Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Generation X and Marketing

Generation X is largely forgotten by marketers. Sure, we are a small group.

After all, it's why we're being pinpointed as a generation: those being born during the plummeting of the birth rate between approx. 1960 and 1979.  There are almost 4 times more Baby Boomers or Millennials. Targeting Generation X might be less profitable.
But there's something else: we X'ers are quite difficult to tune into. Almost only another X'er can. For who else shares our collective schizophrenic experience and taste?
On one hand we are the first generation to grow up in very good and stable economic times. On the other hand our childhood and adolescence was one of 'waiting for the bomb': the permanent, strange and tense atmosphere of the Cold War.  It has turned us into Punks AND Yups. You could call us slightly anarchistic Wall Street sharks with a conscience.
Just how many artists do we have in our ranks?  Basically everybody who organised a note or dance step in the 1980s. Sometimes it seemed that half of our classroom went on to become fashion designer, hat designer, choreographer, photographer or movie director. Courtesy of the booming economy: "Is that a safe profession"? was not that important a question.
For first of all, the economy was - and would obviously always remain - great. And secondly no day went by without a mention of a nuclear war so we could better fulfil our potential before tea time.
'No Future' as well as 'Always look on the bright side of life'.
It was that sense of danger, of futility, of seizing the day - and the melancholy - that made these artists good. And caused the cultural boom that was so much like today's technological one.
Minimalistic music, repetitive music, Punk, New Wave, Rap, Hip hop, Synthpop, Electro, Techno, House, New Beat... and that was just the music. All born out of a friction between comfort and pending doom, leaning more towards one or the other.
Do you spot a very classy and expensive store - with a subversive undertone? For sure the owner is an X'er. A wildly anarchistic online platform wrapped up in gloss? X. The group that is most critical at times of purchases but spends most on charity? X.
So, mister marketer, how do you target that? Unlike the Baby Boomers, you don't have the choice whether you want to speak to the progressives (hippies) or the conservatives. Generation X is both, at the very same moment.
Entrepeneurs with a heart, hearts with a capitalistic tic, anti-establishment politicians, housewives who read Nietzsche, Presidents with a Che Guevara T-shirt, CEO's of Apple coming out as gay or founders of Google having as motto: 'Don't be evil'.
So, marketer, good luck with that. Targeting Generation X means having a crack in your message. Your product must be glossy but not perfect (oh, god, we can't stand perfection, we grew up with the gently crackling LP, that wonderful black disc we had been saving for for so long, until we could finally and carefully lay it down on the felt and let the first note crush the lily in our soul - no instant gratification please!).
We need that crack. It's our womb. Our collective bell jar. Always hoping that the Russians love their children too.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Are you a Baby Boomer, Generation X or Millennial?

This is a little story about generations, at least those 5 that are still alive and shaped the 20th century - and thus also today. 

First there was the Greatest Generation. The ones who survived it all, fought it all and built it all. 'The Right Stuff' so to speak. The generation half the movies are about, be them about WW2 troopers, great entrepreneurs or strict, conservative fathers. Admired and maligned, we could call them the backbone of the 20th century, the generation we all still have a - real or emotional - link with. "Let's roll up the sleeves".

They were followed by the - smaller - Silent Generation. Born between 1920 and 1940, they grew up in the aftermath of WWI, during the Great Depression and the unrest of the 1930s. The name comes from the perceived collective focus on security and careers rather than activism. "Let me just do my job".
And then... the great, big, unprecedented Baby Boom 

It's the time of the large families: between 1945 and 1960 the birth rate skyrocketed, in the USA as in Canada, in the UK as in Australia, Germany as in France and anywhere in between.

Resulting in the largest generation in history: the Baby Boomers.

WWII was over, the western world was in the grip of enthusiasm, relief, hope,  belief in the future... destruction was followed by construction and thus intense economic activity... central heating arrived, pastel coloured candles... whatever the reason, anyone anywhere who could or wanted to have children, jumped to the occasion. 

Its babies grew up in stability (often even too much to their taste) and saw the world around them evolve from poverty to abundance. There was time for reflection, self-improvement, questioning... we could also call them the Hippie Generation. What was wrong with those previous generations, all that materialism and all those wars. 'Make love, no war'!

