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2008 - the year of banishing Bullsh*t

"Naiveté is rare today. Your customer is equipped with a bullshit detector that is highly sensitive and amazingly accurate. And the younger the customer, the more accurate their bullshit detector.

When selling, remember: If you don’t admit the downside, they won’t believe the upside." - Roy H. Willaims.

Can I emphasise this fact enough to my clients? NO.

I advise you to read it again, because it's very, very true...and if you don't believe it, or think you can smooze your way around it with fancy PR or advertising, you're taking a very dangerous Jérôme Kerviel-like gamble with your company's future.

There's a reason why the blog belonging to the man who spoke these simple but very true words is read by many, many people across the world, and the reason is this: without any marketing blah-blah or trendy industry slang, he gets it so very's worth giving up 15 minutes to read his The Monday Morning Memo.

In his post '2008 - The Year of Transition' he highlights what he thinks will be the big consumer trends for the coming years. It's an interesting post, which I think anyone interested in consumer behaviour or marketing...hell, anyone in the business of selling something to someone (that makes all of us) should read it!

Below is an excerpt of the main points. The full post you can find here

Here’s what to remember when selling in 2008:

1. Efficiency is the new Service.
Your customer is saying, “Quality and price and quick, please. I’ve got things to do. Thanks.” Service and selection still matter, but not nearly so much as they once did. Inefficient organizations built on high-touch “relationship” selling will decline. Today’s customer is magnetically drawn to efficiency. This attraction will increase over the next few years.

2. Authenticity is essential.
Listen to the street. “Being cool” has become “Keepin’ it real.”

Naiveté is rare today. Your customer is equipped with a bullshit detector that is highly sensitive and amazingly accurate. And the younger the customer, the more accurate their bullshit detector.

When selling, remember: If you don’t admit the downside, they won’t believe the upside.

3. A Horizontal Connectedness is replacing yesterday’s vertical, social hierarchy. Labels like “white collar” and “blue collar” sound almost racist today. The new American dream isn’t about pulling ahead and leaving the others behind. It’s about becoming a productive member of the team.

“Winning” has become less important than “belonging.”

Listen to the streets. “I’m number one,” gets the response, “You ain’t all that, dog. You ain’t all that.”

4. Word-of-Mouth is the new Mass Media. Video games and cable TV stripped our kids of their innocence at an early age, but the Technology that robbed them of idyllic childhood also empowered them with cell phones, blogs and blackberries.

Viral marketing wasn’t created by the advertising community. It’s simply the result of a horizontally-connected generation (1.) sharing their happy discoveries with each other and (2.) trying to protect one another from mistakes.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO BUSINESS: It’s no longer enough just to have great advertising. When your customers carry cell phones and can email all their friends with a single click, you need to be exceptionally good at what you do.

5. Boasting is a waste of time.
Your customer is saying, “Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me.”

IN YOUR ADS, do you include “proofs of claim” your reader, listener or viewer can experience for themselves?

6. Everyone is broken a little.
And the most broken are those who pretend they are not.

It’s time to take the advice of Bill Bernbach, “I’ve got a great gimmick. Let’s tell the truth.”

7. Keep in mind that during the next 12 months, as we complete the transition from the Idealist outlook to the Civic perspective, these trends will be accelerated by the facts that:
(1.) Access to information is going up and
(2.) Access to money is going down.


2007 - the good, the bad, the ugly

One has until the end of January to wish people well for the new year. Taking that reasoning and stretching it a bit, I also have time until the end of January to make my personal review of 2007...the good, the bad and the ugly in a nutshell.

A much needed break of 4 days in sunny Barcelona (a luxury in the first year of starting a business)

Attending the James Nachtwey photo exhibition in Amsterdam

Growing Muse faster than I thought possible in my wildest dreams

Finally getting round to sending a 5-year overdue 'thank you' letter to Jack & Val Leone in Australia...just in the nick of time. Which proves: ALWAYS say thank you to those you really love...before it's too late.

Meeting Isabella & Caroline...It's going to be a great year, ladies!

Having our "Big Bear St Bernard" spend another year with us

"Prutske" joining the family

A sunny, sunny, sunny April

Being able to take my 82-year old granny to Cirque Du Soleil for her birthday

Reading 'Shantaram' and 'Eat, Pray, Love' - two life-changing books

Surviving Pukkelpop (without any major injuries)

Loosing Val Leone, my surrogate mom while I lived in Australia, to cancer on August 14th.

