[Business 2.0] Gimme Five Blunders

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From: Linda (joelinda1@home.com)
Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 18:05:22 PDT

Gimme Five Blunders

June 2000
Jack Trout

As I watch the rise of ecommerce, I'm struck by how much
marketing money is spent in vain. Many dot-com marketing
efforts are violating tried and true principles and doing so
in the world's most competitive marketplace.
Although they span the spectrum, most dot-com marketing
mistakes can be bundled into categories based on five basic
blundering lines of thought:
1. We can do that too. Me-too marketing has been a no-no for years. Old
Economy marketers discovered that in order to stand out, they either had
to differentiate themselves or offer very low prices. None of this
thinking appears to have permeated the dot-com crowd.
In almost every category, a parade of look- and sound-alikes offer
nearly identical products and services. Cyberchondriacs, for example,
can already choose from more than a dozen Websites devoted to health or
medicine that contain the terms "med," "health," or "doctor" as part of
their names or URLs. Figuring out the differences among sites isn't
easy, especially with the bewildering number of sites on the Internet.
And the online pet category has four undifferentiated players that
include "pet" as part of their name. It's a dog-eat-dog business.
2. Who cares if our name is strange? The name is the hook that hangs the
brand on the product ladder in the consumer's mind. In this competitive
era, choosing company and product names is the single most important
marketing decision businesses face.
Shakespeare was wrong. A rose by any other name would not smell as
sweet. Not only do people see what they want to see, but they also smell
what they want to smell, which is why the single most important decision
in marketing fragrances concerns the name the company decides to place
on the bottles. Would "Alfred" have sold as well as "Charlie"? Don't bet
on it.
Hod Island in the Caribbean was going nowhere until they changed the
name to Paradise Island.
But names no longer have to be meaningful, according to the new breed of
portal moguls. That's why you stumble across monikers that either have
no meaning (asima.com), are somehow incomprehensible (Fogdog.com), or
mock those foolish enough to attempt to pronounce them (Axolotl.com).
We'll make you remember our name, they say. We'll force you to bookmark
our site. Oh really? With more than 13 million domain names registered
and thousands more jumping in each week, no one has enough money or
muscle to force Internet users to remember any one single name. Names
that are gibberish or just plain silly are the first ones consigned to
the mental scrap pile.
Being savvy on the Internet means coming up with a name that starts the
differentiating process (instead of defeating it).
3. We need a cool, creative commercial. That's the last thing businesses
need when they're launching a new brand of anything.
What they need are commercials that register their names as many times
as possible. If I only see a name once at the very end of a commercial,
I won't remember it. The radio commercial for Corbett Canyon wine uses
the echo "Canyon, Canyon, Canyon" to drive home its name. It has made
the wine very hot in a very crowded category.
Businesses also need commercials that clearly tell prospective customers
what they do and what makes them different. Viewers watching the crop of
dot-com commercials that aired during January's Super Bowl were
hard-pressed to figure out exactly what the companies were attempting to
communicate. The commercials were creative, but they were also vague and
just plain weird. The one unambiguous message they transmitted was that
it's easy to waste a lot of other people's money in a hurry.
4. Let's not worry about making money and just build a brand. It
requires time and consistency to build a brand. It requires taking
profits and plowing them back into brand building. But what happens if
there are no profits, only losses? Usually, someone on staff is sent to
file Chapter 11.
Pets.com spent more than $2 million on a Super Bowl ad featuring its
sock puppet. The puppet marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Overall, the company had spent $21 million in advertising by Q1 this
year. The result: $20 million in sales and $42 million in losses. Not
good business, and the brand hasn't exactly stuck, even if the sock
puppet is recognizable.
5. People will do everything on the Web. The biggest mistakes a marketer
can make are to not separate hype from reality, to buy into a future
that no one can predict. The marketplace is littered with companies that
have fallen into this trap.
What is known is that habits change very slowly. People will continue to
go shopping in stores. What is known is that people need to see and feel
certain things expensive jewelry and haute couture clothing before
they buy them. Consider Sotheby's problems of getting people to bid on
expensive items from its Website. What is known is that people will
continue to act like people and, despite wisdom to the contrary dolled
out at the movies, there's no guarantee that if you build it they will
Jack Trout (JTr1712@aol.com) is an author and president of
Trout&Partners, a marketing strategy firm in Greenwich, conn. portions
of this article are excerpted from a new book, Differentiate Or Die
(John Wiley&Sons, April '00).

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