“Under promise, over deliver” is advice in business that reflects an understanding that marketing alone cannot bring success. Yet despite this common knowledge, a brief tour through the Internet reveals mountains of poor marketing decisions. In this first part of a series on overselling, we look at how ignorance plays a part in poor marketing.
I study ads to the point where I will analyze the message behind the words and pictures on those posters hanging in the metro, or endure the few extra minutes of a commercial to fully appreciate the effort behind the pitch. I do this with no intention of buying a product (I have no interest in Volvo’s Dynamic Steering, but I know about it thanks to the most epic of splits), but rather with the goal of dissecting how the minds behind each marketing scheme managed to capture my attention.
Although most of the time I ignore them, I also study some ads to learn why they fail. Recently, there seems to be a rise in one specific type of marketing no-no: overselling. We can spend days writing about what’s causing this (and plenty of people have), but I believe it comes down to ignorance, technical failure, or greed.
Marketing relies on knowledge. You must know your customers just as well as you know your product. Often, there’s a mismatch in information. In the case of the video game industry, especially for MMORPGs, you see developers with enormous knowledge about their customer, the gamer (you’ll find many developers are gamers themselves, so they are in-sync with the community. This is something that you don’t see too often in other industries). They seem to know what gamers want: open-world experience, customization, rich storytelling, challenging combat, and ample opportunities for player-player interaction.
So they develop their product with the gamer’s needs in mind, but eventually, for whatever reason, are unable to fully deliver on their goals. Now, it’s no sin to fail. However, game developers work for businesses that rely on marketing and positive reviews to garner sales, and a disconnect between what’s been achieved compared with what was set as the goal creates an opportunity for the marketing team to make mistakes.
The marketing team know what the final product is supposed to look like, they know all about their target audience, and by God do they know how to sell. But ignorance about the true state of their product is the source of their problems. In their marketing campaigns they describe what the game is supposed to deliver, oversell aspects that seem to resonate well with their customers, and continue to fight the good fight as long as there’s money left in their budget. They are often successful, achieving record number sales, but at a very heavy cost: if their promises do not meet gamer (and reviewer) expectations they harm their brand(s) and the potential for future sales.
The lesson here: to combat ignorance you have to know your product and your customer, and to do that you have to continually ensure that your customers expectations are aligned with how the product is manifesting. Don’t be a victim to ignorance.
Visit again next week for part two.
Can you recall a frustrating example of poor marketing? Share your experience below!