Act Like a Marketer, Think Like a Customer 9


A true marketer knows there is no end to the marketing process. We are always researching, or rather, grasping at the latest trends, evolving behaviors, and technologies to better understand the dynamic market and product relationship. That’s why the majority of us pack our overnight bags and head off to the largest conventions in the nation – Ad Age Digital Conference, Inbound, Gartner Digital Marketing Convention, Internet Summit, and many, many more. With a hunger to learn, and a living based on keeping up with industry trends, we hope to gain insights that will hopefully help us keep our client’s business growing. However, once we arrive to these conferences, it’s easy to get stressed out by the ‘industry leader’ biased details – “You must add semantic keywords and fresh content to your page and blog posts every day!” or “Always use a structure approach when testing and scaling the best performing ad-imagery, headline, and targeting.” or “IF YOU DON’T HAVE A MARKETING STACK STRATEGY YOUR BUSINESS WILL FAIL”.

Tidbits like these for two days straight could make any marketer (or human) go berserk. Yes, content is important. Yes, SEO is important. Yes, a personalized online customer experience is important. You know what else is more important than all of it? Your customer – how your customer talks, how they engage, what websites/stores they visit, and basic demographics. I’ve realized that you cannot even begin to fathom all of the incredible marketing technologies and services out there until you start from the beginning – mastering how your customer’s behave and communicate.

Whether you work for an agency or in-house, these tips will help you identify the bullshit clutter within your product descriptions and seemingly ‘catchy’ scripts when it comes to creating an all-around solid marketing campaign to hook in your target audience.

Tip 1: Assume No One Cares

Don’t use the same language and tone that you’d use in an employee handbook.

A company once thought it would be a great idea to have a campaign wrapped around 130-character hashtag on Twitter. Once the marketing team stopped gasping, they asked, “Why so long?” The response? “It covers all of our Company’s values and products. It’ll go viral in no time!” Hence – when you create a campaign, assume no one cares about your company or your product. That’s why we are marketers – we think like a customer to know what they care about and anticipate how they will engage.

On the same note, be prepared to think about what other kind of responses your audience may come back with. In January 2012, McDonald’s decided to promote the brand with the hashtag #McDstories – a way to self-promote the operations teams because that’s soooooooooo interesting to anyone NOT on the McDonald’s team. The obvious happened – customers actually tweeted their terrible experiences like poor quality food, throwing up after eating, and comparing Happy Meals to dog food.

Act Like a Marketer, Think Like a Customer


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Key Takeaway: Always assume no one gives a flying $#@% about your brand and company. The trick is to start from the foundation of your campaign – build creative that connects to your audience in a meaningful way. Give them a reason to care, preferably a positive one. It’s not rocket science.

Tip 2: Be Authentic

Shitty Briefs, Shitty Creative, Terrible Results

It seems obvious enough, but when you drink enough of your company’s Kool-Aid, you’ll approve anything. These are actual lines pulled from real scripts for commercials to be shot in the upcoming year:

“[Extremely sugary food product] is the healthy way to start your day.”

“After this campaign, EVERYONE is going to be using [Product X].”

“This election season, [Product X] is something that we can ALL agree on.”

The audience is going to see right through your messaging and immediately dismiss your brand. If you are ‘real’ with your customers, you are showcasing honesty and advocating for it. Doing anything else is a complete waste of money and time.  CarMax has done an excellent job with consumers in the car-buying/selling market. For consumers, it was an unspoken known that you were probably going to: be stalked by weird sales people; be assaulted by multiple wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men; and get severely ripped off when you bought a car from any dealership. Because of this, CarMax built their value proposition and commercial scripts around their audience’s worries. Some call it the ‘Talk Human to Me” approach.

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CarMax TV Commercial: “Welcome to the Bright Side of Car Buying”


Key Takeaway: Don’t be a walking motivational cat poster. Instead, be true to what your company stands for with your messaging. #RepresentTheCustomer

Tip 3: Be Truthful & Entertaining

Hint: “Your Mom” jokes will always be funny. ALWAYS.

Who doesn’t love a tear-jerker or a ‘OMG that was hilarious’ commercial? Those are the ones that continuously get people talking about brands and keep the conversation going. The universal truth is if your audience uses a specific voice, your advertising should be similar. That’s why emotion and humor are go-to classics. The latest Doritos commercials are awesome, but another, more recent game changer has been Slim Jim.

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Another mentionable example would be Geico. Using 100% of humor in multiple campaigns at once is a major brand play. You know what I’m talking about – Pinwheel Piggy, Fisherman Tales, Scapegoat Rick, and of course, Icky Woods and his damn cold cuts. The best part about these commercials is the fact that they don’t initially feel like an ad. It’s like I’ve been tricked, but invited back in on the joke in a clever way. Bravo to the Martin Agency. Thanks to you guys, the entire world can’t hear, “15 minutes could save you…” without finishing off the sentence for you. Kudos for making savings a fun topic to talk about.

Key Takeaway: It’s okay to tell a story, but it’ll be a more impactful one if you use the same tone/language you use outside of work with your friends within your creative.

Tip 4: Think Outside the Ad

Even Beyoncé can’t help failing brands

Your brand is not a 9-5 job. It’s ongoing and evolving. In order to be an audience favorite, marketers must be ready to jump and respond to appropriate trends. Remember when Beyoncé dropped her single Formation? Even if you don’t, the ‘Social Media Universe’ was on it.  The song had lyrics showcasing the brand in a unique light: “When he f*ck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, ’cause I slay.” Although it’s extremely ‘different’ brand awareness, Red Lobster should have jumped on that immediately. Unfortunately, the team responded 8 hours later and people were not impressed.

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Social Media is NOT the place for brands to relay the same message over and over again. It’s also not a place for brands to be with zero strategy – you will get trolled.


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Welcome to Twitter, @TotalBeauty. You can leave now.


It IS the channel to connect with your audience. Sound too difficult? A good way to ‘get in’ with the Twitter crowd is to use Mean Girl quotes. Everyone’s doing it, even the White House.


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Speaking of Taco Bell, I have to give Taco Bell some praise for this quick response since I am a 90’s kid. Way to be relevant to your largest demographic (and thanks for all of those amazing drunken night-time snacks).


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Key Takeaway: Brands cannot sleep on social media, or even take a weekend off. If you’re always on, you always win. Give your social media team the freedom to do their thaaaaang.

Overall, treat your campaigns the way you’d treat your friends – be real, truthful, hilarious, and quick. I’ll end with my favorite copy ‘test’ – If you wouldn’t post it on your own personal Facebook page for your friends to see, why would you make it an ad for your audience to see? Next time you have an idea, type it into your ‘status’ box and see if you will post it. Not cool enough to hit ‘post’? Not a good ad. Lots of likes and comments? You might have something.


Posted by Melissa Mullen, Strategic Account Manager at initiate-it, a digital first, full-service agency in Richmond, Virginia. She’s dabbled between agencies (both in and outside the U.S.) with clients focusing on some of her favorite subjects: research, consumer trends, competitive landscapes, and future marketing strategies.