Big company advertising

American Airlines doesn't know what to say.

And they're having a lot of trouble saying it.

They're making a fortune this year due to low oil prices, and one way to manage shareholder expectations for the future is to put some of that profit into brand advertising. And so, they hired a fancy ad agency and started to run full-page, two-sided, glossy inserts in newspapers. The single ad I'm looking at cost at least $100,000. And I might be one of a hundred people who are actually reading it.

The copy-dense ad includes references to babies, red-eyes, noise, middle seats, lessons learned, 'relinquish', making the best of the situation and the ability to sleep anywhere. All told in an odd third-person, referring to the hero as "they" not "you." 

With a layout that's so confusing that there's a big arrow that says "start here".

Some things worth remembering:

For thirty years, the airlines have relentlessly trained travelers to spend as little as possible on a seat, offering generic alternatives and contemptuous, confusing pricing policies. To blame the state of travel on the passenger ("Let's move that conversation from us and turn it onto them..." said Fernand Fernandez, VP of global marketing at AA) doesn't feel like the foundation for a great marketing campaign, does it?

The lesson for anyone spending money on ads: it pays to be consistent, generous and thoughtful when you build an ad campaign.

[Posted from LGA. /rant]

       

Features and marginal cost in the digital age

Good, better and best were the three price points.

Organizations had an easy way to distinguish between their various products. Adding more features cost more money, and so the Cadillac cost more than the Chevy.

Customers learned to associate more features with more expense with more luxury and exclusivity. And manufacturers were always on the lookout to add a feature that consumers valued more than the marginal cost of adding that feature.

In the digital age, all of this thinking goes out the window.

How much does it cost a car company to display the temperature outside? Well, it used to mean wiring a circuit, adding a sensor, creating a display. Now, it might cost them $1 (if that) to add that feature to a $40,000 car.

Even more radically, the marginal cost of just about every feature on a website or an app is precisely zero. Program it once and you can give it to everyone. The 'good' version is merely the 'best' version with some software turned off, which is fine if you don't have any competition.

Good, better, best is going to have to start being based on something else.

       

Most projects end with a whimper

That means you have a choice:

Spend a lot of your time in whimpering moments.

or

Be prepared to blow things up, declare victory/failure, walk away—even if it feels easier in the moment to timidly and slowly fade away, whimpering.

Prematurely giving up is a huge problem. A more draining problem is not knowing when to quit.

       

Speed is relative

If you moved to Norway or Haiti or Bolivia, you'd notice something immediately: People don't move at the same speed you do.

The same thing is true about different organizations and different pockets of the internet. Or months of the year, for that matter.

There's not an absolute speed, a correct velocity, a posted limit or minimum for all of us. It's relative.

Given that, how does your speed match your goals and your strategy? Not compared to everyone else, but compared to the one and only thing you have control over?

Passing the slow cars on the road is an illusion, a chance to fool yourself into thinking you're making good progress. To a sloth, even a loris is a speedster.

Pick your own pace.

       

Expectation is the brand killer

There's a difference between speed and acceleration. This is hard for novice physics students to grasp. Velocity ( sometimes confused with speed) is how fast you're going in a given direction. Acceleration is a measure of how quickly you're getting faster (or slower) on your way.

Brands today are built on relationships, and relationships of all kinds work solely because of expectation. That thing we're confidently hoping we're going to get from that next encounter.

The shift we're facing is that expectation isn't the speed (the quality, the value, the repeatability of an interaction), it's now become more like the acceleration of it, the change in what we expect.

And so advertisers and fashion houses and singles bars and Hallmark cards are built on promises. The promise of what to expect next.

The challenge: Expectations change. A few good encounters and we begin to hope for (and expect) great encounters. Sooner or later, our expectation for a politician or a motorcycle company or a service we regularly engage in goes up so much it can't be met.

When the economy is racing forward, people are engaged and satisfied. When it slows, when the good news slows down, people are even less satisfied than they were when they had fewer resources.

A common ridiculous expression is, "expect the unexpected." Of course, once you do that, it's not unexpected any more, is it?

Expectation is in the eye of the beholder, but expectation is often enhanced and hyped by the marketer hoping for a quick win. And there lies the self-defeating dead end of something that would serve everyone if it were a persistent positive cycle instead.

       

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