Decent (adj.) -
1. Respectable, worthy. (Away with marketing that is interruptive, self-absorbed & sometimes downright awful!)
2. Kind. (Here's to marketers who really do put the consumer first. Who try to create a relationship, to forge a mutually beneficial bond.)
C'mon fellow marketing people! Get tough. Get smart. Get nice. Get DECENT.
I just don't get Toys R Us. It's as if they're asleep at the wheel. The problem, in my mind, is clear. They haven't made their stores a destination for families. Sure, I go there for birthdays and holidays. But not much more than that. Do you want to know where my husband and I take our 3-year-old nearly every weekend? Barnes & Noble. He plays with the Thomas train set along with all the other kids whose parents have brought them there, and he can enjoy story time where they sing songs, have stories read to them, and usually get to meet a costumed character (last week it was Arthur).
And do you know what we usually do before we leave? Buy a book. Actually we usually buy several books, magazines and/or CDs -- some for me, some for my husband, some for Jack. It's fun for everybody. Jack plays with the other kids, I get my grande mocha, my husband lounges on one of the comfy couches and checks out the current triathlon magazines. Helloooooo!!?? Toys R Us, where are you???
Have they become so entrenched in simply selling toys that they're missing the forest for the trees? I am aware that they were testing the Geoffrey store concept. According to DSN Retailing Today,
"The new Geoffrey's Toys R Us locations feature a wide mix of toys and apparel and showcase interactive elements such as birthday parties, photo studios, hair salons and 'Studio G' activity centers.
'It's really about capturing the childhood experience and the rituals of growing up,' said Anderson. 'And it's about making the stores a destination for parents and a fun place for kids 365 days a year.'
The stores also feature a large playground with an in-store cafe nearby where parents can take a break while they watch their kids."
I haven't been to one of these concept stores, and it is very hard to find much information about them. But I believe that they were at least starting in the right direction. Now, I probably wouldn't have added all the ancillary stuff like haircuts. I don't know about you, but I'm taking my son just down the road to the barber, not dragging him down to the strip mall through all the traffic to get his hair cut at Toys R Us. What I like is the playground concept. Toys R Us should be a place for parents to take their kids for everyday fun. Is the playground surrounded by comfy chairs for my husband and I to sit in? Can the kids try out every toy in the place, just like we can read every book at Barnes & Noble without buying it first? Does the cafe offer drinks mom & dads would like, with seating right next to the play area? Is there Wi-Fi? Can we do stuff that I might be less likely to want to do at home - like get messy with finger paints? And can I do it whenever I want, not just when there is some scheduled activity? Does the area offer imaginative play, like a kitchen area with pots and pans and plastic food items, that can keep kids interested for longer periods? Are there separate places for older kids to test drive new computer games? Do they sell the kinds of things older kids need for their school projects, and provide an area to put those projects together? There are probably a million other questions I could ask, but these are the few that come to mind at this second.
On any given day, at any given time, I should be able to go into a Toys R Us store with my son and find something for us to do that is fun, relaxing, comfortable for both he and I, and self-directed. The people at Toys R Us, rather than giving in to Wal-Mart, should reinvent how they sell toys. (I still can't help but laugh when I think of Toys R Us announcing they might spin off the toy business -- talk about contradicting your brand!) They should realize that Wal-Mart will never be able to create the kind of experience within its stores that they can. They should make it their mission to move me from Barnes & Noble to their stores on Saturday mornings. They should become protagonists for families with children, rather than protagonists for toys. Rise Up, Toys R Us, Rise Up!!!
For those of you who have seen my speech about Experiential Marketing, I thought you'd enjoy this example, by way of Johnnie Moore, of marketing by self-absorption, or what I fondly refer to as "smoking your own fumes." I love how Johnnie imagines the meeting that must have taken place where Ford employees decided this idea would really sell cars and engage consumers: Johnnie Moore's Weblog: Department of Whatever Next
My friend Larry just sent me a story on Samsung's new Samsung Experience in New York. Since many of you follow brand experiences, I thought you might want to take a look. I know some of the people at Imagination, who also did Guinness Storehouse in Ireland as well as some work for Coke, and they usually do a good job. But I wonder if Samsung hasn't skipped a step or two. I'm not sure they really have a brand that is worthy yet of creating a full-blown experience. Yes, they've got great technology, but none of us knows who they are or could say a thing about them in the US. I think it's important to get your brand story straight before you go create a 3-D homage to it. Also, if you really want Americans to learn about your brand, why not spread the money around in smaller experiences throughout the country rather than one big experience at the Time Warner Building, which will reach fewer people. Next time I'm in New York, I'll go and check it out and let you know what I think.
