As I stood in the busiest aisle in the Walmart Supercenter, staring at a variety of razors, deodorant and toothpaste, I ducked out of the way of yet one more woman trying to decide which of each was The One. They were studying the million varieties of hygiene products as thoroughly as they would a potential life partner.
“I have no idea,” the 60-ish woman says to me, making a gesture at the eight shelves of toothpaste. “I never knew brushing your teeth could be so complicated. Used to be you could shop for body care in less than 10 minutes. Now there’s so many choices you have to pack a lunch.”
I laughed, nodded in agreement and we passed amiably, but it got me to thinking. I’m a marketer, after all, and pretty much anything can be turned into a lesson. For me, I have to wonder – have we lost the marketing “message”?
What Is Marketing?
Investopedia says: Marketing refers to activities undertaken by a company to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. Marketing includes advertising, selling, and delivering products to consumers or other businesses.
That’s an adequate description, I suppose, but I like the way The Balance Small Business puts it better.
Marketing is the process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over those of your competitors.
Yes. That. That description really puts it out there. When you’re marketing, whether to a business or a consumer, you are teaching your target audience why your product is better than the competition. I’ll go even one more step.
Marketing is the ART of creating a need.
“Need” is the Lost Marketing Message
Once marketing is explained, many will go into things like the 4 P’s of Marketing: Product, Price, Promotion and Place. We’ve done it ourselves for that matter. Instead, for this post, I want to focus almost entirely on the marketing message.
At its most basic, fundamental roots, marketing is all about creating need. As mentioned above, it’s the art of the same. The most basic message for all services, information and products is the same: you need this.
“Back in yesteryear,” you could see absolute masters at this art as they knocked on the doors of happy homemakers and convinced them that-while they may be happy (and why not, you have a lovely home!)-what they really need for absolute fulfillment is the complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Now, not so much. For example, the generic “American Dream” used to include a house with a white picket fence. Now we have a world full of working people, which leads to a world full of not-at-home people. With everybody at work, it’s hard to convince them they need a house. Why invest in a house when they’re only going to be sleeping in it? Consequently, we could have a booming economy and still have a crashing housing market. The level of perceived need doesn’t match the level of real supply.
One of the ways this really shows up is in instances such as the Walmart Supercenter, with the umpteen million toothpastes, deodorants and razors. While the idea is to try and capture as many individuals as possible by providing as many options as possible, is that really the marketing message we want to impart?
Tired of burning up in the summer? We give you so many choices you’re frozen with indecision.
Or how about:
NEW and IMPROVED! In 562 ways.
Several studies have come out that talk about how too many choices can hurt conversions. You can read about them yourself, but basically, a large number of choices can lead to discomfort, indecision and, overall a lost sale. There are people out there who, literally, are so overwhelmed they’d rather choose not to buy the product than potentially buy the wrong one.
Something has gone really, really wrong.
Changing the Message Back
So, what should the marketing message be? What’s your marketing message? Is it about how many choices you give them, or how you’re the best choice to give them?
Although some say a company that only focuses on a single product will die, the question should be about the buyer. What do they need? 15 flavors? Or one that’s to-die-for?
Don’t just be a number. Be number one.