The most important thing to remember about marketing communication is that it has nothing to do with what you or your company wants to say but everything to do with what the consumer wants to hear. But, it's not that simple.
The biggest mistake a lot of companies make in their advertising and PR is to base their messages on what the board, the big boss or the big head in the marketing department wants to say about the product or service.
Which is the main reason why 20 per cent of all advertising not only fails but actually damages the brand it is supposed to be promoting. PR has an ever worse track record.
But, trying to determine what the consumer wants to hear is not easy because the answers are far from obvious. Because quite often the difficulty is that the consumer will only know what they want to hear when they hear it and so market research often won't help.
So, determining what consumers want to hear is rather like a detective uncovering clues, some obvious and some obscure.
Of course its pretty obvious once you have the answer. Like the MAGIC BULLET company in the USA. No-one was buying their blender until they decided to stop calling it a blender and instead advertised Magic Bullet as a "device that promises to change your life in 10 seconds - it chops, blends, dices, purees, makes dips, drinks, diners and smoothies."
From then on it sold like hotcakes.
A great local advertising example is Axe Deodorant for men. Nothing in their marketing communications talks about keeping body odour at bay, or armpits smelling like roses but concentrates on what the consumer wanted to hear - use Axe deodorant and it will get you girls.
A good PR example of this principle happened in a Johannesburg Church a few years ago. Quite simply the feeding scheme the parish supported needed R9000 a month to be effective and then monthly collection yielded only R6000. A marketer was called in and immediately applied the "it's not want you want to say but what congregation want to hear" principle.
The committee suggested that what parishioners wanted to hear was that their money was being well spent. The marketer disagreed and said that instead of the priest asking for donations from the pulpit once a month that the put a figure on that donation. He argued that when people were asked to donate money quite often they didn't because they were unsure of how much to give and didn't want to be embarrassed by giving too little or feel hard done by in giving too much.
They reluctantly agreed that perhaps what the congregation wanted to hear was how much and the following week the priest specifically asked for R20 per family and the total collected came to R13000.
A classic commercial example of this principle lay in the was the way in which Richard Branson launched Virgin Mobile and the Virgin Credit card in SA recently.
What really got South Africa's attention was not necessarily Branson's dramatic entrances at the launch functions, bashing through walls atop 4x4's and so forth, but rather his comments on how he believed consumers were being overcharged by our cell phone companies and banks.
So, finding out what your consumer wants to hear will need a lot of marketing detective work. A lot of my clients ask for my help here, not because I am cleverer than they are but simply because I am not as closely involved as they are and can look at things peprhaps a little more objectively.
What does your target market want to hear from you?
About Chris Moerdyk
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk
is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on moc.liamg@ckydreom
and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk