The Era Of Transparent Marketing

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1515 , Published on 17 November 2013
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Markets, today, are crowded with products and each product is trying to establish a conversation with you. Believe it or not, the products that one chooses for oneself have conversation styles similar to that of the people one connects with. Let’s say you meet two people for the first time and here’s how they introduce themselves:

Brad: Hi, I am Brad. I have got a great job with a great pay. I am charismatic and have got a killer personality. I am highly intelligent, so you can bank upon me for taking crucial life-changing advices. Not only this, I am also outgoing and adventurous. All it would take is one cup of coffee with me for you to know that I am the best person you’ve ever met or can ever hope to meet

Ted: Hi, I am Ted. I have been working at XYZ inc. for past 7 years. Currently I head the analytics department there. My experience at XYZ has helped me gain a deep insight in the domain of technical analysis. If ever you need any help in this domain, I’d be happy to cooperate. On weekends I prefer to go on vacations involving trekking or sailing. If you like such activities, you can join me for such trips too and I believe together we can have fun.”

Who would you like to stay in touch with: The ‘Bragger Brad’ or the ‘Transparent Ted’?



Image Courtesy: ArtJSan, freedigitalphotos.net


Most people in today’s world would prefer Ted and a smart marketer understands this. Gone is the time when a product would sell by making unreasonable, untruthful and unverifiable claims. People have matured and outgrown the tactics that were earlier used to captivate them. They have been victims of false promises and are skeptical about trying anything new which claims to be ‘the best’ or ‘miraculous’. Marketing ‘miracles’ or ‘best-ness’ is certainly not a great idea for today’s marketer..


Most guesstimates by reputed research firms indicate that on an average 5000 marketing messages per day are hurled at an average person who has access to television, internet and visits nearby stores. These marketing messages can be in the form of labels, logos, hoardings, mails, print ads, jingles, video clips and so on. The list is never-ending. As a result, customers now have learnt to carry a mental sieve and choose to retain less than 1% of all the marketing messages they come across. What we need to understand is that when it comes to buying something new, the potential customer is cynical. The one thing that can win the faith of a cynic is ‘genuineness’ and here is where transparent marketing comes into picture.


Let’s again take a closer look at what Brad and Ted had said about themselves and try to guess the likely sub-conscious responses of the listener:


Brad: Hi, I am Brad. I have got a great job with a great pay (Great! But.. er.. what kind of job?). I am charismatic and have got a killer personality (let me be the judge!). I am highly intelligent, so you can bank upon me for taking crucial advices (Woah! How do I know, we’ve just met!). Not only this, I am also outgoing and adventurous (So says everyone these days). All it would take is one cup of coffee with me for you to know that I am the best person you’ve ever met or can ever hope to meet (That’s desperately cheesy!)

Ted: Hi, I am Ted. I have been working at XYZ inc. for past 10 years. Currently I head the analytics department there (Concrete information, brainy person). My experience at XYZ inc. has helped me gain a deep insight in the domain of technical analysis (Hmm.. it’s a great firm to be in. You might well be an expert). If ever you need any help in this domain, I’d be happy to cooperate (I sure could use some help!). On weekends I prefer to go on vacations involving trekking or sailing. If you like such activities, you can join me for such trips too and I believe together we can have fun (Cool!, I’d like to hang around with him).


What many people might argue is that bragging Brad might actually provoke the listener enough to ask more questions and to enter into a conversation with him. The ‘Bragging Brad’ approach indeed seemed to be quite effective in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. It was used widely by marketers to entice the customers by sowing seeds of questions like “what?”, “how?” and “really?” in their heads hoping that the customer would say “let me try!”. The basic assumption of this marketing technique is that the target customers would easily ‘want to experiment’. And this is precisely why today a lot of marketing professionals are finding it difficult to get over the trend of ‘self-praise’ and ‘exaggerated-claiming’.


The 21st century customer is still surrounded by a plethora of products and services which rely on this assumption of the ‘experimentation desire’ of the customer. Reality check: Today’s customer leads a fast-paced lifestyle and wants quick reliable information. He sees himself as smart and emotionally intelligent. If you are questioning the basic intelligence of a customer by using vague flowery terms or by making cliché promises, your brand is bound to get overlooked. Worse, you might end up repelling a potential customer.


Transparent marketing dares the marketers to go beyond the traditional ‘My product is the best’ approach and brings along a new wave of fresh marketing techniques.

In an era of internet marketing where every major company owns a website and boasts of an active social media presence, content becomes next to God. For marketers, understanding the need for modesty and transparency is crucial in order to make sure that amidst an ocean of similar products and services, their brand is noticed and is taken seriously.

If you are a marketing enthusiast wanting to embrace transparent marketing, here’s what you need to learn:


The 5 mantras of transparent marketing

1. Valid + Verifiable = Valuable: Communicate the true value of the product by using terminology which is relevant to your brand and is testable. For example: Showcasing a survey or a research conducted by experts or highlighting the professional qualification or expertise of the developers of the product/service.


2. Connecting emotionally is not equivalent to fooling emotionally: Using non-deceptive marketing tactics is the key to transparent marketing. Exaggerated use of emotion-triggering words can in fact lead to an emotional disconnect between your brand and the customer. This happens when a customer forms a ‘too good to be true’ image of a product/service which eventually translates as “too fake to be considered”.


3. “Let another man praise thee and not thine own mouth”: King Solomon gave this advice to his son. It’s been 3500 years, and his advice still holds true. There is no substitute to ‘Word-of-mouth’ marketing, so if you trust your product, communicate what is necessary and let the indirect buzz do its work. Create customers who create customers.


4. Customers buy for their reasons, not yours: Present concrete facts to support what your product/service specializes in so that the target audience finds its way to the product and not the other way round. Ted in the above example clearly stated that he had gained an appreciable amount of experience in ‘technical analysis’ and hence lent an impression of being an expert in this field. Similarly, if a brand knows its target customers well, it should make sure it presents itself in a manner which clicks with its target customers rather than trying to become a brand-for-all in the first go itself.


5. “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”: This quote by Bill Gates sums up the significance of customer engagement beautifully. The idea is to become more human and to be upfront to your customers about your weaknesses and let them know that you need them in order to improve. Create platforms for them to interact with each other and with your organization. Listening to your customers gives you a direction in which you can advance on a journey of continuous improvement and that is what true marketing is.



Customers are evolving and so are businesses. Transparent marketing doesn’t need to be dull or drab but it has to be more than ‘just entertainment’. It’s definitely a challenge for the modern day marketer to create a voice for their brand which will be heard and not be rejected as noise by the potential customer .Most smart marketers are now looking to achieve what we can call ‘creative transparency’.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution might have been contested by many, but seems to hold true at least in the competitive battleground of marketing: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”


This article has been authored by Bhavana Pandey from IIM Ranchi


References:

http://www.themarketingchef.com/2013/01/18/mediocre-marketing-messages-a-major-marketing-malfunction/

http://themarketersapprentice.com/how-transparent-marketing-can-increase-sales


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