Friday, October 06, 2006

Pete Blackshaw Suggests "Listening-Centered Marketing"

I applaud the concept of listening-centered marketing. But here's the fly in the ointment - which means listening-centered marketing is years away. Marketers are not good sales people - and every marketer will tell you they already are listening to the consumer - either through diary panels, voice-of-the-consumer web site feedback, etc.

So here's the 411 at major consumer product companies.

When you say the word "sales" to a marketer at a company such as Kraft young marketers get whiplash so quick they are to point their finger to "that department over there." Oh those young MBAs. So compartmentalized - one will never fly over the cuckoo's nest. Do you really think the Marketing Director, risen from these ranks, has ever lowered him or herself to press the flesh, and the palms of ten thousand of their own customers in trailer parks across America who worship NASCAR and Country Music while devouring Kraft Mac & Cheese and Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs swilling microwaved day-old Maxwell House the next morning? In your dreams...and only from behind that focus group mirror so sanitary are they.

They never get the exposure in sales required to realize that the best sales people are the best listeners. Every marketer should go door to door and do door to door sales for a year, throughout the Midwest, as a requisite to their post. I don't care what you sell. Quill Office Supplies, Merchant Services for First Horizon, Costco Memberships, whatever! They would emerge completely different people. And much better marketers.

I knew someone once who ran the TWA [Trans World Airlines] account at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in New York. I asked her what she thought of country music. She said she thought it was for a bunch of red neck hicks. I asked her what she thought of NASCAR. She thought, and said she thought NASCAR was for...people who liked country music.

Some days later TWA went out of business. When I caught up with this young hotshot in the post mortem of agency purges and layoffs I reminded her that because of her own personal prejudices she had denied her client access to the most popular form of music and the most popular spectator sport in America - that's why TWA went bankrupt - a complete inability to relate and connect with customers. Had she gone door to door, hearing George Strait emanate from countless screen doors, business history would be entirely different.

You think that's corny?

"Thank you for flying Southwest Airlines today. By the way, if there's anything you need today, y'all make sure you let us know ... right after we land."

Yes. That's actual flight attendant dialogue. Thank you Herb Kelleher for infusing the industry leader with listening-centered marketing. I'm listening!

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