Obviously, those previous generations had a reason for embracing 'normality', cheer the arrival of the washing machine, and be so content for just having a TV. Being so large in numbers though, the Baby Boomers were able to create the first separate 'youth culture' and become a serious pressure group questioning all holy cows.

Next... the birth rate plummeted

And plummeted very much. All the way from - roughly - 1960 to 1980. Firstly because one can only make so many children, secondly because it was up to the rather small Silent Generation to become parents and thirdly - well, the world was not that safe a place after all:

The Iron Curtain. A rather strange, new sort of war, the Cold War, resulted in a sense of tension and insecurity. A president got killed. More leaders got killed. Vietnam. An oil crisis followed by an economic crisis. It was a time of wealth and insecurity.

All this resulted in a small generation: Generation X.
A rather noncommittal name? Yes, they are Generation Question Mark. Punks and New Wavers, Anarchists and Yuppies: a mishmash. For unlike the Baby Boomers they had no offset, no benchmark. "I am myself". 

For many a Baby Boomer it was simple: the previous generations were the enemy. No such collective determination for the X'ers. Who were they? They didn't know. One thing we do know and it's quite surprising: of the 3 most recent generations they are the largest contributors when it comes to donations. They are the geeks and artists, the more anarchistic fashion designers, the intellectual musicians, dancers, writers, movie directors. Or Wall Street wolves. Once an X, always an X.
When a very large generation is followed by a very small one... 

... it can cause quite a disruption in the economy. At least according to the economic fore-caster Harry S. Dent, it's this succession that lays at the heart of the current financial crisis in western countries.

For the Baby Boomers have all gone through the main spending cycle. And the X'ers just can't fill up all the houses there are. As H. Dent puts it in his work 'The Demographic Cliff': "There are more dyers than buyers".

And up we go..

For here are the Millennials, also dubbed 'Echo Boomers' because they are the children of the Baby Boomers. 

Compared to birth rates of any other century they are of course a massively large generation - only surpassed by the Baby Boomers. The latter thought longer and harder than any previous generation about having children, so their 'echo' arrived later and also not in equally big numbers.
Born between 1980 and 2000, the Millennials have a bit of the opposite experience of their parents: being born in the greatest wealth, and slowly having to learn to make do with less. 

They have to reformulate the world (once again) and polish or rethink all systems and plans ('What to do with pension plans if the average life expectancy has gone up from 72 to 82').  

They are the techies, the online wizzards, the big online entrepreneurs: the pause button for all things cultural, the fast forward button for all things technological - the reversal of the points of interest of the Xers. 

The eldest being only 34 right now, this generation did not arrive at the peak of their spending yet. What with (again according to Harry S. Dent) the peak of spending being pinpointed at age 46, it can still take another 12 years before the economy would bounce back to the astonishing levels of 1990-2006. In the mean time it all comes down to mass immigration.
Maybe, just maybe, the main and massive task of the Millennials will be to find an alternative to Growth being our holy cow. If anyone can, it's them.  


Sunday, 14 December 2014

The generation of 2015

This can seem to be a depressing post. It's not. I'm in awe for the change that is taking place. 

The 'crisis' as some call it. The 'transition' as others say. The 'change in online behaviour of Generation Z' as studied by marketers. 

We humans are definitely on a course to something new. We used to be producersOnly some 60 years ago we slowly turned into consumers

Today we are products. Placing ourselves in the market just as any Brand does.

We market ourselves and protect our image all day long. From carrying the 'right' smart phone to check-in at the 'right' places. For it's our image that lands us our 'Likes', '+1s', social contacts, the client or the job. 

Snappy, catchy, and instant memorable we've become. Summarizing ourselves into that one single image. A shift from a focus on character to personality to packaging in one single century. 

For sure this is partly a result of the hourly continuing growth-avalanche of the world's population. The more people around us, the less their value, the stronger the competition in still being seen

We can only wonder what the next step could be. It might be: disposable products

Which isn't the strangest of thoughts, if you picked up on the news that the new laser weapons of the American Army can now 'zap' people away. Delete, and done. 

If for corporations we're already largely 'data' today, imagine what this will be if in this century our population will double once again, as it has done a few times over the past century. 

