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Market to Me, Not Yourself

There is a confusion that seems to be pervasive among senior executives.  Far too many executives seem to be delivering self-congratulatory marketing messages to bolster their own egos – but not share any advantages or messages that impact the existing or potential customer.  The latest example of this was shared in a post written by Michael Sansolo in Tuesday, August 23rd edition of   Mr. Sansolo writes of a recent trip he took on United Airlines that began with a video presentation of the President of the newly merged United Airlines and Continental Airlines; Jeff Smisek.

Why Do I Care?

The presentation included commentary of how the merger of the two behemoths was going and of all the progress that was being made.  So far, so good.  However, Mr. Sansolo correctly takes umbrage with the content of the message.  Rather than sharing how the merger will impact the customer/traveler/passenger; the message is all about the internal issues that are being addressed.

The message caused Mr. Sansolo to question why he was even listening to the message and why it was being shown to passengers during the boarding process and take-off.  Here is what the core message heard was:

“we are making progress painting our planes with the revised logo.”


What would have been more helpful and meaningful for the traveler looking to cram their luggage into the overhead compartment would have been:

  • How the merger impacts the traveler’s ability to fly new routes or avoid changing planes to make connections that are now direct flights
  • Explain how the combined company has created synergies or new efficiencies that reduce expenses for the traveler looking to manage travel budgets
  • Share how the experience of traveling with the company will now improve over what each company was previously able to provide
  • Offer something new or of value to the traveler as a result of the bringing together of the two firms.

Sadly, that was not at all the message.  Instead the focus is on the paint job.  Putting a new logo and a fresh coat of paint on a broken piece of equipment does little to change the service or product being offered.  Whitewashing the fence does not make it any sturdier – just makes it whitewashed.  Can the plane land any better as a result of the new logo?  Can the flight attendants provide improved service?  Will the flight time be reduced?  Are costs reduced (in fact, one may lament that a portion of the ticket price being paid is for the new logo and paint – and few passengers will consider that money well spent)?

Lessons in it

This is something that every senior executive should consider and think about as they apply it to their own businesses.  What is the customer’s take on the message?  How will the marketing effort be viewed by the eventual purchaser of the product or service?  If the message is simply self-congratulatory and does not include how  the customer benefits, it may be time to reconsider the message.  Every customer, at some level is thinking (and some will say) – What is in it for me (WIIFM)?

Are your marketing messages designed to applaud your own actions or are you sharing something that truly matters to the customer?  If the answer is unclear or worse yet, is not focused on the customer’s needs or benefits; then you are only putting a coat of paint on a rusty piece of equipment that still is as creaky, non-differentiated and mismatched to customer needs as ever.

David Zahn