“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is — infinite.” — William Blake
Many marketing and advertising professionals learn the lesson too late. Most campaign strategies are less than optimal. Sometimes the problem is blamed on outside help when the problem might be internal. Sometimes it is the outside help. And sometimes, even when sales are setting records, dominant brands have to start all over.
Why does it happen? It happens because perception plays a powerful role in the decision making process. And perception, despite its emphasis, is usually muddled.
The lesson, not to rely on perception, recently came up in a new client meeting. When one of the agencies we work with asked where the majority of the client's marketing dollars went, the client said "the Yellow Pages" without blinking. Discussion followed.
"The Yellow Pages."
"What are the Yellow Pages? Do people still use phone books?"
"Well, we get all of our non-referred business from the Yellow Pages. It works."
"Where else do you advertise?"
"Nowhere else. The Yellow Pages works so well, we invest almost all our marketing dollars there."
"Did you ever consider that most of your non-referred business comes from the Yellow Pages because that is the only place anybody can find you?"
Exactly. Even measurement doesn't mean much unless you're willing to clean the lenses every now and again. Truth be told, I only know of one Yellow Pages success story. There is a local restaurant that published its entire menu inside the archaic directory. It was the least expensive way to get inside every hotel room in Las Vegas, where they deliver. Pretty smart.
"The new limitations are the human ones of perception." — Milton Babbitt
I know a few social media pros who are probably laughing at the very idea of the Yellow Pages. They're like me. I toss the bulky book in favor of drawer space. And all those advertising dollars right along with it.
However, some social media pros nodding in delight might stop chuckling about now because they do the same thing (you know who you are). They declare advertising dead based on the case studies of companies that succeeded on social media alone. But did they really? I can only imagine a mix might have increased sales or helped them reach those sales records faster.
Similarly, reading all those posts that suggest Facebook is better than Twitter (or Twitter is better than Facebook) and Reddit is better than Digg (or Digg is better than Reddit) seem pretty stale to me. It has nothing to with the platforms as much as it has to do with the interests of the online community, the type of information being shared, the type of business establishing a presence, and the proficiency of the person managing the account. Right. They all work. And none of them work.
I recently advised one of the clients we work with direct to include their social media hub address on all of their in-establishment collateral. He blinked.
"I thought we wanted to move away from traditional advertising."
"No, we want to engage your customers," I said. "There they are, right in front of you. Now all we have to do is engage them when they aren't here too."
"Advertising, public relations, and social media is all about perception. But perception has nothing to do with planning it." — Richard Becker.
Did you ever read "Lamb" by Christopher Moore? One of my favorite passages from the book occurs when a Buddhist monk sets two small cups on the table and then proceeds to pour tea until they begin to overflow.
"Hey, doofus!" the protagonist yells. "You're spilling the f**king tea!"
The monk smiled and set the bowl on the table.
"How can I give you tea if your cup is already full?"
Marketing, advertising, public relations, social media, and communication are much like that. It doesn't matter how good you are. If your cup or your client's cup is already full of opinions, then there is nothing I could ever do for you. And no one else either.
Case in point. If you never read Lamb and the tea story still sounds familiar, you might have seen it in the movie 2012. Maybe they robbed Moore outright. Or maybe that's only my perception. For all I know, Moore could have robbed the story too.