Until we're only what for example Google already is: some sort of collective consciousness. Flocks of birds that shape gorgeous and forever changing patterns in the sky. Following the Pied Piper, the one we want to be associated with most, and do so for he's got the best, deepest and most advanced knowledge of us. 

For sure we humans can be happy in every shape, form or organisation. It might even near an overwhelming religious experience, to be part of something so big. 

In my line of work I know it takes 10 people to create a good website. We need the collective. Studies forever show we're also at our happiest when being part of something. 

It may seem strange to us how Generation Z seems to be in permanent contact, not with an inner circle but with the whole world and all the time, collecting 200 Likes on a post whereas Generation X is happy with 20 and the Baby Boomer prefers private one-to-one communication on the side - but was there ever any generation that understood the next one?

There's nothing bad nor depressing about how we humans evolve. It is what it is and nothing and nobody can stop the twirling of the patterns.

It can go this way, or that way - or a thousand other directions and shapes.

Human life, as always, keeps being fascinating and personally I think that the generation of 2015 might well be the next Great Generation, just as much as the one of 1968 and the GI Generation, if not, greater. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The first thing a man looks at

... in another man are the shoes.

For they are a very quick giveaway of the social and financial status. 

Our mind has developed these shortcuts, to cut through the clutter of how a man is trying to market himself - to what he is

This is a story about personal marketing and human instinct. 

If tests forever show that we humans tend to be more friendly to someone who drives a luxury car, it's not just the car that does the trick. 

For everyone can have a Maserati. All you need to do is skip that plan to buy a house, forget about annual holidays or an Ivy League education for the children or a protection and insurance plan for the whole pack. We assume though that the man in the Maserati has all those things in place already.  

Consequently: 'He can even spend so much money on a low priority item. Just how secure must he be'? 

This is not mere superficiality. It's our own protection plan: 'Phew, with this person we can relax. He won't be asking me for cigarettes, money or to buy the drinks. He won't be asking me around midnight if he can sleep on my couch, or run away with my wallet or suck up to me for unknown reasons. He's stable and what you see is what you get. Maybe he's got good business contacts for me, or it might be a fun evening ending in a pool party in a luxury villa. At any rate, there's no DANGER. I can let my guard down'.  

The car becomes a pars pro toto for a life. One attribute conjures up a whole set of possible qualities or advantages.  

The same applies to the shoe-issue. It's the last thing on our own radar, and thus the most handy giveaway on the radar of the other.  

For when it comes to his appearance, the average man will first focus on his face. Having the money for the dentist, getting that mole removed, and to be neatly shaved. Only then he turns to the wardrobe. Shirt, tie, jacket, slowly trickling down to trousers, belt - oh, wait, the watch doesn't go with this, now the smartphone is out of tune and then - oh, wait, studies show that with a branded shirt people are nicer to you, etc. 

And shoes come at the very end. They are those things you jump in when you're half way out the door.  

And thus, you think you look like - and feel like - a walking Dollar-sign, but your shoes are from the Chinese shop around the corner and there you go, the very first impression is: 'poor'. 

Even if the conversation partner is lightyears away from thinking in financial terms, there might be a feel of 'something doesn't click'. He wants to appear financially stable, or hip, or trendy - whereas he clearly isn't. In what else is he being insincere? Or it's simply vague intuition that kicks in: What's wrong with this picture? 

The other way around, you can forever wear the same sun-bleached T-shirt and jeans, but with high quality shoes that first impression can tip in your favor again. 

Still not superficial? 

Well, if every rabit would want to study that eagle from up close, really know the personality and background of that fox, there wouldn't be any rabit left. 

Until further notice all personal and professional marketing and survival techniques alike are very much about the facade. 

And since we know that too, and have passed the phase of relying on it, we develop ways to cut to the chase. To pierce through that facade. 

We dress ourselves up for eyes, but eyes are only one tool: our instinct makes the final decision. 

Any moment in time is an attack on our senses, an avalanche of information, forcing us to see or meet hundreds of people, while our rational brain also has to balance our personal, professional, short term and long term goals, our temperament, our mood, our thoughts, budget, social norms - it's a miracle we don't end up in a straitjacket. 

