Friday, March 25, 2005

We have a "relationship." Can we advertise now?


They are everywhere.

With socks. It's a useful relationship. High maintenance, though.

With gear shift knobs. It's a fussy relationship.

With parents. It's not as good as it could be.

With coworkers. Pretty good, actually.

With grocery stores. Only if they don't smell like rotting meat.

With spoons. I have a consistently good relationship with spoons and depend on them for consistent dining.

With my bank. They have managed to keep my money safe, so this is a good relationship.

In town here, a bank is spending major money touting their "Building relationships..."

This is called "Selling Steam."*

It's a technique used when there is nothing better to sell.

Here's how it works.

If you can't sell a car on performance, reliability or price, sell the idea that you're nice people.

If your food isn't unique, good or cheap, sell the idea that you support the community.

If your beer isn't tasty, rare or widely available, sell the idea that it's funny.

If your bank can't retrieve your money, operate ethically or be competitive on rates, talk about relationships.

Cynicism is founded on unmet expectations and broken promises. It takes a lot of work to keep integrity - God knows I've failed in my own attempt.

But it's far easier to hide mediocrity in something one can't quite get a hand on versus one that's tangible.

A long time ago, a friend of mine who owns a number of pizza restaurants was furious at the mother-office's seeming lack of passion in creating great food with excellent recipes.

Looking at the advertisements - carefully designed to 'cut through the clutter' with witty sayings and clever graphics, he fairly pleaded, "Can't we serve great food?!"

It's as simple as that. Sell the substance. And make sure the substance is substantive.

As consumers, we crave substance. We need substance. We need information. We need something to expect - something to believe in.

We want restaurants that make excellent, wholesome food in clean environments.

We want cars that are reliable and constructed well.

We want beer that is tasty.

We want banks that manage our finances with care.

When these things happen, then and only then, do we have a relationship worth talking about.

And 'talk about' we will - to our friends.