When two objects vibrate at the same natural frequency, the intensity increases, in a phenomenon called ‘Resonance’. When a marketing campaign finds a collection of creative elements that work well together – text, images, sounds – it resonates with the target audience, triggering them to take the desired action. If you want your marketing to perform, you need to find the combination of factors that resonate with your target audience. Your adcopy, design and product should all work together symbiotically. If just one component is off, your campaign won’t work. For example, advertising a 10 blade razer, with the copy ‘the best a man can get’... and making it bright pink. The majority of the job in marketing is testing and learning which combination works. Too familiar and it’ll be ignored. Too novel and it’ll be confusing. To make this harder, consumer tastes are constantly changing and evolving. Ideas get saturated if they’re over-used, and may take years before they can be re-used in a new format.
Sometimes a surprising new combination is found to work: bright pink debit cards worked for the start-up Monzo Bank, in the normally buttoned-down finance industry. Or making your coffee from pods as popularized by Nespresso and George Clooney. However most of the time efforts to establish new ideas will fail, it’s important to decide intentionally where you’re going to innovate. As Seufert from MobileDevMemo points out of Kim Kardashian’s successful mobile game: “the intersection of a comic book art style with the Kim Kardashian brand with a role playing game mechanic rendered a marketable hit”, but if they made it a battle game, the result would have been far less marketable to her fans. In fact this game was a reskinning of an existing game that saw far less success without the Kardashian brand behind it. Some combinations are almost there, but missing one key ingredient, they don’t succeed.
Find the right combination of memes, and you win. Many people stumble upon a winning hand by accident. Some people have a good intuition for what people in their market want, and can go with their gut to give it to them. This is why it’s common startup advice to build a product for yourself: that way the feedback loop is tighter. However no matter how confident you are in your positioning, you can always increase your odds by testing and learning your way there. Ideally you start even before the product is built – with click testing, user interviews and focus groups – so you don’t accidentally go down an evolutionary dead end. Most new products fail, but tragically a lot of them were doomed from the start due, due to mistakes they could have avoided with testing.
Consumers usually don’t care as much about the category as you do, so you’ll be lucky to get them to remember one, maybe two things about your product. Therefore it pays to focus in on just one or two main attributes with which you differentiate. For everything else, you should copy the ‘memes’ of your competitors, so customers get what they expect. They need to be able to easily identify what category you’re in, and who they should compare you to: being too innovative will make you hard to place, and people don’t buy without certainty. In the absence of a strong opinion on a decision, default to doing what everyone else is doing. Successful brands are collections of memes – Memeplexes – that have evolved into symbiotic relationships, because they work well together. You might not yet know why the rest of the industry does it that way, but if it’s not core to your differentiation this isn’t the space you should innovate on: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
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