• Warren Leppik

Marketing is bad manners

I recently enjoyed "Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

This is a complex book. But I would urge you to stick with it, because there are many refreshing points of view that make you think, looking at the world in a more honest way than most.

I was most taken by his statement "Marketing is bad manners". He writes "Say you run into someone on a boat cruise. What would you do if they started boasting about their accomplishments, telling you how great, rich, tall, impressive, skilled, famous, muscular, well educated, efficient and good in bed they are. Plus other attributes. You would certainly run away. Or put them in contact with another talkative bore to get rid of both of them. It is clearly much better if others, preferably someone other than their mother, are the ones saying good things about them. And it would be nice if they acted with some personal humility. We accept that people who boast are boastful and turn people off. How about companies? Why are we not turned off by companies who brag how great they are?”

I would add “Why are we not turned off by paid celebrities or sports personalities who endorse something?” I would argue that we are indeed turned off by the traditional and archaic approach of marketing. Primarily because, in many cases based on post-purchase experience, what’s being said isn’t even true. The marketing isn’t just bad manners, its exaggeration because it doesn’t reflect the experience the consumer will have at all. And in some cases, its outright lying because its intended to embellish deficiencies. How can a company’s own description of itself be anything but biased?

What jumped out at me was the statement “It is clearly much better if others, preferably someone other than their mother, are the ones saying good things about them”. Who are those people? The most qualified and credible are your customers. They can speak to the experience you can expect as a customer. They can share stories of how all concerns were addressed better than any other supplier they have dealt with. And if these stories relate to your prospect, and their situation, there is a transfer of trust which results in engagement.

Nassim continues “There is no product that I particularly like that I have discovered from advertising and marketing. Word of mouth is a potent naturalistic filter”. I would suggest that the best use of web sites and social media would be as a word-of-mouth amplifier, making great experiences available on-demand, 24/7. Research shows that today, 4/5’s of the buyer journey is now completed online with the prospect only making contact when they’ve already made a buying decision based on what they found online. And if they can’t find it on your site, they won’t call and ask you, they’ll simply find a competitor that provides the proof they’re looking for.

If you’re not currently capturing and leveraging customer experience stories, you’re making your job harder than it has to be. In other words, you’re leaving money on the table.

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