A Publication of WTVP

Marketing as we knew it is dead. Long live “unmarketing!”

In his book UnMarketing, author Scott Stratten makes the point that if he had given you a tool 10 years ago that allowed you to listen and respond to casual conversations of your potential, current and past customers, you would have paid a lot of money for it. Well, that tool is here and it’s free! It’s called social media.

Note that this is not really an article about social media. It’s an article about how social media is changing the marketing conversation, and what you need to do about it.

It’s All About the Conversation
The problem is that social media allows your customers to hear what people really think about your business and its products and services. So, who are they going to believe? What a company says about themselves in their ads? Or what the world says about that company online…on Facebook, Amazon or any of the sites where people review professionals? And which is more interesting? The conversations are more interesting…

It is always a lot more interesting to read an honest opinion than to hear the “blah blah blah” when a company puffs up its chest and talks about itself.

Social Media Is Killing Boring Ads
In the past, marketing was about telling your customers about your company. Well, that is dead. I’m not going to dwell on the logistics of the problem, but we all know what it is and it is us. We’ve spent a generation or more crafting our public business personas, honing our corporate descriptions and writing ads by committee. The end result is ads that have no authenticity.

Add to that too much of everything, and it all sounds the same. We are faced with an overwhelming number of business choices, and none of them stand out. Everyone’s ad is boring. Everyone’s mission statement sounds the same: nice, safe, homogenized.

Being safe is risky, because safe choices get lost in the crowd.

End of an Era, Start of a New
Not only does the business owner need to navigate social media (deciding which one to use and how), he or she still needs to utilize traditional marketing (no, not everyone is on social media) and to realize that this is the end of:

…and the start of:

Attracting Attention
Be real. Be different. Be dramatic. Ask yourself:

The best place to start getting people to listen to your message is to make your business genuinely different and distinctly better.

Five Conversation Starters
Find the edge. Don’t stay in the middle of your industry. The edge is where the most passionate people are—the ones who really care about your product. They are the people who will pay more if you design it just for them.

Cheat. Make your product, service or technique so useful, interesting, outrageous or noteworthy that your competitors will say, “They’re cheating!” That is, do something that everyone says is impossible. (Jet Blue is “cheating” by using a low-cost structure, underused airports and young, non-union staff.)

Sell something at $1. Ten years ago, a stock photo cost thousands of dollars. Now you can buy it for a buck. But is it better to sell a few of something at hundreds of dollars, or to sell millions at $1? The Internet allows us to reach millions of people, most of whom have $1 to spend… apps are great examples of this. (After Alec Baldwin was kicked off a plane for playing Words with Friends, the 99¢ game sold millions.)

Surprise ‘em. Be authentic. Tell the truth. Use humor. Find the people who care and talk directly to them. Take some part of your product and call it like it is. Or take it to the extreme: rename it. (Would Google be as successful if its name was boring? You tell me.)

Get rid of the stuff they hate. Ask: “What are the things everyone really hates about this type of business? Or, as B. Joseph Pine, author of The Experience Economy, calls them, “customer sacrifices…the gap between what individual customers settle for…and what each one wants exactly.” Make a change that provides the greatest value for customers. (What if you could take away my risk? Guarantee I’d be satisfied? Save my time, and I don’t mean just a shorter line!)

Now that you are doing something genuinely different, get ready to market it! You have something exciting to talk about, so pick at least two media, plus one social media. Get out there daily, be consistent and respond to conversations. Marketing, as we knew it in the past, is dead. Long live “unmarketing!iBi

Chris Shay, of dba/design and marketing, spends her days helping businesses be “unforgettable.” Learn more at