“Look at me” Marketing Works

    October 15, 2007

I’m in Las Vegas for the first time in many years, and I am struck by the sheer opulence of the various hotels. I admit that I don’t know what causes gamblers to choose their venues, but it seems as though each hotel is in competition to look bigger, better, and fancier than the next. It’s classic "look at me" marketing. Until the Web came along, most companies didn’t know there was any other kind of marketing.

"Look at me" marketing works. That’s why marketers do it. It conveys an image to the customers that the marketer is successful—they must be making money if they can afford this—so you should consider this market-leading product for your needs.

"Look at me" marketing is rampant in the gambling industry—er, the gaming industry—I’m sure that those marketers know what "gamers" are looking for. But many industries use "look at me" marketing. Every trade show is "look at me" marketing—companies use anything they can think of to get you to stop at their booth.

The problem with "look at me" marketing is that most companies can’t afford it. Small businesses tend to focus much more on what the customer needs rather than drawing attention to themselves through lavish spending or attention-getting events. The weekly circular trumps the store makeover.

That’s where the Web comes in. Many small businesses couldn’t afford much marketing at all—maybe a few brochures. But now they can afford to use the Web, and the Web rewards customer-focused marketing rather than "look at me" marketing.

"Look at me" marketing is focused on the seller rather than the buyer. It wants to interrupt the customers from whatever they were doing to attract attention. Web marketing, on the other hand, relies on customers choosing to hear the message. Choosing to search for something, subscribing to a blog, or opting in to an e-mail newsletter. And viral marketing depends on your customers becoming marketers and passing your message along.

To be part of Internet marketing success, you need to think about what your customers need. To consider what story they’d want to pass on. In a sense, you should be thinking like a newspaper reporter, by providing information that is truly helpful, that solves your customer’s problem.

Now understand, there’s nothing wrong with "Look at me" marketing. I’m here in Las Vegas at an IBM conference where some of our customers are being dazzled by entertainment. But I think it depends on what kind of attitude you bring to it. I just spent the weekend huddled with some of our customers to find out what unmet needs they have, so that we can create better products to meet them. This week IBM will present hundreds of informative sessions to explain where technology is headed and how our customers can get business value from those changes.

So, examine your motivations. There’s nothing wrong with inviting your customers to play in a golf tournament. Or paying their way to a trade show at an exciting location. Or showing off in any other way you can think of. But when customers give you that attention you crave, what do you do with it? Do you use it to learn more about your customers? Do you back it up with real problem-solving approaches, online and offline, that truly cement your customer relationships?

If you do, then "look at me" marketing is just part of your approach. You know that you must focus on your customer, not just your own image. When you do that, you make the most of every customer relationship started when they looked at you.