maandag 20 juli 2009

what we can learn from pick up artists

Seeing as I am based in Holland, I thought it time to write a bit in Dutch, and for a Dutch blog.

As of today I will be blogging for Molblog, one of Holland's most read blogs about marketing.

My first piece of writing is here, but since some of you may not be fluent in Dutch, below is a translation.

What we can learn from pick up artists
There is a crisis. Not that economic one. No. There is crisis in the world of pick-up gurus. Yes, pick-up gurus. Men who can get every woman an teach followers how they can get laid as well.

It all started with a book several years ago. Called "The Game". It describes journalist Neil Strauss, on his quest to become PUA, Pick Up Artist. The book was a bestseller. But also ensured that women got insight into the workings of these PUA's. 

Because, despite all the shits and giggles, these gentlemen had a process. Their practices were secretly shared on forums and message boards. 

From opening sentences, to routines and field reports, PUA's were constantly trying to improve efficiency and speed up the scoring. 

Yet suddenly opening phrases were known, routines (a fixed linguistic pattern to achieve a positive result, think AIDA, but in the pub) were spotted and PUA's were ridiculed. This led to a number of the gurus proclaiming that they found a new way.

Method vs. Natural 
This new group was a response to the way it had been up till now. Until now, PU's were a series of steps and mechanics. First there was the opening, then the routine, then increasing the tension and finally .. action. Hence the name Method. 

But by now the audience knew how it worked, the effect became less strong. This led to even crazier openings, increasingly complex routines. But this did not lead to improvement in outcome. Only more noise and ridicule.

Group two said that a pick-up (PU) was a spontaneous, natural thing, and that you as a PUA attracted women by being yourself. The best self you can be, but still yourself. 

No script, no story,just a spontaneous interaction that had an open ending. If there is no script, then you could get caught, and if they liked you because of you, you do not need to worry about fullfilling the image what you portraying with your routines (self-insured and cocky, etc. 

For followers and gurus, this is a more difficult path. It requires self-improvement of personality, appearance and self-confidence before you proceed to chase. But if we believe the feedback the Natural way is beating Method. 

Not in the least because the practitioners are at least feeling better about themselves and are no longer stressed out memorizing routines. 

Action speaks louder than words

Yeah ... .. so what you're think. This is a marketing blog. Correct. And from a marketing standpoint there are some interesting observations. 

Google, Hyves, Facebook, HBO, Skype, show us that many of the strongest brands over the last 10 years were built by attracting customers through a disproportionate focus on product and service innovation. Not product and service communications (which still plays a role, but a lesser one). 

Research of the University of South London shows us the same. In a study of purchases over time, researcher Charles Graham discovered that despite large amounts of money brands spend, market shares remaines stable. He saw that the market shares of most brands in the study increased or decreased by 3 percent, but always within that margin. 

Only six brands increased their market shares by more than 6%. These changes were "not achieved by changes in promotional mix" but by "exceptional, strategic and structural innovation." 

So ... 
Like PU gurus we are in a crisis. Consumers are more aware of our practices, trust the advice their friends more than our commercials and many businessowners and CFO's can't get a good answer to the question of "what that budget is contributing to the bottom line".

But therein lies the opportunity for our industry to show our value. Not by better creation of campaigns, but by challenging our customers and clients to learn, innovate and be of real value to the lives of consumers in those moments when they need us. 

Only we will have to look at ourselves first. For an industry that brags about innovation and creation, we have only played a modest role in the creation of the above mentioned brands or the many other innovations that we know. 

Not that there is no place for advertising agencies, but decades ago an agency developed the idea of the soapseries, now we fill the few minutes between content blocks. 

For just as women do not mind a talking to fun, spontaneous guy who, in addition to humor and self-confidence, actually has something to say, consumers have nothing against seduction by advertising, products and services, or spending money. 

Only the umpteenth variation on "Don't I know you from somewhere ..." will not get us of the list of "things which can be cut", just as it won't help PUA's get dates...