The Holy Grail of Internet Marketing: The Truest Best

Internet Marketing

Portent Staff Jul 2 2008

When someone orders iced tea, don’t serve them maple syrup

It’s no secret that pouring it on too thick will make consumers suspicious and distrusting of your advertising. It’s no secret that advertisers continue to do it anyway. But there is a quiet uprising occurring, an anti-movement springing up in the form of sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Yahoo Answers. Such user-based sites aren’t new, but due to the bombardment of glitzy, insincere ads, flash banners and billboards, they are taking on a momentum of their own.

Consider their influence. I’d argue that TripAdvisor reviews supersede “star” ratings when booking a hotel. If enough people on Buzzsugar love a movie I’ll by a ticket, even without seeing a trailer. Why? Because I value the opinion of people who don’t have anything to gain by selling me on something more than I value of the opinion of people who do: even if the opinion is the same.

So does this mean that advertising is obsolete?

Is the average Joe the new mad man?

Or is there another solution?

The short answer is yes.

Read on to hear my solution, what I call “the truest best.”

coffeeOld school Internet marketing still has its place. But we need to shift our focus from slathering our ads in hyperbole and get back to something simple: what I call “the truest best.” The theory is simple: by stripping away all the puns and play-on words, and focusing completely on the end user’s experience, only then are we able to come up with the truest ad strategy for our client. And whatever’s truest (whatever benefit appeals most to the end user) is the best. No matter how unhip, no matter how anticlimactic, no matter how “inconsistent with market research.”

Examples of Truest Best:

  • Dove Deodorant: Stays on skin, not on clothes.
    It’s not sexy or flashy. But it matches the right benefit with the right person and so I will buy Dove first.
  • AT&T: More bars in more places.
    Even with all the iPhone hype, better reception beats access to YouTube videos for many people.
  • Apple: Everything is easier on a Mac.
    True, and very appealing.

In our over-saturated advertising marketing, consumers are both drowning and desperately dehydrated in their search for an effective product-buying strategy. To meet their needs, Internet marketers need to make discovering these types of truest best benefits our holy grail. We need to focus our energies on resources on finding out definitively what it is, and selling it accurately. There are several ways we can achieve this:

How to Get the “Truest” in Truest Best:

  1. Offer an incentive for customer feedback (clarify the feedback can be good or bad so it doesn’t come across as a bribe)
  2. Make it bite size: Rather than burying people in surveys and focus groups, include one question in your monthly e-newsletter, or post a rotating poll on your site.
  3. Video testimonials: I have often thought these were the wave of the future. If you can get a real, live reputable person (not a celebrity, but your target market) to do a video testimonial, it’s worth about a thousand flash banners.
  4. Pay customers to blog about your product. Make it a publicly known fact that you are paying them, and again, allow them to say whatever they want. This sounds risky, but it isn’t. The good stuff they say will be more convincing than any tagline, and the bad things will provide invaluable feedback for you.
  5. Fix stuff based on their feedback. It’s not enough to diligently harvest feedback. You have to act on it, publicly, and acknowledge that the changes are a result of customer feedback. This might sound counterintuitive. I imagine it’s like when the first person came up with the idea of publishing corrections in the newspaper. “You want us to acknowledge our mistakes…in print…and apologize for them?” It must have sounded insane. Today of course, newspapers as an institution have a strong reputation as just and unbiased, largely because of their corrections sections. And Internet marketing campaigns can benefit from the same sort of revolutionary accountability.

This is only half the equation. Now that you’ve found the truest factor, you need to help it become its best. You have to make it look good, sound good, make it easy to find and simple to interact with. Wait…that sounds like…you guessed it, Internet marketing. Phew, you still have a job after all. The bottom line, Internet marketing is still necessary, and so are end-users . By working together, you create advertising that connects the right people with the right benefit, so everyone wins.

86 the Internet Marketing Assembly Line

“That sounds wonderful!” you are thinking. So why doesn’t it happen? It doesn’t happen because Internet marketers have so many checkpoints on the way to producing a campaign, and most of those don’t ever involve interacting with an end user. Once an Internet marketer has gotten themselves past their boss, their client, and their client’s boss, they are ready to call it a day.

If you are a Creative Director or Account Manager, the best thing you can do is have your team interact directly with the end user. Take them on a field trip, schedule interviews, read their trade publications and eat their cereal (ok, you don’t have to eat their cereal.) But you see the point….Don’t ruin their souls in tiresome bureaucracy and back-and-forth with the client. That is your job, not theirs, and it will not inspire them to do their best. You help them create the Truest Best by interacting with the end user, and then you defend that campaign on their behalf.

Turning honest-to-god opinions into Internet marketing gold

The moral is obvious: People are over glitzy spokespersons and overt, over-the-top marketing material. They want to hear the off-the-cuff, honest-to-god opinions of people who have nothing to gain by telling it like it is about a roach motel or a pot roast that tastes like roadkill. And if you can find the benefit that turns those honest-to-god opinions into good opinions, you’ve got the blueprints for a brilliant Internet marketing campaign.

tags : advertisinginternet marketing

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1 Comments

  1. jason

    For early examples of “truest best” (at least as marketing phrases go), check out Kermit the Frog as an ad man in “Muppets Take Manhatten” – maybe you can learn everything in kindergarten.

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