McLellan: Cardinal rule: Don’t fool me
Friday, March 29, 2013 7:00 AM
I saw the Tina Fey and Paul Rudd movie called “Admission” this past weekend. Based on the TV ads and previews I’d seen earlier, I expected a laugh-laden romantic comedy, filled with the smart humor that both leads are known for.
But that’s not what I got. The movie has some very funny moments (most of which I had already seen in the TV commercials), but it’s actually a very thoughtful and somewhat introspective story that examines choices, secrets, following the rules, and taking risks when the stakes are high enough. Tina Fey and company didn’t disappoint. It didn’t pander to the obvious, and even at the end, there were some surprises waiting for the audience.
It’s the kind of movie I’m usually drawn to, but this time, I left feeling like I’d been had. I walked in quite sure of what I was going to get, and instead I was handed something very different.
No, I am not auditioning for Leonard Maltin’s movie critic job. But it occurred to me as I was stepping out of the theater, feeling very frustrated at the advertising sleight of hand, that the movie promoters made a classic marketing mistake that many businesses make every day: They didn’t paint an accurate picture. They went for easy rather than accurate.
I get why they did it. Promoting the movie for what it really was – a funny but serious look at life choices and how those choices influence our life’s path – would have been a lot harder to do. And it probably would have meant a smaller take at the box office.
It was easy to pull some of the funniest moments and knit them together to trick us into thinking the movie was a lighthearted, Lily Tomlin gun-toting comedy. And it worked – the theater was packed.
But they didn’t deliver on the promise. We didn’t get the movie we came to see. Which colored the audience’s opinion of the actual movie. When the film ended, everyone just sat there for a moment – in silence. There was none of the usual whispered buzz during the closing credits.
I can’t know what everyone else was thinking, but the dialogue in my own head was all about bait and switch.
You can fool people once or twice, but they’re going to catch on pretty quick. And when they do, instead of seeing the value you might genuinely bring them, they see you as someone who wasn’t up front or transparent from the beginning. You tried to trick them. That makes trust (the key ingredient in the buying process) a very elusive goal.
Your marketing needs to give everyone a good sense of who and what you are. Which is why you shouldn’t rely on gimmicks, marketing-speak or the same language that everyone in your category uses.
The truth is, there’s something unique about doing business with you. Most businesses have plenty of competition, other companies that sell the same thing. But how they sell it, how they interact with their customers, why they’re in the business – all of that is part of their story. Your story differentiates you from everyone else.
This is especially true if the shopping experience with you isn’t all that much fun, takes a long time, is complicated or expensive.
Don’t sugarcoat it or downplay the process. Give it to us straight. If it takes a long time, tell us how you make that better. If it’s complicated, tell us how you walk us through it, step by step.
Your marketing is our preview window. Make sure that when we take the time to look, what we see is an accurate picture.
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