Hence why we tend to instantly zoom in on what might be deciding factors. So, you've got a Rolex, the right iPhone and right branded shirt - that don't impress-a-me much. Those are the tools of the magician to make you look in the wrong direction. 

Hence why a website converts a visitor into a client in 7 seconds. Hence why we don't read a website but quickly scan it.  We are scanners, all the time, everywhere. 'Is this picture consistent'?  It's merely a survival technique. And only if the result of that scan is positive, we open the security fence.

'Good shoes. He's someone who is really secure, or has got a sense of priorities, of what part of the body needs quality and which one not, he's NOT trying to dazzle or fool us or put up a facade, not a brand-addict nor a snob, I feel I can trust this guy'. 

Do you need to buy good shoes? Well, a shirt is not likely to ruin your body or health. So, yes. Are you so confident you couldn't care less what someone else thinks of you?  Great, that's worth more - and more appealing - than anything else. 

Does your business depend on impressions and you notice your conversation partners seem to be reluctant to convert into clients? 
Invest in quality shoes.
And then, naturally, in those other extremities of your business persona: your business card and website.

Those last things on your mind, often are the first ones for others.

It's the reason why your website can have 20,000 visitors a month, but only few of them convert into clients. 

There's something wrong with the shoes. 


Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Ice Bucket Blackmail

One can only revel in the success of the year. Now here's a marketing campaign that takes social pressure and peer pressure to new heights.

Either you pour cold water over yourself, or you donate money to a charity of my choice. Those are your options, friend.

Yes, you can dedicate one day a week to help out a Cancer Charity, have a standing order to donate on a monthly basis, adopt an elephant, help every homeless person you see while being cautious you only buy ethical products and are careful not to waste energy in between the moments you are not rescuing abandoned animals...

What? You don't want to throw cold water over... and not donate either? Spoilsport! Unethical person. Weirdo. Intellectual. 

How lovely the feeling you've not only had a fun moment, saw your number of Facebook Likes climb to 50, had the opportunity to show yourself without shirt or in a glossy setting - while knowing you've done a good deed, and you're excused again for another year.

It's called slacktivism. Activism for the lazy. Or as a study puts it: people who share a charity or cause through social media are much less likely to donate or actually do something. They are rewarded with the feel they do so.

Don't get me wrong. Grossing 80 million dollar, not to mention a whole generation suddenly knowing the acronym ALS - how fantastic is that? Whether it's emotional blackmail or not, the equivalent of a chain letter or not, only the fun game of the moment or not, people who were in need have been helped.

And, after all, all marketing and sales strategies are based on our human fear not to fit in, not to be liked, not to belong to a tribe, and our permanent wish to have a great front door, be it through liking the right music, carrying the right smartphone and wearing the right Brand or driving the right car. Things we can be seen with. 

Let's just hope that the hype of 2015 will be about millions of people saving water, actually caring or setting aside 4 hours a week to help a charity, or better still - ensuring that charity is no longer necessary.

I cross my fingers for the moment it becomes fashionable to ask each other: "At what charity are you working every Saturday"? 

This is the real achievement of the Ice Bucket Challenge: that even the many negative reviews out there still help, since they too raise awareness, make other charities profit in the slipstream, and start a social debate. 

And now we're used to it, let's all start just taking cold showers. Imagine the energy we save by doing that


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Commercial Web Design in Tervuren

There's a convention that says: to be successful as business you need 20% skill and 80% sales. 

That would mean we'd better all get a degree in Sales and then, in the weekend or so, also study a skill. 

Another convention talks about 50% skill and 50% playing golf.

And for sure there's a convention somewhere saying you can't market yourself with a photo of you smoking. 

So much for conventions. 

I'm not a sales person, I'm a marketer

That means: the person opening the door towards the market

The sales person stands in the door and converts the visitor into a customer: the task of the marketer is to get that visitor there in the first place

So I don't play golf, I'm not one to go to network events and I definitely don't start cold calling. With as result that I've got customers from Dubai and Cologne, but not a single one in my home town of Tervuren.

I market my Web Design skills. Selling only occurs when the phone rings.

It's Not Done to be seen smoking in an advert, so I do it. For my own business I love the Zig-Zag Theory of Marketing:

'When all web designs go to the left, you go to the right'

For sure, few businesses have that luxury. For in the first place one needs to cater to expectations. And cater to the largest common denominator of the target market.

