value for your readers by positioning you as a reliable and vendor-agnostic source of information. In other words, share a resource, solve a problem, help your customers do their jobs better, or improve their lives.
As we say more succinctly in Content Rules (Wiley, 2011): Share or solve; don’t shill.
New Brunswick-based Radian6, which sells social media monitoring software, offers a rich resource library, including a robust ebook collection. Radian6 publishes a new title each month with the goal of helping its customers (or browsers) better understand how various social marketing tools and platforms can help a company's marketing efforts. So that means titles like The Art of Corporate Blogging, and not, for example, something bogus like You Buy Now! Why Radian6 Products Rock. The first title is nice; the second is just a naughty bore. (It’s also one I made up to dramatize the point. But you knew that, right?)
So what else would you say? What marketing is Naughty, and what is Nice?
Image credit: mcclave
Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer ofMarketingProfs and the co-author of Content Rules (Wiley, 2010). Follow her on Twitter @marketingprofs.