Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Difference Between Dog Food and Dogma

Part of successful marketing and sales is confidence in your product.  As any top sales person can tell you, it's tough to sell something that you don't believe in.  However, product confidence can easily cross over into dogma.  When that happens you end up with brand imagery that diverges from the reality experienced by their customers.  This creates a credibility gap that breeds customer cynicism.  We experience cognitive dissonance when we can't get a company selling CRM systems to call us back or see poor graphic layout on a web design company's site.  If they don't walk their own talk, how well will they serve us?

Rant:  For example, I use an iPhone which means AT&T is my carrier.  My blood pressure rises every time I see an AT&T ad touting that they have the nation's fastest 3G network and the best global coverage.  Really?  This is why they're phasing out their unlimited data plan?  This is why they want to sell me a 3G mini cell tower to fill in the gaps in their coverage that I'm already paying for?  And this is why every fifth call either won't connect or drops mid-call?  I can only conclude that someone at AT&T has been inhaling too much of their own marketing.

So what's the cure for marketing dogma?  It's called eating your own dog food.  The expression stems from an apocryphal story well known in marketing circles that goes like this:
A pet food company created a new dog food.  To ensure that the launch was a success, the company hired a top advertising agency.  After conducting sophisticated market analysis, the agency put their best creative team on it, and launched a brilliant advertising campaign promoting the new dog food.  Sales went nowhere.  The agency was fired, a new one brought in, and a new campaign launched.  Sales still languished.

Fed up with spending millions of dollars with nothing to show, the CEO called together his sales and marketing team.  They met for hours, arguing back and forth over the reasons the two campaigns had failed.  The TV spots were too subtle and hadn't featured the product enough.  The co-marketing campaign with the supermarkets wasn't synchronized tightly enough with the print advertising.  The demographic targeting should have aimed a higher on the socioeconomic scale.  On and on it went until everyone was talked out.

Finally, the exhausted CEO looked around at his burned out staff and asked if anyone else had any possible theories to explain the poor sales of the new dog food.  After a long silence, a junior employee timidly raised her hand.  "Yes?"  asked the CEO.

"Well, I know this isn't exactly about marketing, but I noticed that the food tastes terrible and the dogs don't like it,"  she answered.
To eat your own dog food has become parlance for using your own products.  By doing so, a company avoids the trap of brainwashing.  Through use, they find out what works well, what doesn't, they gain a greater ability to empathize with their customers, and insights for future development.  It also creates credibility as customers see the company walking their talk.  Think which has one of the most effective sales processes around enabled by their own CRM system.

As for AT&T, there is a serious need for less marketing dogma and more eating of dog food.  Instead of having telesales call me twice a week to sell me their U-Verse service, take those millions and  spend them on expanding their network capacity.  Or better yet, make every AT&T executive and all their family members rely exclusively on AT&T cell service.

In the meantime, I can only hope that Verizon will cut a deal with Apple.

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