It's only one of these advantages of very small businesses: there's no chain of command, no never ending decision process and one can be astonishingly flexible and quick as silver: surfing on the waves of the expectations and fashions of the day itself. 

In such a case, sales is not necessary. Marketing is a very uniform world, where everyone wants or does what the competitor is doing - so just working with the Zig-Zag Theory is sufficient for me.

(It also helps that being a bit subversive or creative is accepted, even expected from web designers - and that Tervuren is close to Brussels, which rings more bells to international clients).

And so every business has its very own marketing potential 

The one hurdle being: detecting it.

What is that one marketing strategy that will attract the right customer, over online competition, with the highest potential at the lowest cost or least effort? 

My convention: marketing is 80% thinking and 20% work.

To be good at marketing, you need to be good at knowing humans.
Those humans that are your target market.


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Customers buy your Brand, never your product

Your reputation. Your image. Your story. Your gloss, so to speak. 

All that drives sales. Far more than your actual product. 

The blind coke test is a classic: test upon test upon experiment upon experiment shows that participants always prefer Pepsi Cola. When they can't see the label. Whereas if you put two branded bottles on the table, it's the Coca-Cola one that will be empty most quickly. 
Now  a test in Sweden with 100 beer lovers went one step further. Here the participants could simply not distinguish Heineken and Stella.

And here we're talking 2 brands that are hugely defended by their consumers, at least those from Belgium (Stella) and the Netherlands (Heineken).

Once again the approval or disapproval seems to stem from social confirmation or social training - or what one within the tribe is told to be better. 

If you hear 10 times that Italian is such a beautiful language, chances are higher that you start to focus on the beauty of some Italian words - your radar focusses on that detail you've been told about. Whereas if you've heard (and we all did, for 7 decades in movies) German described as harsh, the 30-odd harsh words in that languages are instantly picked up.

Back to the beer test:

It must be said that neither of the participants were Dutch or Belgian. "Come on, this can't be true" was the reaction of a Belgian newspaper, "for sure we Belgians will know the difference". But a similar blind test at their redaction showed that it was not that easy. And here we're talking about a country that religiously defends, almost reveres, it's most popular brand.

For marketers that have studied cultural determination, it's not a big surprise. For the same applies to basically everything.

"French is a more beautiful language than Finnish". Think again. If the opera's had been written in Finnish, or it would have been Finland forever repeating it's language is 'better', or parents would motivate their children to speak it as eloquently as possible, we would all say that Finnish is 'so musical, so elegant, the real language of love'.

For you will be on the look-out of nice tones and words in one, and strange or unfamiliar ones in the other.

Hence why German went from the cultural language of the great composers, poets and scientists, to being the 'ugliest' or 'most unpleasant' language, to a slow restoration again. 

Languages, just as products, are Brands. They have established their reputation in the market, or market share so to speak. Once riddled with French expressions, most European languages have gotten rid of them again, for they lost their hipness or reputation of being cultured, to replace them by, first, German ones and, over the past 7 decades, English ones. That too will pass.

Everything is a brand. It does not matter what our topic of conversation is, Apple, Italian or Abercrombie & Fitch: the best Brand will be the market leader. 

The one who knows that packaging is not just about a glossy ribbon. The story and myth are equally important. And social confirmation is used to kick the ball in the goal.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Grand Hotel, the TV series you love to hate

Spain has given the world more than 5 other countries combined. 

You'll probably reach middle age before you know all dance styles, all music styles, all languages, all subcultures, all food, all world class literature, paintings, that handful of great movies - and feel the need to also study another country (nope, no chauvinism here, this is a Dutch-Belgian speaking).

TV is SO not part of that success story. 

If anything, more often than not Spanish TV is a complete reputation killer.

Those that do have theatre in the genes (the Italians, Britons) can sometimes look at it and think: que? Why is there no build-up or cool down? Why is one emotion not carefully crafted upon the other? Is this a rehearsal? Just a paella of emotions, without further reason, roots or purpose?

And, dammit, it's a pity for there are flashes of brilliance. 

If I were Spain, I would heavily invest in a certain TV series. Take it as seriously as some other countries do. If only as an economic tool. 

