Sunday, April 30, 2006

Are You an Elephraffe?

I'm the most impressionable consumer ever. Amazon's auto-recommendation system is made for people like me. Every time I go to buy a book or a CD, I end up ordering 7 other things. This is how I ended up with The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner.

According to Joyner, the key to any successful marketing campaign is a compelling "touchstone". He illustrates this with three case studies: Domino's ("hot pizza in 30 minutes, or it's free"), Columbia House Records ("10 CDs for 1 cent") and FedEx ("when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight"). A touchstone, he explains, is a brand-identifying message that clearly and succinctly conveys what you sell, why a prospective customer should trust you, and what's in it for him.

Joyner also likes Circuit City's "we'll honor the lowest price you can find for up to 60 days after your purchase", Caterpillar's "48-hour parts service, or we pay", and Nordstrom's "we'll take back anything you're not satisfied with without a receipt, no questions asked". The one surprise on his list of examples is RackSpace's "Fanatical Support".

I used to be a customer; their service was excellent! And recent press releases tout their 15% market share among Fortune 100 companies. So I think what RackSpace has are an excellent track record and a great reputation - but those factors don't make "Fanatical Support" a brand-building message.

As an experiment, I showed RackSpace's ad in the May issue of Wired to a few friends (there's no graphic, and the text just says "Fanatical Support is the Difference"). They thought "Fanatical Support" sounded like hype; it's not quantifiable. (And remember, one of Joyner's criteria for an effective touchstone is believability.) Also, if you look up fanatical on, its definition is "motivated by irrational zeal". Irrational is bad in a mission critical business environment. If I were the administrator of a huge, busy site, I think I'd be more interested in consistency than fanaticism.

RackSpace's website is not so great either. The alternating palm tree/swimming fish Flash movies are sort of pretty, but the look and feel is not consistent at all with the print ad's red and white color scheme.

DataPipe, on the other hand, ran a much more compelling ad in the same issue of Wired. It promised to "extend your IT resources on demand" - at "predictable costs" and with "guaranteed service levels". I have no first hand experience with DataPipe, but they sound like they really understand what hosting customers are looking for. Indeed, on DataPipe's website, they call this understanding "Operational Empathy". Now that's compelling.

But enough RackSpace bashing. They do have one really, really awesome marketing initiative; it's the "find your animal" game on First you're prompted to choose two personality traits from a list (I picked resourceful and clever). You're then told what kind of animal you are (I'm a KangOx, which is part kangeroo and part fox). And guess what? RackSpace provides a friendly habitat for your strange, special creature. The game sends two very powerful messages: we think your uniqueness is valuable, and we offer such an welcoming environment that even a Chameoceros can find its place. Recruitment is of course super important; RackSpace added 250 new hires last year. But a concept like this would have been great for their front page and print ads.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Potential buyers have to say "yes" many times to purchase your home ... but a single "no" over a seemingly minor item can kill the deal. You can do something about this.

11:39 AM  

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