Friday, January 19, 2007

What is 'Good Marketing'?

I've seen some discussion lately of what 'good' and 'bad' marketing is. Why marketing is 'evil', etc. To me it comes down to this:

"Good marketing is any effort by a company/individual/association/etc to DIRECTLY satisfy the wants and needs of its customer"

I don't think it has to get any more complicated than that.

But the hitching point is that 'directly' part. Most marketers want to satisfy their OWN wants and needs directly, and let satisfying the customer be a byproduct. Turning it around and using your marketing as a tool to directly satisfy the wants and needs of the community takes a pretty big leap of marketing faith.

Very simple example: Tim recently posted on Daily Fix about his disgust at going to a local gas station, and being bombarded by ads from the gas pump as he was fueling up. The commercials were there to satisfy the gas station's wants and needs directly. The station knew that while Tim was fueling, he was a 'captive audience', so he HAD to listen to the station's commercial. And Tim knew it as well, and resented the station pushing commercials on him that he didn't want to hear.

Now on the other hand, I asked what would have happened if the station had instead offered free hand sanitizer at every pump? That directly solves a problem that many customers have, getting back in their car after filling up, with hands that smell like gas. And that have touched the same pump that thousands of other strangers have.

The commercials satisfy the station's wants and needs directly. The hand sanitizer satisfies the wants and needs of the customer directly. All other things being equal, which would make you more likely to give a gas station your business, free ads, or free hand sanitizer?

Satisfy your customer's wants and needs directly, and s/he will satisfy YOUR wants and needs INDIRECTLY.

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Anonymous said...

It's common sense indeed...the hard part for many co's is putting the customers' needs ahead of their own. I'm not sure why they don't understand in so doing they actually lower their risk because they higher their ROI potential.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

The worst part about that is, the gas station marketers probably thought in their own minds they WERE directly satisfying Tim's wants.

After all, the gas station wouldn't put up an ads that didn't address the wants of a great many of their customers. Otherwise, they wouldn't put the ad up in the first place. There's no money in it for them.

Where they're really missing the boat, which you and Tim pointed out, is where the REAL money is - in old-fashioned loyalty.

Dmitry Linkov said...

And you still can put ad on that hand sanitizer ;).

Nice marketing determination.

Anonymous said...

great solution--and middle ground--Dmitry!

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Mack. All these companies always trying to find what the consumer threshold is, when, if they were directly satisfying their needs, that wouldn't be an issue. I don't think you can have too many needs met!

Stephen Denny said...

Mack: two thoughts --

This feels like the Verizon Wireless comment that they're plunging ahead with mobile advertising because somewhere, an advertiser is willing to pay for it (as opposed to somewhere, a consumer might actually want spam in the pocket).

The other is the interesting work done by Paco Underhill and his team at Envirosell -- they do what I've termed 'anthropological research' for many big names in branding and retail. Interestingly, he comes from an urban planning background. As such, the mindset changes from 'where can I upsell a customer' to 'where should we put a park bench, because people might want to sit right about here'. This philosophy has found its way into retail, as well, where places to sit, mirrors, wider aisles and other consumer-friendly things happen. Not because of the seller's need, but because of the customer's need.

Anonymous said...

I'm old enough to remember when gas stations did in fact give away lots and lots of stuff (glasses, ash trays, etc) to win customer loyalty.

Your basic question makes me think of my experience when I go to the local cineplex and have to sit through several commercials and five or four trailers before I get to see the feature I paid for. Part of me likes the $6.50 ticket price and also knowing what's coming, but a lot of me gets pissed at having to wait 18 minutes before I get to see my movie.

Anonymous said...

Roger -- Good point. Movie theaters are another case study of not putting the customer first. I always feel like I have to put up with a lot of inconvenience (annoying marketing, expensive soda and popcorn, the constant upsell -- "Would you like to supersize that for 50 cents more?") just to see a first-run movie.

Mack Collier said...

Dimitry, good idea, but I would make the ad no more elaborate than 'Thanks for stopping by', or something similar, with the station's logo. Leave the customer knowing who provided the hand sanitizer, but don't blow it by leaving them with a commercial.

Roger and Ann, interesting discussion about movie theaters. A few weeks ago in the comments section for either a post here or on MMM, I had a suggestion for movie theaters. What if a theater charged a flat rate for tickets, say $15. But for that $15, you get a ticket, a coke, and a choice of candy or popcorn. Also the bathrooms and theater are kept immaculately clean, and there are NO PREVIEWS. Also nice and comfty seats that aren't broken ;) The idea is to charge all the fees upfront, and give the customer the one thing that most theaters lack: A pleasant experience.

Would it work? Not sure, but would be interesting to see the results.

Anonymous said...

I would like to respectfully take issue with this post, partly because of its "everything is marketing" ethos, which tends to treat marketing as a metaphor rather than a discrete set of activities or functions, and partly because of the emphasis on "directly satisfying wants and needs," which struck me as both a strange turn of phrase and as an unnecessarily restrictive definition of marketing. I mean, pricing, for example, is a traditional and essential marketing function, but what needs or wants are "directly satisfied" by pricing? So, no such thing as “good” pricing? Or what about a campaign announcing the launch of a new product? Since we would be hard-pressed to argue that letting consumers know about the existence of our new product directly satisfies their needs, does this mean such campaigns can never be good marketing?

While I appreciate the Copernican shift involved in judging marketing effectiveness in terms of its effects on consumers, it is difficult for me to fault companies for judging marketing in terms of the results it produces for them. And while there are certainly cases where meeting an unspoken consumer need has a positive marketing effect, by increasing brand loyalty, for example, I would say there are also a number of cases where marketing succeeded by creating a need where none existed prior. In other words, couldn’t we just as easily say, “Good marketing is any effort that creates a consumer need or want and simultaneously points the way to its satisfaction”?

Mack Collier said...

"I mean, pricing, for example, is a traditional and essential marketing function, but what needs or wants are "directly satisfied" by pricing?"

Matt there's much more to pricing than simply the purchase price. For example, I recently purchased some clothing from (via Amazon) for the first time. I bought 4 Timberland t-shirts, and paid $11.95 for shipping. Of course their cost to ship the 4 shirts (in a bag) was likely a third of that amount, and I had to pay another $8 in sales tax. So I'm already looking at close to $120 for 4 t-shirts.

When they arrived, I quickly found out that they were all at least 2 sizes too small. I have always worn size L Timberland shirts, but these were closer to S. So I had to send them back, and when I read the fine print, I discovered that I now have to pay Macys ANOTHER $7 to send them back.

Think I'll ever place a second order with Macy? Probably not. By charging me another $7 so I can return the shirts, Macys is telling me that they don't WANT to deal with the returns, and if they have to, I am going to pay for it.

The $7 satisfies THEIR wants and needs directly, not mine.

Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken, sir, and it highlights what I believe to be the critical point of your "good marketing" definition: Every point of contact with the customer is an opportunity to send a message. I'm reconsidering my objections to your definition, since I must admit it does provide a useful and thought-provoking framework/litmus test to apply to any marketing decision that we make.

john dodds said...

I think your definition omits the indirect marketing that has nothing to do with meeting customers' specific needs and wants, but which makes them feel aligned with the philosophy/style of the company. It is becoming an increasingly important aspect in differentiating companies.

Mack Collier said...

John I think you may be taking the definition a bit more literally than I intended. The point I was trying to make is to make sure that all your marketing satisfies the customer's wants and needs directly. And I think that once that becomes part of the company's philosophy, you start to get those benefits from the 'indirect' marketing as well.

I think it requires a shift from companies thinking how they can make money first, to how they can satisfy the customer first, then enjoy the monetary benefits from that satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

"I would say there are also a number of cases where marketing succeeded by creating a need where none existed prior."

I'm sure you did not mean to, but these words struck a cold chill in my heart. I was reminded of so many products that exist not because they are useful, but because marketing has convinced people that they are useful. The first example that comes to mind is kids' toys, where the kids are convinced by the commercial that they absolutely need the toy, enough to bug their parents into getting it for them, regardless of how much the kid will actually play with it.

You are right on with the idea that marketing can also help people better understand a need that is not yet commonly known because the world around us changes. For example, when products advertise that they are CFC-free, it serves the manufacturer, but it also helps educate the public of a danger that needs to be dealt with. In American society, however, it is hard to find a need that did not exist prior that is truly serving the customer and not just making the store and product maker more money.


Unknown said...

@Mack Collier I wouldn't go to a movie that has no previews, I want to see the upcoming movies.

Now you can get rid of all the coke commercials and the other stuff that plays on TV all the time but I show up early every time to not miss the upcoming movies.