England has proven just how profitable and advantageous that can be for a country: the Queen and Period Dramas alone put it on the radar of tens of millions of tourists, investors and CEOs of multinationals alike.

Sure, other countries can't sell that hyper popular product of 'quint-essential Englishness', a source as profitable as the oil of Shell.

I exaggerate. But only for sake of the argument. As a marketing tool 'Downton Abbey' might not attract mass tourism, it does attract a classy or affluent tourism though: those who visit museums, dine out, buy literature, and spread the message to others. Jane Austen is not a mass product, but has the same staunch, educated, rock solid following of Rolls Royce.

Such were my thoughts when I noticed I started to want to speak Spanish better... because of a soap opera.

Pardon, a shampoo opera, for this takes the basics of a soap opera to a whole new level. Compress all the scheming of 3 seasons of Downton Abbey into 5 minutes, and you've got 'Gran Hotel'. 

After the success of the former, it's no surprise also this Spanish TV series is taking the world by (calm) storm. Sure, it is set in 1905, in a Grand House, with a clear division between Upstairs and Downstairs, but that's where the similarities end. 

For where Downton Abbey taps into that winning product of Englishness (say 'English series' and you already know what to expect and are already amused by it), Grand Hotel obviously can't.

It's only set in a luxurious hotel for it wanted to be set in a luxurious hotel, and not because there was a need for it, or to tell something about society or our history or to makes any other connection on a deeper level.

And where Downton Abbey introduced a plethora of true, warm, breathing personalities, characters you recognise in your own life or would wish to know, 'Grand Hotel' has none. From script writer to director to the actors: everyone seems to have been given an urgent order to please not waste time on building a character, not even a caricature. 

This is where I would intervene. As minister of Culture I would call the minister of Finance out of bed: "We have a unique opportunity here! Free all money you've got for the very best script writer we can track. Someone who can really build a personality and a moment. For all other elements are there. It's a once in a lifetime chance to put Spanish TV on the map, not just of Spanish speaking audiences but the whole world".  

In the mean time, we have this suspicion that we are supposed to root for waiter Julio Espinosa and heiress Alicia Alarcón to come together, but we don't. We couldn't care less. They're merely contracted as eye-candy, human shaped creatures that stride from restaurant to gardens, without any genuine or understandable human emotions bar dubious morality. You watch them now, and they're forgotten the moment you switch off the TV.

In this general war on character creation there are only a few flashes of hope: for example fellow-waiter and faithful friend Andrés often is a credible, likeable and consistent character: a person that could actually exist

Every once in a while our limbic brain also manages to organize some sympathy -  quite an achievement in this series - for unlucky sister Sofia Alarcón. After which any empathy for any character goes down the drain again for many, many episodes on end. 

But, but, but... BUT... how beautiful that eye-candy! 

How gorgeous the eyes, how magnificent those gardens, the costumes, the art-direction. It all shines and sparkles as a, er, luxury spa hotel in 1905. 

And then there are the 5 intrigues per square inch! How anyone even dares to whisper in that hotel is beyond me: it's a guarantuee that someone is eaves-dropping, while someone is spying, and the spy is being shadowed by a murderer. 

It is so over the top there should be an Olympic medal for it. 

And yet, and yet: country after country is purchasing broadcasting rights, and who will start watching will do everything to switch off the TV but, damn, will not be able to do so. For it is simply THE guilty pleasure of 2014. 

Everything and everyone is attractive in this series, superficial and exterior attractiveness that is, forgotten the instant the end titles start, but the 50 minutes before are sheer joy: a 'pleasure for the eyes'

Keep on doing that, Julio Espinosa and Alicia Alarcón, Javier, Belén, Andrés, Teresa and the Doña of whom I always forget the name - for whatever you're doing (creating a story? thinking about creating a character one day?), it's fun. Costume and Art Direction - maravilloso.

One very big extra push, minister of Culture, just one more push.  


Friday, 1 August 2014

Which of the 2 Spains will break your heart?

The Sanguine part or the Choleric part? 

The finger snapping one - or the austere, hard faced nobleman? One of the 2 will. 

Either the bull or the torero.
The only question is: who? 

Who will it be: 
The Don Juan or the Carmen?  

