When we read it the first time we were taken aback, and maybe betrayed our own innocence when we asked “Is the clash between Islam and the West the sort of thing you should apply a marketing solution to?” The report plows ahead confidently. The Muslim world, it tells us, has to be understood as an audience to win in a war of ideas. The paper, written by some team of consultants well-versed in the principles of marketing communication, recommends going through all the classic steps to win the propaganda battle—research, segmentation of the Muslim “market,” trying out various positioning alternatives, developing a communication channel strategy, shaping policies to reinforce brand promises, and so on.
In the process of digging into real “customer needs” the report pulls no punches: “Today we reflexively compare Muslim ‘masses’ to those oppressed under Soviet rule. This is a strategic mistake. There is no yearning-to-be-liberated-by-the-U.S. groundswell among Muslim societies — except to be liberated perhaps from what they see as apostate tyrannies that the
At any rate, the report was clearly ignored by its target audience. Assuming you even want to think about this struggle in marketing terms, it finds the administration has merely paid lip service to communication strategy at home, and as a result has needlessly damaged the “American brand” abroad.
Anyway, it’s a long paper—about 80 or 90 pages. But disturbing and thought-provoking if you give yourself an evening to chew on it.
Marketing Beta versions is a creative, if somewhat risky, tactic in hyper-competitive, hyper-accelerated, impatient online markets where the notion that things are kind of dynamic and changeable anyway is already pretty well understood. Stephen Bryant and Michael Arrington can tell you and point you in the direction of most of what you need to know about the advantages and risks of Beta. But what about the branding piece?
Let’s assume for a moment something that Bryant raises doubts about: that Beta is a strategy with a customer in mind. Some companies—not necessarily Google—might be asking, “Can we get to market earlier with something that isn’t quite finished, and ease customers into the desired experience over time?” This does have the advantage of inviting customer input into the importance or execution of certain features on the road to finalizing the product—and God knows, that process is too frequently a crapshoot for too many marketers.
But this approach might also eventually lower, or at least start to change, the market’s overall expectation of product quality. You no longer have to wait until the model walks out onto the runway in all her stunning beauty. Now you can hang with her back in the dressing room and watch her getting her make-up done. And depending on the product category and the sophistication of the audience, that might be cool.
It’s less polished, less formal, more populist. And those aren’t necessarily bad things. But it also carries the risk of watering down the “promise of performance” that underpins a brand. The emerging philosophy seems to be, “Here, try this out. Maybe you’ll dig it. Tell us what you think. But we’re not making any promises about what it is ultimately going to be—or when.”
And in an even wider context, that seems to fit quite well with our times. All promises are tentative, and when they’re broken, don’t be too disappointed.
With his white lab coat and loose sheaf of notes, Page may have felt like a breath of fresh air in a
Whether it's arrogance or naiveté, Google’s approach to just about everything seems to be “build it and they will come.” You do that once or twice successfully, then start thinking you can do it whenever you want. But not even Google can get away with just half-building something cool like a video store, announcing it, and then basically punking its audience.
You have to wonder--and certainly Googlers will have the data--on how many potential customers hunted around for the Google Video Store and didn't find it. (Google Video is buried under "Labs" half-way down the "More" page.) Or, if they did manage to find it, what their impressions were when they discovered homegrown clips like "Tom Cruise Kills Oprah" and "Fire Fart" instead of CSI, Survivor, NBA, Sony music videos, and the other premium content touted in the press release. CNET's Google Blog drives home the point nicely. Even the Google Video "about page" is amazingly bereft of content; just click on any of TV channels under "Search for programs" and most likely you'll come up with zilch.
With the press primed, Google Video Store got plenty of awareness. But the company threw away the opportunity to create big time desire, (not to mention traffic and revenue), by drawing attention to a half-baked product. Not a smart thing to do, even—or especially—if you’re flush with mega brand strength. Too much is at stake. Google should take off its “do no evil” glasses for a little while and took a look at the Steve Jobs marketing playbook on how to deliver desire.