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Put the Crayons down! Stop dumbing down your marketing

June 16, 2009

If you drove past San Diego State University last week, you might have thought the people that run pep rallies for local high schools had hijacked the SDSU Marquee.

“Congrats Steven Strasburg — No. 1 Pick in MLB Draft — Aztec 4 Life.”

San Diego State — whiffing on marketing opportunities since 1897. That text reads like something Strasburg’s little sister would scrawl on a piece of poster paper in Markers and hang on the left-field fence at his high school. Somehow a major regional university couldn’t do better?

Stop trying so hard to be clever. A good product markets itself. Especially now.

My friend’s company recently launched a multi-million dollar program aimed at their business-partners. They called it a “xxxxxxx-o-mania” and the selling information was picture after picture on glossy, colorful paper of things that had nothing to do with the product.

That initiative was a complete flop. Four weeks after launch, the company sent out a memo admitting that they had missed the target.

“Oh, you mean someone who’s reading the selling information isn’t going to be fooled just because you print the specs to a bad product on glossy paper? That shocks me.”

The age of marketing where you could trick consumers into purchasing an inferior product is over. That’s why colorful signs don’t work. No matter how good your packaging is, if the product inside is sub-par within a day or two the whole world will know, thanks to blogs, youtube and chat rooms.

The only time the oddball gimmicks work is when your brand is so strong that a commercial is basically just your company sponsoring a TV show. Nike’s puppet’s commercial wasn’t to introduce a new line of puppet sized shoes.

They simply want you to stick around for the swoosh.

With viral marketing and word-of-mouth that has become so popular with Generation Y, people WANT to be brand advocates. It’s like having someone set you up on a blind date. I’m happy to tell someone from out-of-town to eat at In And Out Burger. No gimmick necessary.

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