The left or the right

One of them will, there's no shadow of a doubt. 

It will be swift, fully unexpected, under third quarter moon. The dagger is already casting its shade on the wall of the church. 

The Spain of the Flamenco or the one of the Paso Doble - who will it be? Heart or balls?  One can ruin you, the other haunt you. There's no middle ground. At one point or the other the Spain Stockholm Syndrome will hit.

Maybe protect yourself and see it through fog. Stick to the coasts and the tourist hot spots. So you will not be damaged and your emotions will never alter. 

Otherwise you will  complain about it and sigh about it and gossip about it and cry about it and curse it and make a thousand plans - and then stay. 

For you're handcuffed, caught between Cap Finisterre and Nec Plus Ultra. Your head is no longer in full control: you've heard the call from heart and balls. You're hearing the voice of Plato over the lecture of Aristotle. A world of shadows outside the cave. 

You're ruined. You're spoiled. You're no longer studying life, you let life study you. You've found the switch on the control panel: bye bye neo cortex: you provide security and well maintained lawns: that's your task and nothing more. 

Who cares who breaks your heart? Someone will have to. It are not birth or death that define our lives, it are the first and the last heartbreak. 

Caminante, no hay camino. All roads lead to Rome, except if you accidentally took a road to Hispania and then a path towards its heart. Then there's no turning back. You're in a straight line towards the very last heartbreak. 


Monday, 7 July 2014

Disrupt the Category Code

One of the strategies of Brands to become the industry leader, is by disrupting the Category Code.
And by disrupting I mean: revolutionizing, not just evolutionizing.
For sure also mere evolutionizing can lead to a competitive advantage.
The whole market offers the same stand-alone washing machine? You lift it up to the beautifully integrated one.
Or what about this change to this bottle of olive oil? All of a sudden it becomes a designy one: so the added advantage is you not only have olive oil, but it also makes your kitchen look good.
Such upgrades give you a temporary lead only, for if you're idea is a good one, one that appeals to the market, all competitors will follow suit.
However, you have connected with buyers who would not have thought of you before, so it's 'a small step for a company, but a great one for the potential of your market share'.
Notice how in these 2 examples the Category Code has been maintained. You still instantly recognize the machine as a washing machine, and the bottle to be one with olive oil.
People do not like to spend much time in a supermarket, do as a whole everything to dedicate as little time as possible to any decision - and if a product does not instantly look like the one they are searching for, could very easily overlook your offer, or even think it to be strange, less reliable: you confuse their expectations of how something should look like.
That is where the true industry leaders come in, the ones that grab the majority of the market: they revolutionize.
Instead of adapting to 'the Code' - let's call it the 'code of expectations' - they just change it.
Would you ever before 1990 have recognized this as a vacuum cleaner?
In most cases, you would have walked 10 times past it - 10 lost opportunities for the manufacturer. Regardless of the smaller size, the handy format, maybe even the stronger suction, longer lifespan, better price - it is very well likely you would have bought another brand, simply because you were looking for 'something that looked like a vacuum cleaner'.
This is a game that only the truly great, innovative Brands can play - making the market adapt to them, not the other way around.
Either which way, as in any other marketing or sales strategy - it are the ones that upgrade, stand out over anyone else or are ahead of time or in knowledge of consumer psychology, that grab the market. The ones who lead, not follow.
Happy disrupting!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The loss aversion effect

If you perform marketing for your company, you might have noticed it.

The very strong influence of the 'loss aversion effect'.

It's another known effect of the long list of cognitive biases. 

These biases are etched straight onto our brain, and are consequently hard to escape from. 

This particular effect stands for our strong tendency to prefer 'not losing' over gaining

A famous example is the study of cab drivers in New York. They have a lot of work during rainy days, and next to no work on very sunny days. 

Now you would think that cab drivers as a whole would put in more hours during the rainy days, as those days give them the opportunity to earn a lot very fast, and thus pile up savings.

The opposite is true: on rainy days they call it a day from the moment they've put in the right amount of hours. And on sunny days they sit and wait and sit and wait until they've scrambled together the expected daily amount.

Irrational? Yes. 
Because working a long day when business goes very well, would instantly make up for several bad days. 

But there you go: the fear of losing out largely outranks the wish of winning or gaining more.  

What has this got to do with marketing?

Very, very much.

New marketing strategies or tools spring up all the time. And invariably it are the FIRST who start with it, who gain, who build a competitive edge, who nibble at the market share, collect more customers.

Remember the days that it was 'highly advantagous to be on YouTube'? That 'you should have a mobile website'? That 'you will earn more if you have an online availability system'? 

Those who instantly react to such messages are far and few between.
As a whole, we marketers tend to only start, sigh, with any strategy, when the lines have already been drawn and we fear to lose out. 
We tag along, so to speak. 
There's no longer any advantage in it (35 hours of video material are uploaded onto YouTube every single second) but we're not so much interested in advantages, as in not having disadvantages.

Hence why 'gain 20€' does not work as well as 'do not lose out on your 20€'!

We humans are much more afraid of losing, than we dream of winning.


PS: A minor correction here: it are not only those who are FIRST with a marketing strategy that reap all the benefits. Also those who are not first, but BEST at it. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The less-is-better effect

There are over a hundred mapped cognitive biases.

As Marketing and Sales are always quick to use any psychological effect to their advantage, it's little miracle that those cognitive biases are included in the standard education of online marketers.

The 'Less-Is-Better-Effect' is one of the best known, and most used.

In short, it stands for the irrational preference for a lesser or smaller alternative.

Wikipedia mentions the following exemplary results of tests:

People prefer a dinnerware set with 24 intact pieces over a set with 31 pieces with a few broken pieces.

Seven ounces of ice cream overflowing in a small cup is preferred over eight ounces in a much larger cup.
A smaller dictionary is preferred over a larger one with a torn cover.
People perceive people giving away a $45 scarf as more generous than those who give a cheap $55 coat.
All these examples are irrational in the sense that even with a few pieces broken, the dinner set of 31 pieces will still be larger than the one only including 24.
Eight ounces of ice cream is more than seven - but the presentation gives the impression that seven ounces is more.
So you might understand why I use this particular photo in this page. It's almost a given that the majority of visitors to this blog or any other web page, will be more attracted and attach more kudos to a detail of a luxury car, over a complete overview photo of a standard car.
This effect is not to be confused with 'less is more'. For in the end, if less is more, than nothing would be the zenith of brilliance. It's the perceived quality and value.
Which has got nothing to do with the real value.
And here we are again, forever ending with the same foundation: marketing, in general, is about perception.
About how you and me and our businesses or image are perceived by the online visitor.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Your website was born at the time of the Big Bang

For a few million years it was not visited. Darn.

The first humans didn't visit it either. Throughout 200.000 years though, they developed a very strong sense of and talent for visuals.

Their survival depended on it. On the accuracy and especially quickness by which they could read facial expressions, patterns in nature or skies, and the atmosphere around the cave. 

So this human race became, per definition, top professionals in design criticism. At least of that very first and most important moment: when your website opens and instinct kicks in.

They can instantly spot whether they are dealing with a lion or a hyena. The real lion or a copycat. A first class sabre-tooth tiger or a has-been. A human or a scarecrow. A good and useful stone or a clumsy one. 

If they happened to bump into another creature, they had to make a split second decision. Fight or flight? Was this other person a danger, a competitor, a thief, an asset, a liability - and to what extent?

Hence the 'Manhattan once-over'. The reason why we judge a person in a matter of seconds. Based on a glance which covers face, clothing, car, speech and setting. 

Hence why we instantly spot stock photos, images nicked from the Internet, template websites or contradictory elements. 

It's not because we have an iPhone that we suddenly forget a 200.000 year training in survival techniques. 

From the moment a website opens we know whether or not we will invest trust in it. You can clearly see that in your Analytics. Do your online visitors stay - or flee? Do they get into contact - or not? Are these the right clients - or not? 

If the answer is more negative than positive - your website might be a bump in nature. Amongst the millions of patterns and triggers around us, not the one we cavemen care about.

Also the Neanderthal would have flocked to Mona Lisa. For she can't be read. Fight or flight? We just don't know. It's intriguing.

He would also have felt peace with Vermeer. 

Your web pages might not actually have been created 200.000 years ago - but its visitors were.