Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's not just about how you sell stuff - it's also about how you treat people once you've sold them stuff

Great headline right?
I do this for a living.
How you treat people once you've sold them something is important, and this is a corollary of what Bill Bernbach said about truth and advertising: 'if you advertise a shit product well, all that happens is more people find out that it's a shit product.'
Boho lifestyle brand Pedlars want to be perceived as fun and friendly. So when I bought an over-priced lightbulb from them they sent me this rosette to wear. It says 'I'm a Pedlars Customer'. The hateful cunts.
A salient comparison might be a relationship with, say, a woman.

If you spend years taking her out for dinner, writing her letters and sending her presents, she may well be somewhat disappointed by the farting, belching, videogame playing, priapic and emotionally needy genuine article. And watching her growing disenchantment with a combination of powerlessness and detachment may turn out to be a character-defining experience, part metaphor, part psychodrama, which you will return to, particularly if you've got an astonishingly precise memory for painful experiences, for at least, say, 9 months after you break up. For instance.

Anyway, the bastards have a word for how you treat people once you've sold them something - they call it CRM, or Customer Relationship Management. If you say that out loud you sound like a complete BMW driver, so I prefer to call it 'how you treat people'.

How you treat people is often an overlooked area of advertising, because it falls into the unglamorous neighbourhood of DM. A lot of brands seem to think that the best way to treat their customers is to hassle them into buying more stuff, or giving them worthless things to prevent them from leaving. This is a major problem for  phone companies. They can't just relax and give you a good service, because their competitors are all offering you baubles to try to make you leave. Hence the endless sweaty phonecalls, mailshots and email updates about how wonderful the service they're giving you is.

On the other hand, a lot of the best, most exciting advertising of the last several years also falls into this category - things like Nike+ or iTunes. These things make you feel good about the decision you've already made. It's an easy win.

Very few agencies actually bother with this - they're only interested in picking people up, not with keeping them. They are all R Kelly and no Clare Rayner.
Of course, the best people to do this aren't the agency at all. I got this email from the British Boot Company when I asked my for brothel-creepers to be delivered to my home address.
One of the reasons I'd rather be a copywriter than a journalist is that it's more truthful. And I'm not just saying that.

Where as whatever we write is necessarily attached to a real experience, the consumer's experience of the product, what journalists write is also their product. That means they have to either choose stories on the basis of their inherent appeal, or retool the truth in order to render it appealing. Either technique distorts reality, and not in the same way that adverts distort reality - because we never get to experience the news - it's offered instead of what happened. Adverts are offered as well as the product, really for as long as you continue to own or use that particular product.

What would happen if we all wrote ads designed to flatter existing customers? Wouldn't they then do most of the advertising for us? And wouldn't they be so much better at it than we are?


Ben said...

'That means they have to either choose stories on the basis of their inherent appeal, or retool the truth in order to render it appealing. Either technique distorts reality'

Obviously, that's exactly what advertising does.

But news does have to live with its product.

Whether you choose to buy into the Sun's interpretation of something or not, there is a form of actual truth out there that has as much veracity as a product experience. Did Ed Milliband fuck up David Cameron in PM's question time? Did Wayne Rooney play well yesterday? Did the tube strike annoy Londoners?

And in our world, are turquoise Ray-Bans going to make you feel good? Is a Honda any better for the Poer of Dreams history behind it? Does a Sony TV really have colour like no other, even when you are looking at it?

It's all a bit blurry because there's no such thing as the truth, just versions of it (I know that's not true, but it applies more often than it should).

Gordon Comstock said...

Yeah, but you don't know the first thing about David Cameron or Wayne Rooney - if it weren't for the media you wouldn't even know they existed. Where as, you have a fairly good chance of finding out for yourself whether or not those purple Raybans really will make you happy.

I think you'd look great in purple Raybans btw.

Gordon Comstock said...

When I say "know", I mean really know.

ben said...

I think I would too.

Anonymous said...

I Like the ebay and marketing