Jiva Technology

Can you market a product by telling people not to buy?

About a year ago, I bought some new floor coverings. I would have said ‘carpet’, but it seems that things have moved on a little since I last bought floor coverings and, well let’s just say that there are quite a few more options to choose from. Like about a million different options. Wood floor, carpet, tiles, carpet that comes as tiles, tiles that look like wood. When you actually decide that you want wood floors, you have to decide on the timber and the width and the number of millimetres of actual wood on top of the underlying substrate. Time to go home and lie down.

The experience left me exhausted and was about as much fun as the first time I bought a fridge (no fun). But it did get me thinking about why, when I was clearly ready to buy, that companies made it so hard to buy from them. One company even suggested I hire someone to advise me on the purchase. Really?

What struck me was that in a world where every single product and service category seems to be massively over supplied, companies put the onus on me to make a selection. Which is pretty hard when you don’t do it very often. The onus was very firmly on me to determine the relevant merits of the 450,000 different options. Why is that? Part of the problem is that every product available seems to be marketed as high quality, low price and fabulous for the environment. There seems to be a lack of honesty in the communication. Its a bit like the modern footballer in a post game interview, “it was a good game and I thought we showed a lot of good touches and we’ll be learning from the mistakes we made”. No one said to me, “that won’t work for you”. Or in football parlance, “we lost because they were better”.

In a world where everyone is busy and everyone is being marketed to at all the times, I think the onus should be on companies to identify who they think should buy their products. Which in theory is what marketing is all about, but it seems to have got lost in the mix somehow. About the only people who seem to have got this right are the super cool street brands (and maybe night clubs) who make it abundantly clear that if you aren’t cool, don’t buy their product. Which means I won’t. But I like their thinking. We’ll both be happier knowing that we don’t belong together; it saves time.

Perhaps the best way to identify who should buy your product is to start by identifying who shouldn’t. For Tutorhub, things are relatively easy. Don’t use the service if you aren’t looking for tutoring. Don’t use the service if you find the online experience doesn’t work for you. For us, what we do is somewhat baked into the name and where you find us. Maybe from now on we could start a marketing movement thats focused on identifying who shouldn’t buy. It might work.

Our education system and why it has to change

Here’s a simple thought process. The UK’s statistical office estimates that babies born today have a 2/3 chance of living until they’re 100.

They’ll spend the first few years learning the basics, like sitting, standing, talking, learning language and manipulating objects with their hands. All the hard stuff. At around the age of 4 or 5, they’ll head off to school and stay there until they’re 21 if you include university, which is starting to look increasingly like school. At that point, they’re done with learning and they’ll head off to make a career or just make money. Or, depending on who you speak to, work like crazy to avert global climate catastrophe.

The first 20% of your life is spent learning things and then the next 80% of your life will be spent applying what you’ve learnt. Doesn’t this seem a little odd? Isn’t it highly likely that things change in the 60-80 years that follow?

I suppose the point is that we have an education system that was devised for a different age. It seems so blazingly obvious that things have to change, it seems strange that no one if talking about it more openly. It’s a nonsense to suggest that the current cohort of young people leaving school and university have learnt all they need to learn to cope with the world in 2050. For those that need reminding, that’s only 30 years away, or roughly half the time that those skills are supposed to sustain the current crop of school and university leavers. Isn’t it time to start deconstructing our education system, to rethink how things might be approached in a different way?

What difference can just one person make?

It turns out the answer is simple: a lot. Its easy to be pessimistic about the world with mainstream and social media being so heavily weighted towards anger, resentment and bad news, but it turns out there are plenty of people who ignore the naysayers and get on with changing the world one tree at a time. Tony Rinaudo is responsible for the planting of 200 million trees. It’s barely believable.

Next time someone shrugs their shoulders and says, “but what can I do”, I think I might mention Tony. People always need hope that things can change for the better, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. What Tony shows is that with some skill, dedication and a sense of what’s going on around you, it’s always possible to find that difference.

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