My wife and I were walking our two Basset Hounds last summer. Regardless of what you might have heard about Basset Hounds, they love to walk. If they don’t get out daily, there’s trouble in our house.
As we were walking, we ran into some friends. They are dog lovers so they asked about the hounds. Then one of our friends got down (on the dog’s level) and asked Lenny (our male hound) to “shake.”
Lenny just sat there and smiled. (Bassets are well known for doing what they want, not what other people want them to do.)
Our friend tried again. “Shake, Lenny, shake.” He even held out his hand, to prompt him.
No quitter, our friend tried a few more times. Finally, as he seemed just about to give up, Lenny stood up and shook like crazy. His whole body moved back and forth, his ears were flying and his jowls were flapping.
He looked like a dog who had just jumped out of a bathtub or a lake.
Our friends both jumped back and we all laughed.
My wife and knew what Lenny would (eventually) do. We never taught him to shake with his paw. (Our dogs don’t do tricks.) But we did teach both of them to shake on command. It’s much more useful because they get wet and dirty easily (since they’re so low to the ground).
Plus it’s fun watching how people react when they finally do “shake.”
I see this a lot with marketing.
Companies develop a marketing message they understand. But too often their customers look at them like Lenny looked at our friend. They’re not sure what the message is, or they think it’s something completely different.
This can happen because the company knows what they’re talking about. But the customer is not familiar with the product or service. They need educating instead of selling.
It can also happen when an advertiser tries to be funny or clever and creates an ad that is witty but never really says why you should do business with the company.
Another common way this happens is with ads that entertain or titillate but do not communicate. Beer ads and Super Bowl ads are well known for this.
Most successful organizations spend a lot of resources on marketing. To be successful, it’s critical to deliver the right message to the right people, in the right way, so they want to do business with us.
It’s fine if you want to entertain people. Just do it knowing you won’t drive much new business to your door. People become our customers when they believe we can help them accomplish what they want to accomplish. They won’t if all we do is entertain or confuse them.