Don’t forget the packaging

May 10, 2017

packagingWe seem to be in a marketing era that rewards straightforward, cut to the chase marketing and sales tactics.  The recession taught us that consumers were leery of any hyperbole or inflated promises so marketers let the pendulum swing to the other extreme – stripped down copy that was information based, educational in nature and absolutely void of spin or packaging.

I think we can look back at 2008 and see the birth of content marketing – the helpful era.  I’m a big fan of the genre and I believe serving our potential customers and current customers by going out of our way to be helpful is smart marketing.

But I do think the pendulum has swung a little too far.  I believe as human beings, we can’t help but appreciate a little bit of sizzle with our steak.  I’m happy to see the hyped marketing copy days in the rear view mirror but I do think we’ve lost something in our rush to pure practicality.  We’ve sacrificed some of the showmanship that allows us to build anticipation, celebrate our product/service’s ability to delight our customers and create buzz around our brand.

I’m not advocating that we go back to the “monster truck” style of marketing but I do think we need to remember that part of receiving a great gift is getting to unwrap a beautiful package.

When I use the word packaging, I’m not just limiting my meaning to the literal packaging of a tangible product.  Whether you operate a brick and mortar store, run a service business or sell something intangible – you can pick up your game when it comes to packaging.

How do you deliver the goods? The advertising industry is a great example of a profession that has allowed their packaging to be diminished over time. When I started in the business, computers were not the norm and everyone didn’t have access to one. When we wanted to present new ad concepts to a client – we delivered them in person.  They were mounted on a board and we’d cover our ideas with paper that was branded with the agency’s name and logo.

We’d “reveal” our ideas by lifting the flapped paper, almost like opening a curtain before the big show. It created a sense of drama and anticipation. Today, we just email PDFs – hardly an ounce of show in that.

Is the current delivery model more efficient? You bet.  But, does it help our clients truly appreciate the time and energy that went into creating those concepts?  No, in that way it sells our work short.

Do you beautify the ordinary? When is a box more than just a box? Tiffany’s blue box. Apple’s elegant packaging.  Can you take something that most companies just do out of necessity and make it part of the experience? Apple’s the master at this. Have you ever heard of “unboxing?” It’s a term that has been coined by Apple customers that is linked to unpacking a new Apple product.

For Apple fans – this is an event — an event worth capturing on video. Just search unboxing on YouTube and you’ll be amazed at both the volume of videos and the number of views.  One video of the Apple watch being unboxed has been viewed over 500,000 times.

What aspects of your product/service are necessities that could be re-engineered into something people would talk about? Savvy companies are doing with things as ordinary as a room key, a box, an invoice, delivery follow up, or customer service access.

If you want to be a brand worth talking about – make sure you haven’t stripped all the sizzle out of the equation. You don’t want to overdue it but adding some style and attention to detail elevates your brand and brings back some of the sexy.

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Remove the barriers

February 15, 2017

I recently spent some time at Walt Disney World and observed how brilliantly they remove barriers for their guests.

There’s a free Disney shuttle from the Orlando airport to any Disney hotel and back to the airport at the end of your trip. Once you’re on property, there are free shuttles to all the theme parks and other attractions (like their water parks, putt-putt golf area, Disney Springs – their dining and entertainment district, etc.) If you don’t feel like taking a shuttle, you have other options like monorails and boats that can get you around as well.

That free transportation probably saves the average family a couple hundred dollars in rental car fees for the average 4-5 day visit. In fact, most Disney hotel guests don’t bother with a car at all.

Given that Disney wants to fill those hotel rooms and keep their guests on property for as much of the vacation as possible – they just removed some significant barriers to make that happen.

You don’t need to know your way around. Just get on the right bus. It’s efficient and free. Now, if you want to visit Universal Studios or Sea World – you have to rent a car or take a cab. Most families, given the sheer volume of things you can do on Disney property, will just opt to stay put. More money in the Disney pocket.

But the transportation system is peanuts compared to their new magic bands. They are a master class in removing barriers. That wristband is your room key, your ability to charge food, merchandise, tickets, etc. and gives you the ability to skip the lines on popular rides. They have a corresponding website and app so you can customize your vacation months in advance or on the fly as you walk through one of their theme parks.

I was just there for a week and never had to pull out my wallet. Every member of your party has their own band and, if you want, their own charging privileges. Imagine the increase in food, beverage and merchandise spending since they implemented this program.

But don’t think barrier removal is just for the big boys. Every one of us has the same opportunity to identify what slows down or gets in the way of a potential buyer during their customer journey and blast it out of the way.

Here are some of the areas many businesses could make smoother/easier:

Contract/Project sign-offs: Are you still sending your clients paper contracts to review and sign? Then what? They either need to fax them back (assuming they still have a physical location and a fax machine) or they have to scan them so they can digitally get them back to you. Why not use one of the many e-signature services available today? With a few clicks, the authorization is signed and work can begin.

Access to you: People hate voice mail and with good reason. Why not forward your work number to your cell or better yet – get a number that intuitively knows which phone to ring, no matter where you are. At the very least, in your voice mail message — give them another way to reach you (email, mobile number) if it’s urgent.

Anticipate their concerns: The bigger your price tag, the more concerns your prospects are going to have. Answer their questions and worries before they ask. Create a FAQ section on your website. Include a PDF of it with your proposal. Go out of your way to answer all of their worries before they even express them.

Spend some time identifying the biggest barriers in your business and put together a plan to reduce or eliminate them all together. That could lead to an impressive 2017!

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