In The Next Evolution of Marketing, Bob Gilbreath describes an alternative approach to marketing called “marketing with meaning”, in which marketing becomes a product or service in of itself that people choose to engage with. Gilbreath provides a ton of examples of how marketers can create marketing that is meaningful, like Nike’s social network for runners that tracks member’s runs and Charmin providing luxury restrooms in Times Square. While some marketers have been trying to invent “innovative” advertising that cuts through the clutter, meaningful marketers creates marketing that adds value to people’s lives.
Some advantages of meaningful marketing are that consumers are more willing to listen to your message, it often drives word of mouth and attracts media attention, and it can build loyalty beyond reason. It can also improve attitudes about your company and I think people tend to reciprocate when brands improve their lives with marketing.
I think this is a valuable read for marketers and was one of the best marketing books of 2009 (full disclosure: I received a review copy). I like that it provides tons of examples and also goes into depth on how to implement a meaningful marketing campaign, including how to get key people in the company to sign on and how to work with creatives. If you are in B2B or small business, know that this book focuses on B2C and has few examples outside of B2C, but I think the concepts are transferable and useful.
Here are some of my takeaways from reading this book:
Create an information resource as marketing
Gibreath writes “The Web offers marketers a significant opportunity to help people uncover whatever it is they want to know, whenever they want to know it…Companies that provide answers to our endless information needs have a great shot at earning a steady stream of interested customers.”
Home Depot offered free courses on home improvement after they had the insight that people were skeptical of commercials showing people doing home improvements on their own. Blue Nile provides buying guides on their site that educate guys about jewelry, highly-sought out information for men buying important high-ticket items. And Sony created an online learning center called Sony 101, providing education on topics from digital photography to HDTV’s.
Lower the risk of switching by offering samples
If you have ever shopped at Costco and been able to have a full meal from the free samples alone, you know the value that samples can have for people. Samples can also lower the perceived risks and cost to consumers of trying new things.
Gilbreath writes “According to a survey conducted in February 2007 by the Promotion Marketing Association, nine out of ten consumers say that they would purchase a good or service if they experienced it and were satisfied”.
Cause marketing can be a strong differentiator
Gilbreath writes “A 2008 Cone/Duke University Behavioral Cause Study showed that a whopping 87 percent of consumers will switch from one brand to another that’s comparable based on its association with a good cause – that’s up 31 percent since 1993.” This is compelling evidence that associating your brand with a worthy cause can be a strong differentiator. An example is Yoplait’s pink caps that support breast cancer research.
Keep business objectives in mind when creating meaningful marketing
Some marketing efforts have been hugely successful in generating buzz and adding value to people’s lives, but have failed to achieve any business objectives. An example of this from the book is Office Max’s Elf Yourself. Despite tons of media coverage and millions of people who made elf videos of their family members, many people couldn’t recall which major office supply store was behind the campaign.
Customer service is extremely important for retention
Studies suggest that customer service is the main reason people switch brands across every major industry. An Accenture study found 67 percent had switched brands because of poor service taking an average of $4,000 of business with them.