Click, It’s Showtime!

[June 8, 2010]

Let’s try to be realistic.

Your trade association, your cause, your advice column, your e-merchandizing gambit, your news organization, your fashion outlet, vehicle line or soft drink empire—whatever dingus you want to hawk online has a lot of competition.

The competition I mean doesn’t come from ”the other guy.” That’s small potatoes in an oil-drenched, jobless recovery in which property values are down, the euro is drowning in debt and the cost of doing business in Chinais on the way up. Let me be the first to remind you: In a climate like this, more people are shopping price than brand.

Yeah, I know about Apple taking the lead from Microsoft, killing the Kindle and “restructuring the mobile industry.” But that’s only because Apple has tapped into your real competition:

The unbelievably dense array of entertainment, pseudo news, “user generated content” and Reality, that now weave through your audience’s consciousness all the live long day. Even if the market rebounds that’s one trend very unlikely to change.

“Got a nanobyte’s bandwidth” asks the desperate digital marketer, “to hear my asset-rich multimedia sales pitch, enabling you to share a story, a poem or a song?”

An audience distracted by an interrupted diversion…
“Dude, I’m busy,” says the earbud/human hybrid your customer mutated into sometime after 2001. “Tom Cruise is dancing with Jennifer Lopez, pelicans are covered with oil—and pirated episodes of TV shows tempt me to break my copyright vows.”

“Not that you didn’t pop right up in Google with a snappy lead-in and the reassuring words ‘Official Site.’ But just then I got an IM with a tinyURL pointing to Scarlett Johansson kissing Sandra Bullock at the MTV awards. After that, the phone started vibrating and I kind of lost track of time.”

Given that level of distraction, I question the wisdom of building and maintaining massive web sites. Does that monumental wall of bland content blocks really command attention?

Now, if marketing ran on logic, the people who googled you would be interested enough to click through and shoot the breeze on your back porch. Logic? If your customers’ browser histories could speak, they’d tell you time online is actually driven by entertainment, gossip, titillation and a whiff of scandal.

Where does that leave brands with a practical product or a serious issue to promote? Well, I’m not saying people researching Parkinson’s disease, for example, want to be greeted by Stewie and Brian. But maybe you need to think in a more dimensionalized way about how your audience’s internal life affects their ability to absorb your message.

…and when you raise the curtain?
By the way, do you have a message, a clear value statement that sums up why anyone should hang out with you online? Trust me, you need to be more specific than “Knowledge is Power and Hope is Everything.” No reflection on your sincerity or unstinting dedication, but:

Any thought your customer can get just as easily
from a Chinese-American fortune cookie doesn’t
qualify as a usable marketing message.

Not that “Made to make your life better” works much harder for Nissan. Think about this for a moment. You’re actually asking customers to take their mind off Scarlett Johansson, just to revel in your clumsy merger of “Ford Explorer: Built for the way you live” and “Wal-Mart: Save Money. Live Better?”

Get it, “made” and “make?” Are you down with the syntactic thrill of a truncated parallel construction resulting in a near pun?

Let’s try to be realistic.
No matter how “optimized” your site may be, once you hook your customers up with Google, all you’ve done is plant them in their seats. Selling happens only after the curtain goes up—and the opening number had better be a riot. Otherwise…what’s that?…iPhone 4? See ya…


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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