One day my son Cael (seven at the time) burst into my home office very excited. “Dad I know what I want for Christmas… Bendaroos!!! I saw the commercial on Nickelodeon and they are amazing!” I asked several questions trying to discover more specifics of exactly what a Bendaroo was – I discovered that they were super strong string dipped in some kind of wax that you can bend into whatever you want.
Cael must not have been the only kid amazed with Bendaroos that year as my wife Lana and I could not find the product anywhere. So, on Christmas Eve day I drove in a snow storm to a Walgreens in Altoona to find what must have been the last box of Bendaroos in the state of Iowa.
On Christmas morning Cael unwrapped his box of Bendaroos, jumping up and down yelling at the top of his lungs at the site of the box. After we were done opening presents I could see out of the corner of my eye Cael beginning to play with his Bendaroos. As I walked closer I could see the disappointment in his face. “Dad they don’t do what the commercial showed. Not even close. They don’t even stick together. You can’t make anything that they did on TV, it falls apart.“ I took some time to explain the dark side of the marketing world to him, but at seven I didn’t think any of my words registered.
So what does Cael’s childhood Bendaroo tragedy have to do with Tama County’s economy? I think it should give us hope that the playing field is now finally even and if we can build great things, people will buy them. Let me explain in more detail:
Before we all became connected online YOU COULD GET AWAY WITH MARKETING ANY OLD PIECE OF CRAP. Literally crap. If you had enough money and bought enough ads, you could convince enough consumers that they needed and wanted your crappy product. Now with this big social digital shift, the continued rise of social media, the old one-way conversations (big $ TV, radio ads) are becoming two-way conversations; the crap no longer sells.
Never before has EVERY customer been the most important one. Every customer has a large voice and doesn’t need permission from a traditional media source, a letter to the editor or a customer service hotline to voice it (either good or bad). Facebook, Twitter, blogs, social media, online content are all examples of word of mouth super-sized. Word of mouth has always been around. Now it is amplified. Great stuff travels fast. Bad stuff travels faster (just ask Domino’s). Nobody is just a number. Everybody matters. The remarkable, the useful, the companies with incredible products and customer service, those that create interesting content and those that truly care and do business the right way are going to win the game. Transparency and authenticity aren’t buzz-words now; they are real.
If you are part of a big brand, this may sound revolutionary or a bit scary. If you are an entrepreneur, you are probably saying “It’s about time!” I believe that the future of marketing is going to see a lot of big brands looking to understand, learn from, and begin marketing like entrepreneurs.
SO WHAT NOW? If you are an entrepreneur, this new even playing field is exciting and an opportunity to teach a few big dogs some small dog tricks. Start by calling our office 641-484-3108 and get an appointment to discuss your new business idea.
And by the way, don’t worry about Cael, a few months after the great “Bendaroo Fiasco” we were watching TV together and he saw another ad and he looked at me and said “Dad, I bet that’s another junky Bendaroo toy”. At seven he learned a very valuable lesson – not all that glitters is gold.