Friday, November 11, 2016

The company ‘Establishment Inc’ has had two massive new product launch failures. Its now time for its marketers to face the music.

That moment all marketers dread. They have failed, and failed big-time and very publicly, with two huge product launches. Now they have to face their bosses to explain why. They were given an almost limitless budget, the support of every supposed thought-leader and what was supposed to be cutting-edge marketing research, social media and big-data marketing tools. And what happened? I guess by now you know what I am talking about? 

Let’s stick with the analogy of corporate product launch, rather than get buried in our own political baggage and the irresistible need to go into overdrive virtue-signally.

The marketing team are considering their excuses. First up comes from the head of product development: “the bloody customers were just too stupid to see the advantages of our marvelous products. All the product reviews have been great but if you have dim-brains for customers then what can you expect?” I would think long and hard about that line of argument.

Next comes head of marketing communications. They argue: “It was the right campaign but our timing was a little wrong.  Once consumers have tried the competitor’s product they will see what fools they have been and wish they had bought our product” Again, I am not sure I would try that approach.

I think it is useful to consider what happen with the Brexit and Trump vote in these marketing terms. We would never try these excuses if we were marketing baked-beans so why are they acceptable when the product is a bundle of emotions/policies/ideals?

What has happened in the UK and US is a failure of marketing. The market research industry should be terrified that is corporate customers are going to say: ‘if you cannot get the answer right for these mega funded insights projects what faith can we have in you to provide research of any value’. Have a look at what my mate Peter Mouncey, a UK MR expert, has written in his blog about this issue. I would also encourage to look at what John Quelch has written in the HBR about the lessons for marketing from the Trump victory. As always this guy talks a lot sense. 

My take on the results is very simple. The Brexit and Clinton marketers fell into the trap of using stereotypes, sophisticated stereotypes but stereotypes all the same, rather than really getting inside the minds of the customers. Maybe they got inside the minds, and didn’t like what they saw, and decided to ignore and move on, but that is the challenge all marketers face.

The second big mistake is to forget the words that Michael says to his brother, Sonny, in the film The Godfather: “It’s not personal its strictly busienss.” As soon as marketers cross that line and bring their own personal prejudices into the campaign then you are toast.

Could the remain in Europe and the Hilary Clinton campaigns won?  Most definitely. What we have seen is a massive failure of marketing. OK, guys you can get back to blaming, ridiculing and belittling the customers for not buying your product. You might even be saying that you are not going to accept what the customers decided and try and force them swop products. Don’t be surprised if they get a tad angry the next time you try and sell them something new. Dick Stroud

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