Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I learned on my summer vacation

A few marketing lessons learned (or relearned) from a trip to seven states in six days:

- Word of mouth trumps everything else. I stayed at three hotels during my trip. I picked one due to great reviews in a travel book, and rejected another after reading some bad reviews online. And just about all the cities I chose to visit (and spend money in) were recommended by friends.

- Mass media is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Before I went on vacation, I posted about my media consumption habits. My increasing skepticism about the power of mass media was only reinforced by six days with no radio (listened to CDs, my MP3 player, or nothing at all the whole time), almost no TV (but I did watch about an hour of stuff on Hulu), and very little printed newspaper (skimmed the Panama City News-Herald a couple of mornings, and quickly flipped through the Savannah Morning News one day). I used the Internet a lot less, too. Do I wish I spent less time outside, on the beach, and in the water so I could consume more mass media? Nope. Does this reinforce my sense of urgency with regard to how hard it is to reach today's audiences? Yep.

- Better to do nothing than to put up a bad billboard. Billboards were the mass medium I saw the most of on my trip, but most of them were bad. If it's behind a tree, or you include 87 words on it, or three photos, or it's 200 feet from the road and you use a small font, it's a waste of money.

- But good billboards work. One of my hotel stops and most of my fast food stops were influenced by clean, simple billboards. There's nothing wrong with just using a big logo and an exit number in a really big font.

- And digital billboards are distracting. More than I originally thought, in fact. When the message changes, your eyes are attracted to the sign. Good for advertisers. Bad for drivers. This concerns me a little bit as I see digital billboards becoming more and more common.

- Your customers want you to succeed. In thinking of myself strictly as a consumer for a few days, it occurred to me that we marketers sometimes treat the customer as an adversary--but that's rarely the case. Whether I was eating, shopping, or sightseeing, I was willing to pay for good service, good products, and a good experience. It only got adversarial when promises (implicit or explicit) were not kept.

- Let My People Go Surfing is a great read. After reading this post on AdPulp, I checked out Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing and took it with me on vacation. I'll post more on the book later, but it's a must read for anyone trying to find out how to make a living without compromising their beliefs.

- Want to learn what's not important? Go on vacation. This was my first vacation since last July, and it was good reminder that a lot of the stuff on my desk that seems urgent really isn't.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having lived without a TV for more than three months now, I can testify to its irrelevance. But the "mass" that I'm missing without television is mass entertainment. When the conversation turns to this show or that series, I can't take part...not that I feel bad about it. I'm simply surprised by how often television entertainment enters the conversation. I still consume mass media voraciously: the newspaper cover-to-cover every day. A wealth of blogs daily. The headlines on several Internet sites every time I log on. A weekly magazine as well as several monthlies. Signage galore. Perhaps I should also confess my compulsive need to read every bulletin or flier that comes in the mail, to look at every single page of the newspaper or a magazine, even the "special advertising supplements" of travel mags, even Wired magazines from 2005. I have never failed to find something interesting or useful, so I'm sure that if I stopped, I really would be missing out. "Flip This House?" Fun, but not so necessary.