Sunday, December 03, 2006

Build It and They Will Come is a lie

"Build it and they will come" is an arrogant, self-impressed, passive "know nothing" attitude that is poison to any product or company. Yet you see it all the time: a clueless and sluggish relationship with marketing. And it's not all pro-consumer either. It's mostly just ignorance and immaturity, posing as rebellion for pseudo-marxist integrity or whatever.

"It sells itself, so they will come" is a lazy, uneducated, unprofessional mantra.

MLM (multi level marketing) scams often tell their distributor-victims: "This product is so good, it practically sells itself." A lie and a con to get you to buy into their pyramid scheme, so the few at the top will reap all the really big profits and all the underlings are left holding unwanted inventories.

There is no product that good, so "good" that it "sells itself" with no help along the way. If there were, we'd all be inventing such products and all the ad agencies and marketing firms would have closed years ago, instead of falling apart today due to ignorance of ecommerce and trying to turn blogs into vending machines and pushy billboards (ala comment spam/compensated word of mouth BS).

In fact, the better the product is, the more it needs marketing and sales help. Because mediocre products will look at your product, then go "Me too! This product does that too, only cheaper and faster!" or whatever. Sure, some products thrive on WOM (word of mouth). But I guarantee there are other distribution deals and marketing strategies behind even the best WOM products.

One thing that is sure to cripple or kill any product is that "Build It and They Will Come" occult bullshit pipe dream of those with zero understanding of capitalism, product information delivery systems, or business psychology.

Those who are poor persuaders will chortle about how their product "practically sells itself", which lets them skate past any responsibility for thinking hard about promotions. If sales decline, they'll blame it on external factors beyond their control.

"Built It and They Will Laugh" is more like it. If every nutty business or technology idea were simply "built" and left to fend for itself, nothing would be in anybody's hands. Customers would not possess any products, and companies would not have any money: a sobering thought indeed!

No product sells itself, with the exception of illegal drugs, which are in increased demand partly due to the glamor of being taboo and being paradoxically, simultaneously shamed and promoted by anti groups and social sanctions. Crystal meth, marihuana, crack, heroin, unprescribed Vicodin ES, none of these needs advertising, with all the publicity generated by rock and rap music bands, movies, sitcoms, and anti-drug campaigns, which all tend to glamorize the sickness of addiction.

Just about every voluntary product (i.e., aside from electricity, water, gas, etc.) that we purchase was PUSHED on us (yes, yelling with ALL CAPS, it's called Capslock Boosting). You made almost no spontaneous, autonomous choices in your clothing, furniture, music CDs, movie DVDs, automobile, computer, OS, email client, home page, IM service, internet connection, or anything else.

Every product has to fight like a lion in the marketplace. And once the top of mind and first out of wallet choice is achieved, you must fight like a galaxy of tornado lions to vanquish younger, leaner, stronger, but poorer uprising competitors and seemingly inconsequential flux events in your industry.

"Build It and They Will Shun" your product if it doesn't satisfy user requirements for usability, design, cost, endurance, style, brand aura, and whatever else a product in your category has to do to get and retain loyal customers.

Face it. There are way too many products. We can't consume them all, nor do we even really need the vast majority of them. So most of the products, especially the new ones, must wither and fade, or suddenly die. Few new companies survive, and many old established corporations are falling all over America, a new bankruptcy every month that shocks the investment world.

Maybe some "well run" companies and "market leaders" are not all they're cracked up to be? Maybe, by abusing the marketing channels, these doomed, interally rotting companies have propped up their brand image advertising, board reports, and press releases, to seem like "everything's fine"?

More and more it's about Loyal Longterm Customers, who generate a somewhat reliable, predictable revenue stream. Amateurs are the only ones bouncing from one fad customer hook to another, vainly trying to be "viral", "hip", "edgey", "the bomb", "the next big thing". But all that matters is old fashioned positioning and perseverence, which can make even shitty mediocre products the King of the Sales Hill.

It's extremely hard to think of commercials better than the recent genius of Levis jeans, where the dude gets out of bed with a hot honey, to tackle some other dude who tries to steal his pants, a subtle metaphor for a homosexual temptation suppressed in a manly manner by our hero.

Or the Burger King commercial about the Chilli Cheeseburger, dripping a drop on his pants, and using a french freedom fry to wipe it up. Or the barbecue sauce that the guy scoops off his girlfriend's face, dipping his meat in it.

Even silly marketing campaigns, done correctly, can get the point across. To become the Top of Mind Choice, it doesn't happen by just "building it and they will come". Such an arrogant, fairy tale fantasy is terribly unseemly and childish.

Even the kooky idea "this product sells itself" has trouble selling itself, because no product in history has ever maintained any semblance of a "sells itself" non-marketing strategy. A product selling itself means word of mouth, uncompensated, unincentivized spontaneous peer to peer recommendations, have generated sufficient sales for an item.

Can you name any product in which "sells itself" is true? So true, that there is literally no advertising, publicity, distributor campaigns, or public awareness enhancement connected with the product? No attempt made to explain or describe or promote the product?

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