Lessons from a Punk Marketer: Hold the B.S.

“No more bullshit,” demanded Richard Laermer, author of “Punk Marketing” and “2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade,” during his keynote address to the American Marketing Association. Along with AMA chapter members from across the continent, I sat in the ballroom admiring Laermer’s razor sharp wit, enthusiasm and brash candor. Living up to his advice, he started by telling us all what he was not going to do. He was not there to provide magic bullet insights that will solve all marketing challenges.

What he did do was bring us marketers down a notch by not pulling punches when railing against ineffective, traditional methods that sidestep the changing reality of the consumer experience. The three things I took away from his brief address:

1) Do deeper research into your target market. This means going beyond the demographic and typical psychographics. Find out what they are exposed to. What are they reading? Watching? Talking about? Making fun of? Rebelling against? Why are they not choosing you?

2) Be honest. Too many times, as marketers, we lie, fib, stretch the truth, over promise and tell our customers what we think they want to hear. This doesn’t work anymore because of the level of noise in the marketplace (i.e. everyone is saying they offer superior customer service) and the consumer’s rising level of skepticism when it comes to superfluous marketing claims. As marketers we need to dig down to find our true market position and authentically present that position in our messages. And when we do it the message needs to be simple…not dumbed-down…simple.

3) Take risks. Not calculated risks (because those really aren’t risks). Taking risks often leads you to non-traditional tactics that break through, or often avoid the clutter. Think of the Mac vs. PC ads. Was it risky to unabashedly go head to head with a major competitor in a mass advertising campaign? Sure. You know that when the idea came up there were people that fell back to old marketing axioms. “We can’t mention the competition in every ad! That would mean that every ad we run is also an ad for them!” Or, “Making fun of the competition will backfire on us!” Taking risks means that we begin to question these old “truths.”

My goal: Take steps to improve in all three of these areas.

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