published on Monday, September 10, 2007 in The Miami Herald
Advocating honesty in marketing.
Author Lois Kelly proposes that truth resonates with everyone, and by presenting it in the appropriate context, your customers will be more likely to respond favorably to your message.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Lois Kelly. AMACON. 228 pages.
One of the best, most eye-opening books I ever read about marketing was full of obvious, head-slapping observations. I sat there, turning pages, nodding in agreement as I read it. The Cluetrain Manifesto is as potent and relevant now as it was when came out, seven or so years ago.
Lois Kelly has delivered a prodigious and worthy successor to that book by looking at the ways humans communicate with each other and how conversational aspects, hooks and themes can be used for marketing. She brings the proverbial cluetrain into the station and unpacks some of the freight.
It's a great idea, really, to examine the ways that people speak with each other and the basic subjects that engage us. Author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki thought so much of this aspect of the book, in fact, that he quotes it at length in his blog.
Here's an excerpt of Kelly's "Nine Themes That Always Get People Talking'':
- Aspirations and beliefs: helpful because they help us connect emotionally to the speaker, the company, and the issues. They help us see into a person or company's soul.
- David vs. Goliath: Sharing stories about how a small organization is taking on a big company is great business sport. Rooting for the underdog grabs our emotions, creates meaning, and invokes passion.
- Avalanche about to roll. You want to tune in and listen because you know that there's a chance that you will be killed if caught unaware. This theme taps into our desire to get the inside story before it's widely known.
- Contrarian/counterintuitive/challenging assumptions. The boldness of contrarian views grabs attention; the more original and less arrogant they are, the more useful they will be in provoking meaningful conversations.
- Anxieties. People are becoming skeptical, and rightly so. Too many politicians, companies have bombarded us with FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) with no facts to back up their point.
- Personalities and personal stories. There's nothing more interesting than a personal story. Robert Goizueta, the respected CEO of Coca-Cola, said he hated giving speeches but he was always telling stories.
- How-to stories and advice. To be interesting, how-to themes need to be fresh and original, providing a new twist to what people already know or tackle thorny issues.
- Glitz and glam. Finding a way to logically link to something glitzy and glamorous is a surefire conversation starter.
- Seasonal/event-related. Last, and least interesting, but seems to resonate, is tying your topic into seasonal or major events.''
Kelly makes specific suggestions for tying many of these things into marketing messages, but she stresses that you can't fake it; the quality and content of your communication must be authentic and credible. For example, if a CEO blogs about her experience with a product, a patently self-serving claim or testimonial about her own company's goods would appear insincere. And it would be, even if it were true.
Kelly also discusses ways to conduct presentations, meetings and conversations more effectively -- and honestly. The downside to all of this authenticity and openness is that many companies probably have inferior products or may not possess a compelling story to tell. In those cases, bring out the taco-loving Chihuahuas and beer-drinking dogs.
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