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Marketing Edge

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Truth in marketing can be a new marketers opportunity



Today's Marketing Edge features an interview with Nomi Prins, author of "Jacked: How Conservatives Are Picking Your Pocket." We highlight how some marketers are being intellectually dishonest in marketing their services and products, and we discuss the opportunities for the honest folks to capitalize on such slight of hand. You know what we mean: You've seen the Blockbuster ad campaigns for NO LATE FEES, only then to be hit with a "restocking fee."

Banks peddle their credit cards like they're giving away money, but at every turn there are fees for not using ATMs, using the wrong ATM, making late payments, and the list goes on. Forrester Research did a report this summer on fees and their impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. The fee for this little report is $249.

Nomi traveled the country and interviewed hundreds of Americans to learn how they feel about their money. She describes how average working men and women believe the economy is affecting their lives and whether they believe they are in control of their financial destinies.

Nomi makes the connection between a sense of helplessness among a growing portion of Americans and declining savings rates, increase debt, and real wage income declines during the past five years.

I made sure to steer clear of the partisan politics because I believe that only muddies the water. We stay focused and take aim at the marketing practices, primarily in the finance industry. In addition, the discussion highlights how social media have increased consumers' ability speak out, which should be reason enough for marketers to pay attention to these practices.

The half-truth is an unethical marketers weapon and the asterisk his shield. When customer-service reps respond with the line "Well, that fee is covered in your terms and conditions," we’ve reached a point of intellectual dishonesty in marketing. But I believe social media are the sun on the horizon that can expose these tricks. (Speaking of which, stay tuned for an interview with the editor of the blog at Consumerist.com on this very topic.)

Consumers should – and will – speak out when they feel they have been wronged, or as Nomi puts it, jacked (great title, by the way). Smart marketers will do the profession a service by appreciating consumers' ability to spread information like wildfire around the globe to like-minded groups and by incorporating it into their marketing tactics.

By that I mean that corporate marketers should be candid in explaining product benefits, open about the products shortcomings, enthusiastic about a product's improvements, and responsive in a dialogue among their customers.

If you believe that peers and family are the most trusted source of information about products, then marketers should do all they can to facilitate those conversations. We are slipping from age of "marketing as a monologue" into a multiple-conversation age in which people all over the world can comment on your company’s stuff. I call it the "multi-sational age" – multiple conversations in multiple formats. (If I were a really good marketer, I'd try to trademark that. But I'm under no illusion that anyone would intuitively understand what "multi-sational" means – experiencing and sharing information at all levels in a variety of formats – so I'll just say it here. If you like it, spread the word.)

If you really think financial-institution marketers are doing a good job, consider recent Nobel Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank. He has figured out how a bank can be profitable by loaning money to the poor of Bangladesh. Among his principles is the idea of viewing credit as a human right. His aim is to help poor entrepreneurs and families help themselves to overcome poverty. His "microcredit" concept of providing small loans is targeted to the poor, particularly poor women, and get this: The most distinctive feature of Grameen's microcredit is that it is not based on any collateral or legally enforceable contracts. It is based on "trust," not on a legal system or procedures.

Based on trust – ain't that rich.

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