This evening, I finally got to reading all the posts by David Wolfe at Ageless Marketing (http://agelessmarketing.typepad.com). It's a good thing I did. I came across the following about marketing prescriptions:
Most articles on marketing are prescriptive. They tell you what you should do and generally avoid theory and principles (although opinions are often presented as principles). Nearly every book on marketing does the same.
People generally are more quickly engaged by descriptions of “what” than by explanations of “why.” But if you know and understand the why’s, the what’s often become self-evident. This leads to action based on principles as compared with action based on prescriptions.
Working by principle opens an infinite array of possibilities for creative solutions to a problem. But it takes time and study to acquire the knowledge and skill to use them. Learning about a prescribed approach to solving a problem is much faster, but of course working by prescription precludes rich exploitation of creativity processes.
The utility of prescriptions is limited by the fact that they are case-specific. They guide you in solving a problem the same way similar problems were solved in the past. However, today’s problem may look like yesterday’s problem, but may have arisen in circumstances so different as to make it immune to yesterday’s solution.
Principles are context-sensitive. They reflect the real world reality that changing conditions can reduce previous prescriptions for problem solving to null value. The trouble with encouraging people to work by principle is that decision makers have far less control over what happens below them.
But these are times when prescriptive approaches to solving marketing problems are especially dangerous. They are dangerous because both the scale and speed of changing conditions demand instant, often intuitive responses that override what worked in the past that became memorialized as prescription for action.
David's post is a very interesting coincidence, because earlier today, before I read his words at Ageless Marketing, I wrote the following as a comment on John Moore's Brand Autopsy blog (http://www.brandautopsy.com):
I happen to like strategic discussions that don't give you a "10 Ways to do Such-and-Such" list. I think those lists are silly, because I think in most cases there isn't one right answer or one right plan to follow. There are different industries, different philosophies, different levels of expertise, different kinds of organizational entities and on and on, so how can there be one coherent, effective takeaway? When I do my speaking engagements, sometimes it bothers me when certain people in the audience just want step-by-step instructions on how to do experiential marketing. I don't think there is a step-by-step list. I think we businesspeople have become lazy and want things easily accomplished, and I think the more interesting companies out there have put in the time, effort and dedication to figure out what's right for their brand, their business and their customers.
I wish I could say that great minds think alike, but David Wolfe is a whole heap smarter than I am. I just hope that those of you who are trying to be Decent Marketers realize that there's no ONE answer. While it's easy to search for the case studies and the marketing books featuring "how-to" guides, I think it leads us to miss the important work of understanding the real world and real people. I don't know about you, but I don't have a doctorate in Marketing Health, so I can't write you a prescription. What I can do is get to know your brand, your company and your consumers as much as possible and work to develop great experiential marketing programs based on strategy and insight. As I've said before, experiential marketing is about creating fresh connections out there in the world where things happen. No prescription required.
I just read this post from smart blogger Johnnie Moore and I wanted Decent Marketers to read it. I think it's a very interesting way of talking about what we've lost as marketers. We've become attention-getters and entertainers rather than people who get to know our consumers and provide them with support through our products and services.
For those of you who don't know how to join the new International Experiential Marketing Association (if you haven't, what are you waiting for???!!!), here's what you do:
Go to www.smei.org (the umbrella organization for IXMA is Sales and Marketing Executives International) and become a member. It's $135 to join both. Benefits include invitations to experiential marketing-related conferences and networking events, free subscriptions to IXMA's monthly newsletter and SMEI's Marketing Times, and even an experiential marketing awards competition (the details of which are forming now).
If you have any direct or peripheral interest in experiential marketing, you should join this group not so much for the newsletters and events but for the fact that you'll find in IXMA a group of smart, curious marketing people who are interested in sharing ideas and working in concert to become more effective marketers.