Bmobile’s 30 million dollar questions…
Which comes first the product or the marketing? The chicken or the egg?
Pesky questions that they are. They require careful thinking even when you’re planning a concert.
If you are the largest telecommunications company in the country, used to throwing around your advertising might, you’d probably think it’s the product. Because once you have the product, especially if it is as attractive and commercial as Beyonce, you probably figure all you have to do is throw your advertising dollar behind it and voila, you can count on your pot of gold.
That’s foolish. Stupid really.
Marketing is not the same as advertising. In 2010, advertising is a sliver of what marketing is, and in fact, it is pretty clear that the marketing has to come before the product, not after.
And so onto the Beyonce and the B Mobile equation.
Great product + poor planning – expert events management + huge advertising spend – marketing thinking = 1 of the most spectacular event/concert failures in recent history (barring Machel Montano stand collapsing incident concert over a decade ago).
Here’s the essential factor that B mobile’s brand managers forgot.Just about every successful product or service is the result of smart marketing thinking first. Sure it’s super desirable to have a great product but the role of the product is to make the marketing story come true. It’s not at all difficult to conceive. In fact, the marketing thinking for the Beyonce concert should have been built on some very fundamental questions:
1) Who is the concert for?
2) How will the audience be segmented?
3) What will add value to their individual experience so that each person walks out of the concert as a brand loyalist?
4) What systems will be put in place to ensure the product is enjoyed with maximum pleasure?
5) Who will comprise the team that ensures the effective delivery of the events system?
6) What is the experience of the team?
7) What checks and balances will be put in place to make sure the brand is never compromised in the process?
These are smart questions because if you rush to advertise the product without thinking through the marketing systems, you’ve already lost the essence of the thing.
To be frank, I was not among the nay sayers that knocked TSTT/Bmobile for bringing Beyonce to Trinidad or aligning their brand to the mega superstar’s light. In an overcrowded market place with an inattentive audience, it is the conundrum of all brand managers: how to draw the right kind of attention and create something so interesting and so valuable that people will cause people to not only spend their time and money and also sit up and take note. ROI is not always about the bottom line in the short term. Sometimes the marathon run of building good will and reputation can leave your competitors standing in the dust.
Still, when this party was over the only dust was that of the Savannah and it was blowing all over the TSTT’s face. There were several mistakes made on the night Beyonce graced the Savannah stage. They are already described eloquently and angrily here. But I’ll focus briefly on 2, the events management and the company’s use of social media.
Not giving the project to event experts was a fundamental mistake. No project should be conceived in a vacuum, no decision should be made in isolation and no negotiation can happen with a muddied sheet of paper when it comes to events planning. Clearly the lead events team simply did not have the expertise? But here’s the bigger question, why did TSTT and Bmobile not sense this? In events planning, you go through the systems during several meetings with the client, you explain the systems, you work through the issues, you present your plans. With everyone around the table and with the client in the lead, thorny issues are spotted and thrashed out. Clearly this did not happen. TSTT did not exercise enough due diligence and as a consequence their brand was severely compromised.
For over the decade that I have been writing about Public Relations, I have always maintained that the process of communication is a great litmus test of the transparency and honesty of a company. So here’s another question for Bmobile. Why did they use facebook for weeks before the concert to communicate with their fans and yet when the crisis hit the rooftop last week TSTT/Bmobile remained silent. There was no apology, no statement, no admittance of the technical mistakes made, no explanation of what went wrong on their social media streams. That should have happened within the first 24 hours of the mess. Instead in its absence, fans took to Bmobile’s facebook to paint their corporate wall in the most colorful language. And from the company, not a peep.
Marketing will always be an art and a science. You test. You measure. You do the math. You try to understand the impact of your spend and your message in the market at the time its dissemination, and even long after. That’s the science part. And then there’s the art. And here it is not about the fancy billboards and the advertising spend. In the age of social media it really was about how Bmobile used the concert and the experience to inspire and connect. It was about how they worked to create a brand movement by surprising their stakeholders with the most amazing of experiences.
In both the science and the art Bmobile failed simply because they forgot for a mammoth moment, that the chicken never, ever comes before the egg.