I participated in a discussion today that focused on the prevalence of “spin” in
the messages put out by the media, as well the messages put out by business marketers.
My responses continued a theme that I began in my Branding Q & A with Homer Simpson:
“A pet peeve of mine is the presentation of “incomplete
generalizations” and “platitudes” as “facts” or “benefits.”
I suggested there are (at least) two ways to view marketing “spin:”
1. As false information that’s “imposed” on us (by the media, big businesses, the government, etc. )
2. As the consequence of our own failure to question what we’re told
(Like our friend Homer, most of us would rather “tell” our views than “ask” the questions that get others to clarify what they tell us.)
“Are we experiencing some sort of acceptance epidemic?” Homer asks me. Then he put me on the hot seat. “How often do YOU ask questions?”
“About 99.5% of the time,” I reply. “And in the .5% of the time that I assume I understand what the person I’m speaking with means, I’m often wrong and regret NOT asking them for clarification.”
“People usually mean what they say, but they rarely say what they mean.” ~ PG
Before my branding clients begin working with me, they think their platitudes and incomplete generalizations are “benefit statements.”
But they’re not…
PLATITUDE: “Company X is a leading change management firm”
(Unproven and ego based)
I asked Homer what this tells him. He said, “Um… It sounds good but, well, it tells me…
- That they do something with change – but I don’t know exactly what that is…
- They do something with leading – but I don’t know exactly what that is…
- They do something with management – but I don’t know exactly what that is… and I don’t CARE because I don’t LIKE management!”
I tell Homer that as my clients progress through MIBOSO’s benefit building process, (which is made up of – he guessed it – lots and lots of questions!) the true benefits they provide to their clients begin to emerge. When we build their brand benefit statements, the messages we create are always :
- Provable or measurable
- Backed by solid evidence
BENEFIT: “Company X leverages change to deliver measurable growth for companies in the financial service sector.”(Specific and evidence based)
“Ok Homer, what does this tell you?” I ask. “This one’s easier,” Homer says, visibly relaxing. “It tells me that… uh – what’s leverage?” I refer to Dictionary.com which defines leverage as:
“the use of a small initial investment, credit, or borrowed funds to gain a very high return in relation to one’s investment, to control a much larger investment, or to reduce one’s own liability for any loss.”
“Well…” Homer continues, “Now I know what leverage is, the benefit statement tells me that Company X..
- Leverages change to generate growth – in other words, they have a way of taking advantage of the change mechanics to create a much bigger result.
- Has a way of tracking and measuring the growth they drive for their clients.
- Specialize in working with financial services firms.
That’s a whole lot more than I learned from the Platitude!” Homer grins.
I think he feels a smart attack coming on, so I continue to question him…
“Why is a benefit so much more appealing than a platitude?”
Homer signals to me that I should answer this one, as he has a mouthful of pizza. So I do. “A benefit is much more appealing than a platitude because:
- It tells the prospective customer what results they can expect
- The results the benefit identifies are KNOWN to be desired by the prospect
- It gives prospects the specifics they need to ask deeper questions, such as:
– how do you measure your client’s results?
– what sorts of results have you delivered for companies like mine?
– how did you come to specialize in financial services firms?
– how do you leverage change?
And all of these questions provide wonderful opportunities for the benefit provider to prove their expertise by providing answers – and in turn, to ask deeper questions of the prospect in order to provide the most relevant answers.”
“Will this Eliminate Marketing Spin?” Homer asks. “No.” I continue, “What I’ve said won’t resolve the problem caused by our failure to question. “They” will continue to churn out “spin.”
But “they” can’t MAKE us accept it! So I suggest we reject it.
Let’s start a “questioning epidemic” and see if we can shift “what’s being put out there” (by businesses, the government and the media) into a more factual, provable, evidence-based zone.”
“What you said!” Homer agrees, and looks longingly at the last remaining piece of pizza. “It’s yours,” I smile, “you’ve earned it!”