Acquired Immunity To Viral Marketing Part 2

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(Bee sure to read Part 1 first: https://edgewaterblog.com/2014/07/01/acquired-immunity-to-viral-marketing-part-1/)

Recently, one of our V.I.Bees, Geoff, had a refreshing and extremely clever idea for a new marketing moniker. He called it “Pollination Marketing.” That his idea succinctly complimented the name of our organization, made it all the more appealing to us (everyone at our company, http://www.BusyBeePromotions.com, is referred to as a “Bee”). Alas, a little research in the availability of the domain was unfortunately an object lesson on the phenomena of universal consciousness; someone had beaten us to the punch; someone is sitting on it. If it’s not too late to make a long story short, had Geoff’s brainchild been applied to our business model, the idea was that we would send our ‘Bees’ out into the market place with ‘pollen’ in the form of samples, talking points, tchotchkes & literature. The ‘Bees’ pollinate the consumer with this information and create new customers that would then bloom the world over. Cool, huh? It gets better; not only do the worker Bees go out and spread the word about our clients (or Busy Bee for that matter), they return to the hive (our office) with new ‘pollen’ from cross-pollinating/cross-promoting with contacts they have encountered in their travels in the form of collected literature, photos, business cards, quotes from the public, specific metrics and other anecdotal information that we relay back to our clients for joint venture opportunities and to incorporate into our ever-evolving business model. As far as I was concerned, it was a honey of an idea. 

At Busy Bee Promotions, we do indeed create a buzz for our clients. It’s a great descriptor of our service, it’s brand appropriate and we can live with it far into the foreseeable future. Much more importantly though, it’s appropriate for our clients and is an activity that their customers and clients won’t run for cover from either because it doesn’t connote something negative like “viral,” so everyone wins.

Perhaps this is a good time to step back from what we are selling for a moment and revisit why we are selling it. If we as consumers like a product, service or cause that we believe in, we have to ask ourselves; “how did I become aware of this?” “Did someone disrupt me?” “Did someone virally market me?” If we ourselves came upon a product or service that we like by more traditional means of data transference and brand awareness activities, let’s give our potential customers the same opportunity to reach the same conclusion—in the same manner that we did about what we are selling. It’s the best way to show respect for those who will be parting with their hard-earned money when purchasing our goods and services.

In a world where euphony is the norm, our profession has decided to invert euphony. It’s baffling and it’s a problem. The ‘opportunity’ to address this ‘issue’ is a ‘challenge’ that we in our industry all need to be up for, or eventually, our clients will avoid us like the plague.

To recap:

• Be honest and frank with your target consumer. Don’t try to bamboozle them into opting in to your product or service by cloaking your intentions in euphony. There is nothing wrong with closing a deal and charging a fee for service; it’s the free enterprise system and we need make no apologies for engaging in it.

  • While it’s acceptable and encouraged to use euphony (in serious personal matters, for instance), it should be discouraged in business vernacular. It’s a waste of time and disperses the focus needed to accomplish goals and resolve problems.

  • Come up with a creative way to describe how you’re marketing your product, service or cause (i.e. “pollination marketing”/ “creating a buzz”). Make it brand appropriate for your product/service and it’ll be something that’ll grow with your organization and not have to be reinvented ad nauseam as consumers won’t become resistant to it. 

Thanks for reading!

Acquired Immunity To Viral Marketing Part 1

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I’m a huge fan of Jay Conrad Livingston and his line of “Guerilla Marketing” books which are some of the most clever and informative series of works in the history our industry. It’s not a stretch to say that he was the founding father of modern promotions. “Guerilla” is also a great way to define his message. He used the word as a metaphor for his brand of marketing although it is a term that initially entered the modern vernacular with negative connotations.

I remember when I first heard the word “guerilla.” I was watching The CBS Evening News anchored by Walter Cronkite with my mom, dad and big brother. The details escape me because I was so young, but I remember it was about bad guys in Lebanon. My father also had to explain to me that Mr. Cronkite wasn’t calling these bad guys “gorillas.” It was my first lesson on homonyms, but I digress. It helps to remind ourselves that Mr. Livingston’s message succeeded in spite of the negative connotation, not because of it. No one believes his intention was that we’d take his terminology literally and start shooting up Beirut whilst passing out branded tchotchkes. He was just telling us there was another way to get our point across which involved tactics not unlike a guerrilla ambush on an unsuspecting—but ultimately grateful—public. Juxtapose that tactic with what’s happening now; he took a negative term and turned it into a positive euphemism. The exact opposite is happening in the marketing world today. 

Allow me to set the stage: We’ve all been exposed to euphemistic rebranding of negative terms in the sterile corridors of the corporate world. Long ago and in more pragmatic times, we may have heard someone say something akin to, “We have a problem and it needs to be fixed.” It was clear, concise, to the point and we understood there was a problem and it needed to be fixed. No further explanation was needed. However sometime in the last 20 or 30 years, some mid-level manager raised on Dick & Jane and new math (and who may have just been subjected to sensitivity training), proselytized that people ran for cover when hearing the word “problem,” lest their self esteem be irreparably damaged as a result of the exposure. By some decree, the word “problem” was substituted with the word “challenge.” After all, everyone likes a challenge, don’t they? When “Challenge” lost its luster (after a very short while, incidentally), it was unceremoniously replaced with “issues.” That wasn’t good enough either and now we actually call problems “opportunities.” Good grief. Isn’t it sad to think that soon, that wonderfully positive word will be laden with negative connotations? 

Euphony has its place in the lexicon though. When someone’s vital signs cease to be apparent, it blunts the trauma to survivors when we say this person has “passed on” or “passed” versus this person “died.” We don’t get buried, we get “interred.” In fact, life insurance companies go so far as to tell survivors that the policy in question had “matured.” We can forgive euphony in businesses that deal with death, but for the rest of us, it borders on ridiculous and it implies that everyone on the payroll is an easily traumatized child. I think it’s time to come full circle; indeed we have a ‘problem’ and it needs to be fixed. You’d never know it, with all the “Johnny-come-lately-me-too” terms in the marketing world we are being subjected to. I believe these new buzz words and phrases try in vain to capture the clever and whimsical spirit and vibe of the late Mr. Livingston’s epiphany. For instance, can we all agree that ‘viral marketing’ is a vile term? Why must our industry come up with these negative-sounding names to describe what we do? Viruses are bad. No one wants one and if we can help it, we’d never seek one out to bring home to the family.

This blog will appear dated very shortly as I’m certain we will stop using this buzz term shortly (wishful thinking?). But I can’t help thinking it will be replaced with another, even more negative sounding name. ‘Disruptive’ is another gem. It’s as if the only way to get the attention of our target consumer is to disrupt them (read: Piss them off). If someone disrupts me while I’m busy living my life, I can tell you with complete certainty I will not be investing in their product, company, cause, or service. I would also maintain that I’m not alone in this sentiment. You get the point; I’m illustrating, with absurdity, the absurd. What we do in marketing and promotions is an honorable endeavor but with names like “Viral Marketing” floating around out there defining what we do, at best you’d think that we’re up to no good and at worst, trying to infect the public with something that may kill them. If we just call what we’re doing “marketing” and “promotions,” we’re being honest with the consumer. If on the other hand, our product, service or cause needs to be spread by such disgusting sounding names as ‘viral marketing,’ we shouldn’t be surprised when our demographic target moves from our sights and hides where we can’t find him or her. It may be for the aforementioned reasons we have to keep on reinventing, or ‘mutating’ ways to get our message in front of consumers. No one wants our viruses; hence the name of this blog, “acquired immunity” and I believe these terms and tactics are creating an ever-resistant strain of consumer. Note that the author is keenly aware that ‘viral’ is a metaphor, but words have meaning and by continuously using negative words in our communications, it reinforces negativism. Keep in mind the term, “guerrilla marketing” is the exception to inverted euphony; it worked. Most, if not all the others, don’t. 

Come back soon for Part 2

Thanks!