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.

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