Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the House, once famously said “All politics is local.” It was a lesson he learned in his first political loss: unless you connect to the needs and desires of the folks near you, you won’t be successful. In this emerging era of branding, I think all marketing will be local marketing.
I grew up in a really small town. In the local diner, the owner had posted a sign:
“If you like our food, tell a friend. If you don’t, tell the owner.” That’s local marketing: direct, face-to-face, immediate. No BS and no hiding. It’s where marketing is headed. (Or headed back to: an era of branding and marketing that is more like Mesopotamia than it is like Mad Men.)
The last 70 years of big brand marketing has been the mass media era. TV commercials, print ads, direct mail: all directed at faceless masses of ‘consumers’ by faceless corporations. Recently, everyone is talking about how marketing is changing. “One-on-one marketing”, “permission marketing”, “relationship marketing”, “social marketing”… primarily as a reaction to the worst of the mass media era of marketing. Everyone agrees that mass is out, individual is in. The fact is, ‘individual’ has always been in for a certain segment of the market: what some sneeringly call ‘small business.’
I took this picture where I get my hair cut. (I’m loath to call it a ‘salon’. ) It’s a relatively small place. Not a global mega-haircare brand. In their changing room, they’ve posted what is clearly a desktop printed sign – not a slick 4-color printed communication. Now some marketers may roll their eyes at such a low-tech approach. But I think the sign embodies the truth about 21st Century marketing: 21st century marketing is going to be local…whether you’re talking to people around the corner or across the globe. Their sign made me smile, made me think and then made me appreciate what great marketers they are. (Jackson Square Salon, if you’re in San Francisco.)
Here’s why I think the sign is smart and indicative of where marketing is heading:
- “Helping” – marketing is, in fact, asking for help. “Try our service.” “Buy our product.” “Tell a friend.” Ultimately, marketing is ‘an ask’. The salon is very clear on their ‘ask’: It’s personal, action-oriented, engaging, easy. Who wouldn’t want to help? Are you as clear on your ‘ask’?
- “Almost all our new clients come from Yelp.” How many brands are that smart about where their customers come from? Actionable knowledge is the first step in great marketing. Do you know how your customers find you?
- “We are building clientele”- marketing is focused on the long term as well as the short term. It isn’t just about the sale, its about building the relationship…a client, not a purchaser. Is your brand building clientele or selling products?
- It’s appreciative. They ask for something and appreciate you for acting on it. Twice. I think that’s a good ratio – two “thank you’s” for every ‘ask’. Do you genuinely say “thank you” to your clients twice as often as you ask them for something?