The Value of Under-Promoting Your Products

Marketing Myth: If our product is boring, no one will buy it.

We’ve all seen advertising promising to change your life with a product that will simply blow your mind to pieces. Maybe the ad was accompanied by flashing lights, beautiful women, and dubstep music (yeah, that’ll make all the cool kids like us!).

But how often has the latest ground-breaking innovation with its flashy advertising made a lasting impact? Pretty much never. So why do companies hype their products only to then put up with disillusioned customers that feel ripped off?

Car companies have particular penchant for this type of marketing tactic. Who can blame them? It’s a tough market out there, with customers demanding higher efficiencies without sacrificing performance (cue the Volkswagen scandal).

We’ve all seen car ads promising a spaceship-like experience on epic adventures, breath-taking performance, and being all the envy of your social rivals. But when you get your Civic home, and the sales pitch is long forgotten, then , well… all you have left is a Civic. And a Civic is not going to change your life.

The marketing problem is that the Civic is a perfectly functional and adequate car to get from point A to B. It’s not exciting; it’s just plain old reliable, safe, and affordable. But those aren’t value propositions – they’re just features. Marketers have to contrive a sense of value and purpose the car will add to your life. So what they end up doing is literally making up aspirational slogans out of thin air to garner interest, regardless of how relevant they are to the product.


(Is a Civic really going to drive you? What does that even mean?)

In social media this is over-promotion is also a problem. Local music promotors spend weeks building up to ‘amazing’ announcements, only to unveil the same bands we’ve always seen at venues we already frequent. The ‘biggest event this year’ is always a disappointment.

If you’re in business you’ve probably spoken to suppliers promising to have a very close working relationship, only to find out that never speak to each other and they don’t even have each other’s phone numbers. Empty promises, frustrated customers.

I’ve come to think of the over-promising and under-delivering product as ‘marketing that cries wolf’, or in other words, saying anything to get your attention but then inevitably showing up empty handed.

The problem with over-promotion is a loss of credibility. Consumers hate the feeling of being deceived, and will be weary of any future promotions from the same source. Buyer’s remorse is a huge problem for this type of marketing.

If you’re looking for a one-hit wonder product with a short lifecycle, or you need to make money fast, then you’re probably most likely try your luck with this marketing. But remember, a happy customers is one that recommends your product and business to others.

To avoid over-promoting to you customers, I recommend:

  • Understand the customer’s needs. What problem is the product solving? Is the marketing spiel speaking directly to this solution?
  • Developing a value proposition that plays to the strengths of the product. If the local music event is just a few local bands, then market it as a local social opportunity, not as the best show of the year.
  • Reality check with sales staff. What are they promising the customers? How are they using the sales collateral? Do they understand the marketing angle?

Let’s create safer marketing for everyone. Until next time.



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