Seth Godin writes a thought-provoking post about risk and marketing.
He questions whether we should try to convince people that our product or service is safe and risk-free. He reasons that safe is boring. Risky is noteworthy. Taking a risk and coming out a winner is worth telling your friends about.
And that can be the best marketing in the world.
When I read this, I thought of my car. It’s a Kia Optima. Kia isn’t quite as well known as Ford or Chevy. When I bought the car several years ago, it was even less well known. In fact, I knew nothing about the brand two weeks before I became a proud Kia owner. I bought it largely on the basis of a trusted recommendation. My father, who is knowledgeable about the auto industry knew the Kia brand was well built and reliable. They were also trying to grab market share in the USA so they were priced aggressively.
So I bought the Kia. Actually, we bought two Kias. They’ve been very reliable and well-performing cars. Our faith in the brand was well-placed.
What’s interesting was how several friends of mine viewed the brand. At least two of them asked about the reliability of my Kia. They even seemed a little surprised when I told them how great the car was. They sounded doubtful that such a new brand could be reliable and therefore worth the risk of actually buying one of their cars.
After those conversations I realized I felt some pride in my decision to try a new brand. I felt a little like a pioneer, a trail blazer. I did feel like I took a risk and I won.
Seth is right. When people try something that others (their peers) are not willing to, they stand out. It’s worth talking about. That kind of buzz can be golden for a product or service.
Something else can happen when a product or service is too safe. It can be perceived as less valuable. Or, less credible.
In the business world, especially the world of dragon-taming entrepreneurs, safe might be seen as a bad choice. Hard-charging CEOs and business owners know there is no reward without risk. They know that to beat the competition and make dramatic changes to their businesses will take risk. Every business owner, executive and investor knows about the risk-reward ratio.
In my business, it’s not at all unreasonable to expect our clients to double their revenue as a result of working with us. But we’re certainly not going to guarantee that. There are too many factors outside of our control to make such a claim.
Besides, it’s not real. The real world has risks. The real world is not one of guarantees and absolutes. It’s full of chance and risk. So, risky marketing is actually reality marketing. It’s honest. Maybe that’s why it’s better.
Think about your marketing. Is it too safe? So safe it’s boring? Are you losing credibility by trying to take all the risk out of what you sell? Take a good look at your marketing from this angle and see what you think. Maybe it’s time for a change.