Soft Economy? No, Soft Marketers.

Photo Courtesy of Morguefile
You hear many marketers complaining today about our soft economy. I wouldn’t call it soft. I’d call it challenging for the marketer with a challenged brand. With prices on necessities escalating, consumers are having to choose their discretionary items more carefully. But they are still spending money on the things they want.

If your product or service is not one of those items, it is your fault. You have not made a personal connection with your customer.

Look around at what is selling. People can’t wait to spend money on the new Apple 3G iPhone. Why?

It’s all about the Apple brand, which has made one of the most incredible connections with customers I have ever seen. The Apple afficionado drank the Kool-Aid and went back for more. Robert Scoble had an excellent piece on the Apple brand a few months back that is worth a read. Says Scoble,

We believe Apple’s marketing so deeply that we aren’t willing to question it

1. If your machine behaves badly it’s your fault.

2. Any idiot can use an Apple machine (that’s what they tell you before you buy one) but if your machine crashes then you must be a “genius” to fix it (they have bars at stores now where you can “borrow” a genius, but only after waiting in line — my son twice has been turned away from genius bars because they were too busy and was told to “come back tomorrow at 10 a.m.”). Oh, and if you are having problems at 10 p.m., and dare tell people on your blog about your problems you’ll get tons of abuse back “how DARE you be an Apple user and not know you needed to flash your PRAM.” Translation: any idiot can use a Mac, but not really.

OK, they are spending money on Apple and not on your product. They also are willing to spend $9 per pound to customize M&Ms, but not anything on your product. A MediaPost story about a new M&Ms line extension points out,

And whereas virtually every product is now in search of ways to customize, the genius of this M&M’s brand extension lay in recognizing how well the brand lends itself to personalization, as one former Masterfoods USA executive noted to Personalization doesn’t work for commodity items–“There has to be a connection with the product,” said John Helferich. “It depends on the emotional equity of the brand.”

A connection with the product gets consumers to buy even in challenging economies. Is it time for you to conduct a brand autopsy to figure out why you aren’t making the connection?

About the Author

Harry Hoover
Harry Hoover is a partner in My Creative Team, the agency that makes Fortune 1000 clients look good. His communications career spans 35 years and runs the gamut from print and broadcast journalism, government and corporate communications to advertising and public relations agencies. He is the author of Born Creative: Free Your Mind, Free Yourself and Moving to Charlotte: The Un-Tourist Guide.

4 Comments on "Soft Economy? No, Soft Marketers."

  1. Scott Hepburn | June 11, 2008 at 8:14 AM |

    Sounds like you and I are thinking with the same brainwaves these days. The big buzz around our office lately is how marketing budgets are shifting to reflect the current economy.

    I couldn’t agree more than forming an emotional connection with your consumers is vital — in ANY economy. If anything, an economic slump should be a cue to focus MORE on your marketing, not LESS.

    As PRstore founder Kathy Butler is always reminding us, your competitor may have scaled back his marketing budget in a tough economy…this is a perfect time for you to fill the void!

  2. A big amen to that Scott. Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  3. Excellent post. There’s talk afoot that the public needs recession gurus – those adept at helping find products or services that fit into their need for lifestyle changes.

    Marketers and Strategic PR firms must jump to fill that role (recession guru) or risk being seen as not relevant to their consumers’ lifestyle.

    M&M’s PR guru is serving up relevance not simply personalization. (I’m a bit of fun – you deserve it.) But notice how they are deliverig their comfort food message – Nostalgia! A return to a simpler, safer time and place. When we were nurtured and felt special.

  4. Exactly so, Leslie. You’ve got to be relevant, no matter what the economy, if you are going to be successful connecting with consumers.

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