The Press, November 2013

Guess who? A multinational organisation looking to generate revenue from an association with deep sea oil drilling, while potentially affecting the economic opportunities of thousands of Kiwis. That’s right, Greenpeace.

Many would have suggested US oil company Anadarko, the suitably named villain in the piece, so good is Greenpeace’s ability to tell their story about the potential calamity of deep sea oil exploration off our coast.

This ability to get your message across is critical for any business looking to market themselves, more so given the incredible noise of the internet and especially social media. For Greenpeace, its activities serve to get its message across, and in turn that helps to generate interest to fund its activities.

According to Statisticsbrain.com, as at August 2013, 70 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook every month, 92 billion pages viewed on YouTube, and every day 190 million tweets are published on Twitter. One of the secrets to cutting through is having a good story to tell, i e messages that your prospects understand, identify with and motivate them to take action.

Greenpeace are good at this because they focus on communicating the value to you, and because they appeal to our emotions. ‘‘Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth needs a voice,’’ says their website. It connects with our concerns about how we are treating the earth today, the possible future calamities, and puts us on the side of the ‘‘earth’’.

How relevant is this when you are selling complex products to another business (B2B)? It is easy to forget in B2B markets that it is still people that make purchase decisions. You might be selling your product to large organisations, but it is real people with all of their emotional needs that assess and choose your product. Often they will select products over technically superior alternatives because of the emotional benefits the brand offers.

Great, enduring stories are rooted in the truth as a customer experiences it. That’s where I think Greenpeace have damaged their brand – being accused of exaggeration in some campaigns to create alarm and drive ‘‘customer’’ reaction.

As now estranged Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson was recently quoted as saying ‘‘I call them emotion posers, they . . . get their pictures, get their stories and bang let’s send that out into a 50 million piece mail-out and raise money on it, get it on the internet. Let’s just start making money.’’

The classic marketing mistake companies make is underestimating the intelligence of their customers, thinking they will be impressed by jargon, extensive adjectives and exaggerated promises.

What customers actually get excited about is something that will benefit them. You can say things as simply as you want if you are telling a customer what is in it for them. Compelling marketing messages come from talking to your customers about why they choose your product. They are not dreamed up at the board table or your advertising agency.

Award-winning point-of-sale (POS) software company Vend is a local tech company that is doing a good job of telling its story. They talk about ‘‘making retail awesome’’, with POS software that ‘‘retailers love to use’’, started by ‘‘a guy who wanted to make the world a better POS’’.

Vend’s website and social media presence has a consistent theme and appearance around this.

But Greenpeace should avoid the kind of hyperbole that diminishes its brand, ease and simplicity of their product, and its ability to improve a retail customer’s experience.

Compare the main message of a competitor, as ‘‘an adaptable Windows based Point of Sale touch screen software system’’. A description of what their product is, rather than what it does for its users.

Great stories exist for your product or service, you just need to extract them from your customers. A persuasive story answers three questions:

1.  To whom are you telling your story? This context is critical – it needs to be expressed in terms of the market you are targeting, and the buying decision-makers within that target market. It needs to engage with them, and be in their sort of language.

2.  What problem are you solving for them? Nobody wants to buy your product but instead the solution it provides to a problem (or need) they have. The better you can connect your story to that problem, the more compelling it will be.

3.  What is the unique way you solve that problem for them? Are you faster, easier, better, cheaper? How can you prove it? This is the value proposition – your unique promise of value to the customer.

Greenpeace are masters of telling powerful stories (with credible research data), the deep sea oil drilling being the latest.

Any marketer could learn from their ability to connect with their customer’s emotions, but in my view they would be wise to avoid the kind of hyperbole that diminishes your brand over time.

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