Falling very ill while visiting Amsterdam and spending 4 days in the hotel, in bed.

Burning my fingers trying to help someone

Promising myself I'd give up smoking in 2007 and not sticking to my promise.

Rediscovering how ugly money can make people (you know who you are)

Seeing too many animals put down at the rescue centre.

Tearing my calf-muscle in the middle of my first day at Rock Werchter. Arrival at 12 noon by car, departure at 5pm by ambulance. Yeah, Werchter in an ambulance really ROCKS!


Connecting is what matters

Yvonne over at Lip-Sticking said something so true in her blog, I'm sorry I didn't think to say it myself first...She says: "I'm tired of that old phrase 'reaching female consumers'. It doesn't work anymore. You can "reach" us in a myriad of ways - it's connecting with us that counts."

Oh man, does Yvonne nail the nail on the head there. What she says is so simple, it's almost not worth mentioning, and on the other hand what she said is also so profoundly true, it should be written in ALL CAPS for everyone to notice.

It's not about 'reaching out'..that's exactly where companies go wrong. They do reach out - ok, some in totally inappropriate ways that don't appeal to us, and others in relatively appropriate ways but without being really 'real' about it or 'walking the walk', so to speak (see my post "Dove - a not so ethical brand").

Which brings me to the most difficult part about consulting companies on how to connect with female consumers. We can help brands design really appropriate campaigns with an appropriate positioning, the right messaging and all the rest, but if this campaign is an isolated effort and not part of an entire company philosophy, then really, it's just 'reaching out'. Connecting only happens when you live your 'marketing to women' ethos in (here come the all caps) EVERY SINGLE FACET OF YOUR BRAND ETHOS - from the way in which you treat your employees to the service your sales staff gives customers at the point of sale. Easier said than done, I know. But I have just three words for those who think this to be an almost impossible task: The Body Shop.

But in the spirit of looking forward, not back, here are my very humble recommendations to help you connect with your female consumers:

I've said it before, I'll say it again: all those great creative campaigns and awards mean nothing if we catch you out to be lying to us, ignoring our requests or minimizing our demands. Again, think Dove. Very 'female-friendly'communication. Pity they torture and kill animals to give us all those sumptuous little creams and soaps.

If we buy your brand, it's because we believe in it. Hey, we're women, we like connecting with like-minded souls...we'll talk about your product and recommend it to our friends - all you have to do is bring us together and ask us to promote you!

Don't just show us you care about us and our dollars. Show us you also care about your employees, the community we live in, the future of our children, the well-being of our planet. Give something back -it matters to us.

This statement may sound totally irrelevant in this list of tips to connect with your female consumers, but believe me, it's not. Your front-line staff (sales & service people) are often the only 'human link' to your brand. One bad experience with a grumpy sales person can ruin a relationship with a brand forever. Your staff are your first brand ambassadors. If they don't believe in your brand, how do you expect them to convey anything positive about it to us? Oh, and train them. Your car salesman talking to my husband while looking at my butt when I'm the one shopping for a new car means someone else will get the business - guaranteed.

See the car salesman incident above. Ditto goes for the computer sales guy and the bank director who phones me up asking to speak to my husband about what to do about optimizing our joing savings account. Think I don't have a huge impact on that decision? Think again.

Don't get me wrong: be respectful, but golly gosh, let's all laugh a little more often, shall we? Life's serious enough as it is. How about adding some light-hearted fun to it? Research has shown that women prefer laughing at situations pertaining to themselves, while men prefer laughing about stories about others. We don't take ourselves too seriously so why not make us laugh once in a while?

There's nothing that puts a smile on any cynical consumer's face (male or female!) as getting more than what you bargained for. The thing with women is, they'll talk (and talk and talk and talk) about it to all who will listen!


A song to remind us of what's really important

As I was rushing through another monday morning filled with little 'to do lists', urgent phone calls, impatient clients and forgetful suppliers, I heard this beautiful song on the radio. It made me stop and think about things for a few minutes.

It's so beautiful (and so true) I wanted to share it with you all.

STOP for a few minutes to listen to it.
It's your day, your life. Everything REALLY can wait that long.

Happy Monday!