Shel Israel, co-author of naked conversations had this to say after giving a talk to the Seattle chamber of commerce: What inspired me the most, a little to my surprise, were the folks at the Chamber of Commerce. These were folks, as Robert puts it, who were hungry to learn. I met a wedding planner who blogs, and an architect and carpet cleaner, among others, who plan to soon follow suit. This is heartening for me. The day has finally come where small businesses can use technology tools to elevate and differentiate themselves and it is heartening to find so many in one room plunging into the blogosphere.
Many forward thinking businesses, big and small, are discovering blogs as a tool to connect with customers, and give customers a way to connect with the business. IMHO any business blogging is engaging in a form of Micromarketing, a way to connect with customers using alternative media. I use the term micromarketing as a way to differentiate from mass marketing, because blogs enable companies to literally connect with one customer/prospect at a time, in a conversation and not a sales pitch.
Micromarketing is not selling
Micromarketing is conversational – if you have comments and trackback turned off it’s not a conversation
Micromarketing is about being open and informal – tell readers something they wouldn’t get from a press release
Micromarketing is talking about shareing experiences and telling stories
“Brain Age” is here, and yes it’s a video game, but it’s not aiming for what would normally be considered the mass market of boys 18-30 or “gamers”, it’s going for the “massive market” of people who want to “train their brain”. With tag lines like:
For decades Nintendo has been exercising your thumbs. Now they’re going to exercise your mind.
Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day
Nintendo is essentially turning market perception on it’s head, positioning the video game as positive “mental exercise”, as opposed to the common perception of it being a pointless, mind numbing activity. Not only does the game act as a diagnostic tool, by testing your “brain age”, but as a training tool to help lower your brain age, the idea being that a younger brain age is better for your mental health.
As was mentioned in the excellent escapist article the gaming community treated the Nintendo DS (dual screen with a stylus) as a bit of a joke, the graphics were sub par to competing systems, and the interface was kind of clunky and the two screens…. well it didn’t fit the handheld gaming mold. But with a game like Brain Age suddenly the Nintendo DS could become a household name with baby boomers that might not have even heard of Nintendo before. Talk about Word of Mouth, if it starts to gain traction in the 50+ market as a way to stave off something as awful as alzeimers people like me are going to be buying Nintendo DS’s for my parents.
(I’m not super keen on the “do you remember what you had for dinner 2 nights ago” line on their Web site, for me it just smacks of the “i’ve fallen and I can’t get up” approach to marketing, but that’s just my gut feeling.)
In a flyer I read today about Brain Age, mention was made of a game called “Big Brain Academy” which could be aimed at the parents of young children (originally called Brain Flex I think, but the addition of the word “academy” sure aims to create position this tool as making you or your kids “smarter”). Another switch, parents trying to get their kids to play more video games.
Update: If anyone thinks this is hyperbole take a look at the top-ten selling video games in Japan on “any” system:
The ten bestselling games in Japan for the week ending April 16:
Isn’t micromarketing just marketing but smaller and targeting fewer people? Short answer no, and let me just preface by saying, there is so much to say on this topic that i feel like a general going into battle, you’re not all going to make it. So in the spirit of writing upside down for the web I put a table together with some preliminary ideas on how micromarketing is distinct from marketing.
Hunting, targeting (shotgun/rifle)
Farming, Cultivating, Growing
big bang spending after a tonne of planning, big spike and steady drop off until the next big bang. Media and content lose value over time ready for the next big bang
Small budget, media and content get more valuable over time through continued updates and customer participation
Finding/Identifying targeting demographics
Customers identify themselves, part of a ‘network’ of prospects and customers
Talking to Customers
Tightly controlled messages broadcast 1 way to mass of people who may or may not be prospects or customers. Only authorized agents create and disperse messages from ad companies to PR agencies.
Messages, ideas, and news spread through network of employees, customers & prospects
Listening to Customers
Fragmented, filtered through numerous channels, for various purposes. Focus groups, customer research, customer service. The result, a fragmented view of the customer and their relationship with your products and services
Built into the process of talking to customers, the advantage of a dialogue, listening is built into the communication medium
One way value chain through the company – outputs value for cash
A value network that co-creates value with the customers that want to contribute
Marketing – Sacred Cow or Not?
Marketing is a young discipline, you can argue that marketing has been around as long as trade, but modern marketing is a result of the ability to mass produce ie. the ability for production capabilities to outstrip basic demand. It was only after the industrial revolution that marketing became a necessity and replaced accounting as the discipline to lead business. In fact modern advertising came about after world war II as businesses tried to combat societies “post war frugality”, and the fact that companies were trying to do that at the same time as television was becoming a dominant medium was how modern advertising was born. What i’m trying to say is that marketing and advertising are very young disciplines (relatively) and should not be mistaken for some kind of ’science’ with thousands of years of history.
The Irony of the Mass Marketing is a Mass of Individuals
I call it irony because mass marketing treats the market as a mass of individuals that are not connected. Why is this important? Because mass marketing and mass advertising relies on the kind of embellishment and hyperbole that relies on your customers not getting together and comparing notes, that may expose fibs and exaggerated promise. Why is advertising becoming less effective, because you can only get away with the “new and improved” story so many times before the market gets wise. Don’t get me wrong i actually “love” advertising and think it’s an incredibly creative medium, telling a story in 30 seconds is a beautiful creative constraint, but lets say it’s like me “loving” email, despite the spam.
The mass market is dead, long live the massive market
The mass market concept of some kind of homogenious group of for instance adult males 18-35, is if not totally dead, a bit of a red herring. Instead of trying to find and group customers like that it should be about customers self selecting, identifying themselves and recruiting other customers. No longer is it about the mass-market, now it’s about the massive market, the billions of interconnected customers that are just waiting to self select to be your prospect, customer, partner, evangelist. Phew, i’m tingling just writing that, but it’s happening right now. How did 37signals get to half a million users in a year or two with no advertising? Great product that was worth talking about, and a connection into the blogosphere of web developers that were just waiting to talk about a great new tool.
Micromarketing is the opposite approach to marketing
Traditional advertising involves lots of planning, then a big bang, followed by an immediate spike in activity, followed by a steep decline until the next campaign, this is why I really like the hunting metaphor of targeting and firing some kind of weapon. Lots of marketers like to talk about shotguns and rifles, picking off customers, but in the end once the bullets fired it will eventually lose power and plough into the ground. Micromarketing takes totally the opposite approach, and is certainly more akin to farming where you are essentially seeding ideas onto fertile ground, that will be more valuable and be generating more interest in a years time. A blog is the perfect example of this, I mean a blog has essentially no value when you launch it, it’s like a savings account with $1 in it, but over the year every post you make, every comment that a customer makes, every link that comes from another blog is like a deposit of a couple of dollars, and what you end up with in a year is a blog full of ideas and content that is appreciating with compound interest. This is why the whole ROI conversation on blogs is a total red herring until you do something.