There’s an old joke that says the difference between fleas and elephants is that elephants can have fleas, but not the other way around. So what happens if your inexpensive little marketing tactic suddenly becomes very costly because the niche it is targeting has changed dramatically in scope? Whereas you were reaping a great benefit by adding lots of low-cost value, now your margin is the flea – and your costs are the elephant.
Banks across the country developed special rates and packages to attract and retain seniors more than a decade ago. But now that the big boomer bump is casting a large shadow, all that “free” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Many seniors expect the costliest level of service – face-to-face. Yet they aren’t seen by their banks as covering the costs of providing that. So rather than pass along the cost to their other customers, financial institutions are quietly cutting out their no-free privileges to this demographic. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened quietly enough to avoid the attention of the press – which is resulting in some interesting stories about penalizing senior citizens and lifelong customers.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying, despite the pace of change accelerating the way it is these days, it’s still worth looking at your market strategically – thinking about long-term scenarios and deciding how you will respond if things don’t quite turn out as you’d planned. Come to think of it, if strategic decision-making had happened, maybe this surprise wouldn’t have happened. And it begs the question – marketers are developing all sorts of free products and services now, with the intention of monetizing them later. If you’re their target, which free things will you be willing to part with, if they’re not free any longer?
Today would have been Marshall McLuhan’s 100th birthday. The Canadian author, academic, and expert on all things communication is perhaps best known for coining the phrase, “the medium is the message”. He saw the arrival of machine printing as having had the equivalent effect of an atomic bomb on language and discourse. He foresaw a world where we would all be interconnected. But most of all, McLuhan saw a world where our devices would define us, almost more so than what we expressed by using those devices.
Was he right? Is your team spending more time talking about how and where to express your message, than the message itself? Are they asking, “Do we have an app for that?” or “Shouldn’t the field force be using tablets instead of documents?” We’d bet these kinds of conversations are taking place in your workplace, just as they are in ours. So it bears repeating that there are some simple rules of thumb that will help make sure your message is an effective one:
Does it clearly differentiate your product or
service from the competition?
Is the benefit explicitly stated, or can it be
simply decoded by the customer?
Have you taken time to understand which medium
is most appealing to your target, to deliver it where and when they need to
What is the action you are calling the consumer
Are you sure you’ve let them know how to answer
that call to action?
Hats off to Marshall McLuhan. We’d like to hope if the medium changes us; it will be for the better.