The problem with many marketers


They think people are rational and knowledgeable.

Here’s Seth Godin’s take on this coffee ad (after fumbling around with the headline): let’s get rid of the ad, and provide coffee sample, inviting people to test whether “Are we better than Starbuck’s?”

Here’s the problem. People are not knowledgeable: they can test that coffee and not know whether you’re better or worse. And if you say that it doesn’t matter if you’re better or worse in some absolute terms, what matters if you’re better or worse for them, again it’s not true. The huge success of wine/beer/coffee tasting courses is there to show that people want to be taught what is good for them.

The second problem with this approach is that for so many choices, including something as simple as coffee, rational arguments are not nearly as strong as emotional and symbolic arguments.

An inspiring statement will engage you somewhere in the guts and stay there, in spite of all the much rational information that you’re exposed to, and that it’s supposed to change your mind. (Give or take, of course. A great headline won’t sell a disgusting coffee more than once…)

“Unlike any coffee you’ve ever tasted before” is more powerful than “The best coffee” (too dull) or “Better than Starbuck’s” (a competitive statement is almost always weaker than an absolute statement)

Look at Sony. Like no other. That’s it. What more would you need to say?

Final Burp: the rules of the game in the web economy is that useful service matter more than polished ad takes. That’s true. And it’s not.


3 responses to “The problem with many marketers

  1. Pingback: Posts about Internet Marketing Experts as of December 17, 2008 | The Lessnau Lounge

  2. I didn’t say it was about being rational. The entire purpose of the sign is to get someone into the store. A free sample does that. If someone cares enough in this hotel lobby to go in and taste an ounce of espresso, they are the most likely person in that universe to actually BUY a coffee. Which is what the sign is there for.

    I didn’t propose a positioning statement. I proposed a call to action.

    In the words of Jay Levinson, the very best highway billboard has two magic words on it, “NEXT EXIT.”

  3. I see your point, but I’d argue that “Next exit” doesn’t make you want to reach that place, it only shows how to do it.

    And I agree that if someone tastes an ounce of espresso, he’s very likely to buy a coffee.
    But I’d also say that someone who is likely to buy a coffee someday won’t necessarily stop to taste it right now. However, he could be influenced by an engaging message next time he buys a coffee.
    So, a call to action acts on someone who is a potential buyer right then and there, a positioning statement acts on someone who’s a potential buyer some time somewhere. And in the ad you proposed, you could only go one way or the other.

    In the case of coffee, the question is: out of all the buyers of coffee, how many are willing to respond to a call to action in a given time and place, and how many will buy at the time and place that they decide, but potentially save relevant information? In other words, is coffee an impulse purchase?

    However, thanks for your reply, and for your initial post, it was good food for thought.

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