You have seen, heard and read adverts since you were able to do so. They were not as many as they are today. The more they increase and get more intrusive, they more I ignore them, especially online. Maybe you do too. I have AdBlock specially installed for that. I even tried to get it for my Android but it did not work quite right. The fact that we want to block ads means that we don’t deem them necessary enough to warrant the disruption of our TV viewing or web browsing, especially when they are intrusive. The essence of digital marketing, or marketing for that matter, is the impact you make on any one person to the point that he/she spreads the word to another person/people. The power of word of mouth. And why would you, for instance, spread the word?
- Because the message spoke to you.
- Because you feel the message would speak to someone else.
- Because the message got to you at the exact point you needed/wanted it. It helped you. Period. (Although Seth Godin insists that people do not buy things because they need them but because they want them, which is kinda true.)
I read a lot of different material in the course of my days at my desk, bus seat or walks (although I try to desist from this last one because I may bump into a person who’s having a bad day who claims I should look where I am going, as if he shouldn’t do the same too. Digression detected. Moving on.) Most times, I do this when I am bored and need to jump-start my brain. One website I go to during these times is Latest.is (The Latest). Perfect URL, right? You will not forget it after I tell you what it does. It provides a list of 10 most shared links on Twitter on any day. After looking at the range of links that feature day in day out, I have learnt that people on the Internet love two things: stories and things (sometimes completely pointless things) that make them smile.
Which brings me to the next point; the power of marketing without even know it’s marketing. You are familiar with the Swahili proverb “Kizuri chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza” (A good thing sells itself, a bad thing must be advertised). You probably completed the title before you even clicked to this post. This methali rings true, a lot of times. If you think about it, there are a lot of products and services you use without ever having watched, listened to or read an ad about them.
Think Menengai Cream Bar Soap. Chill out if you have never heard of it because you probably don’t even use bar soaps anyway. Middle class liquid soaps nini nini. Ahem. Anyway, this bar soap continues to dominate the bar soap market share in Kenya. We use it at home. Mum learnt about it from a colleague some years back. From then on no other bar soap has made it to our house. Not Panga, not Jamaa, not Kuku and whatever else is out there. Mum bought it because a person she trusted told her about it and then it lived to her expectations with its lack of smell and great lather. She did not see an ad. Neither did any of the people who have continually bought it to the top of the market share chart. The closest thing I have seen to an ad for it of late is on Churchill Show, where I caught a glimpse of it as the sponsor. And I was not even sure it was the soap since it passed by so fast (plus Menengai Oil manufactures other things like cooking oil). I am sure you have cases of products not advertised every second but doing well too. Lessson? Marketing is not an end in itself. If you are not selling any value, you might as well not advertise. Marketing should complement value.
One link I came by on Latest.is a while back was to the blog of the Unsplash team. Don’t know what that is? Unsplash is a site you get great pictures with no strings attached. (Good luck finding one with a black person though. I know for a fact, that there is only one pic of a black person. This one here. Third world problems.)
Anywho, do you know how they came up with Unsplash? They were broke and searching for photos to put up on their website. Everything they found was either “either too crappy, too expensive, or both.” So they decided to take pics and upload them to Unsplash as an afterthought because they figured other people were having trouble finding photos too, and boom! Unsplash grew to be the best referral to their actual site today. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of marketing. Creating actual value for people. That, and stories. (I would not have found out about this if the Unsplash team had not shared that story.) It’s not how much money you put into Google and Facebook ads. Not how many likes and retweets you get. Those will come and die out. But if you create value, people will devour it and pass on the message.
I will go back to Seth Godin again, who you should know if you are in this marketing field. This guy has great tips on marketing and also this little book called “All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories”. The reason you are here right now is because you love stories. The reason I am here too is because I love stories too. Whether you love making up stories or listening to them, we are all here because of them.
So what happens when you put together value and a great story? Stuff like M-Pesa, Menengai Cream Bar Soap and Unsplash. What happens when you write for and about things people care about? You get writers who cause actual action on the ground. Like when a blogger writes about a book you should read and you actually go out and buy it. Small things, big impact.
Don’t lie about your product. Don’t focus too much on ads if you have nothing to deliver in the first place. It’s when you sell, without actually knowing it that you make the biggest impact. Cue in Niko na Safaricom, Naweza. Why do those people use that expensive ad space to sing songs instead of telling us to buy their stuff all the time? How many math problems will Orange work out for you before you move to the network? If you are like me, you won’t, unless someone you know tells you that they moved and they are having an amazing experience. Yes, they are giving you value but you are not convinced yet. In the end, you need to balance these things out, because what works for one might not necessarily work for you. Yes, advertise all you want but be authentic. Create value.