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Six Steps to Give a Boring Product Some Buzz

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Wouldn't it be nice if everyone got as excited about your company as you are? Unfortunately some businesses just aren't very sexy; in fact, some businesses are downright boring.

As a consequence, companies that sell commodity products and routine services tend to rely on presentations that load up on features, specifications, and statistics. Those may be relevant to anal-retentive types, but they're hardly compelling to the vast majority of your audience.

There is no reason why every company can't deliver an exciting image to its audience and generate the kind of buzz and excitement usually associated with companies like Apple, Victoria's Secret, Benetton, Absolut Vodka, and Sony.

It may seem impossible to produce a whole lot of steam for things like sandpaper, accounting services, and facial tissue, but thanks to the Web and its extraordinary ability to deliver multimedia content, even the most mundane offerings can get hearts racing and the blogosphere blogging.

Emotional Experiences Connect


Let's take facial tissue as an example: It is one of the most common, boring everyday products you can imagine. There is just not much you can do to sell this stuff other than telling people yours is softer and cheaper than the other guy's, but then the other guy is saying the same thing. As a result, consumers buy whatever is on sale.

But wait, the clever fellows at Kimberly-Clark instituted a brilliant website campaign for their facial tissue, called "Kleenex—let it out."

The campaign zeros in on the emotional experience associated with why people use facial tissue: to wipe away tears of joy or sadness or maybe to clean-up cute little runny noses—in each case the result of some moving event.

Tapping into this emotional association is key to the Kleenex campaign—and key to your new thinking on how to make your boring stuff, exciting.

Video—The Best Way to Tell a Story

The Kleenex campaign features prominent videos of articulate people telling their personal stories, all resulting in the need to use a facial tissue.

A pregnant woman discusses the emotional impact of having a child, and as her eyes begin to tear up the interviewer hands her a Kleenex. A second video features another well-spoken woman talking about her return to New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Again, as the woman becomes emotional and begins to cry, the interviewer hands her a tissue.

Nothing more needs to be said; this is very powerful storytelling that connects to the audience and delivers an image of the brand as caring and sensitive—the exact kind of impression the company wants to portray.

Even companies that aren't exactly dead-from-the-neck-up boring can benefit from this approach. The Home Depot ran a series of advertisements with a husband showing his wife a series of power tools that he wanted.

Rather than try to convince his wife, and by association all the wives in the audience, that he needs another expensive toy, the husband points to each tool and states, "this is your new shelving unit" and "this one is your new kitchen"—a far more dramatic and effective way to make the case for a new purchase.

You can deliver the same kind of powerful marketing messages for your own company by presenting Web-based videos that follow a few very simple guidelines.

Six Steps to Turn Boring Into Exciting

1. Use people to sell to people

There is no substitute for people. Human beings are capable of communicating with an enormous degree of nuance and subtlety, using voice, expression, body language, and gesture; no animation, avatar, or artificial substitute can take the place of a real person for communicating meaningful, memorable marketing messages.

With relatively easy-to-use production tools, anyone can create a video, but not necessarily one that delivers the message or image that your company wants to present. We have seen far too many poor quality efforts both on the Web and even on local television, where company presidents with bad haircuts and ill-fitting suits uttering nonsense-riddled scripts in zombie-like performances expose themselves to audiences that are expecting so much more.

Skilled performers communicate in very subtle ways to an audience, and only the well-practiced professional has the experience and capability to deliver the intended experience. The cost of saving money by doing it yourself or with amateurs can result in delivering an unintended message that may undermine the impression and image you are trying to create.

2. Perception is reality, so use scripted professionals

You will notice that I described the women in the facial tissue videos as articulate. Now I cannot tell you whether they were actors or whether their powerful presentations were scripted; but if I had to guess, I would say these very effective videos were about as carefully produced and constructed as the latest episode of "Survivor." That by no means makes them any less effective.

The point here is that perception is reality, and the professional filmmaker knows how to tell a story and communicate a message; and that is not the same thing as being able to turn on a video camera.

3. Tell a memorable story

When we talk about a company's telling its story, it is important to distinguish between the company's history and the emotional experiences generated by the product or service.

Company histories can make for interesting videos and can produce a sense of trust associated with being in business for a considerable length of time, but that sort of presentation does not speak to the underlying emotional and psychological factors that actually trigger a sale.

It is difficult but imperative that businesses understand that marketing is not about you, or even the product or service; it's about the audience.

Like the Kleenex videos and the Home Depot commercials, every product and service that is purchased from your company represents an experience, a story that relates to your audience's aspirations and needs. It is the audience's story that demonstrates credibility, clarifies purpose, penetrates memory, and makes the message compelling.

4. Create an emotional experience

The vast majority of decisions we make are colored by the emotional relevance associated with those decisions. No doubt rational factors figure into our decision-making process, but the pivotal factors that attract the use of one product over another are emotional.

If you're not connecting to your audience on an emotional level, then you are left with a commodity that can only be sold on price and features, and unless you're a monopoly there will always be some competitor willing to offer your customers more for less.

When presenting your product or service, it is important to tap into an emotional element that your audience can relate to as its key purchasing-decision factor. When people purchase boring accounting services and software, what they're really buying is an improved lifestyle for their families.

It really doesn't matter what you sell, if you look hard enough you can find the emotional benefit that should be the central element of your marketing message.

5. Create a believable relevant personality

Part of the process of connecting with your audience is creating an appropriate personality for your company. Many corporations today believe in the cult of management personality, but this is a dangerous game. Your company needs a personality of its own, one that is distinctive and that will stand alone and not be dependent on senior management's ego and self-promotion.

Web-video marketing campaigns provide a vehicle that allows companies to create appropriate personalities that engage, inform, and entertain your audience in ways that establish your identity and create the basis for a prosperous business relationship.

Clever marketing can create a corporate personality, but it is imperative that you follow through and deliver that personality in all aspects of your relationship with your audience. Producing a campaign that promises one thing—and a website, staff, and product that deliver another—is one of the easiest ways to alienate customers.

6. Deliver a critical hot-button moment

Web-video presentations need to focus on single issues that are driven home by the addition of a hot-button moment or punch line. Remember, you are telling your audience a story that needs a beginning, middle, and an end. That story should build to a climax and deliver the point in a single memorable moment.

* * *

The era of point form slide presentations is dead, along with the laundry-list-of-benefits approach.

Creativity, personality, and the ability to communication and develop an emotional connection to your audience through the use of Web-video campaigns has the potential to turn even the most lackluster company into a vibrant and exciting marketing business.


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Jerry Bader is senior partner in MRPwebmedia (www.mrpwebmedia.com), a website-design firm that specializes in Web audio and video. Contact him via info@mrpwebmedia.com or (905) 764-1246.

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