As Anheuser Busch discovered on Monday, don't mess with a good thing. Sometimes we have to ignore the marketing experts and give the people what they want. For Budweiser, it's clear the people want Clydesdales and not zombies, for Failte Gate Farm's goat milk soap, the people want goats and not beautiful graphics of lavender fields.
Since you can read on the internet about the brushfire regarding the Budweiser Clydesdales and Anheuser Busch's haste to clarify or retract the earlier news story, I'll spare you that. Instead I'll fill you in on my own marketing mistake.
I sell a lot of goat milk soap during the holidays. In fact, I sell it as fast as I can make it. But to be honest, "I" don't sell that soap, as I just learned from my customers, the goats do.
Alrightie then. For the past few years I packaged my goat milk soap in an organza drawstring bag with a business card attached. The business card featured a picture of the goats. It was a cute picture, but nothing special. The first year I just featured Clover, and the years after that the cards featured Crimson and Clover. My customers liked knowing that the milk used in the soap came from those goats. And here is where I made my mistake.
THE CUSTOMER LIKED KNOWING THAT THE MILK USED IN THE SOAP CAME FROM THOSE GOATS!
Like all marketing mistakes, it started like this: I wanted to improve the image of the soap.
I wanted to class it up a bit, make it more professional. I forgot that my customers don't want professional, they want pictures of the goats!
So one day I was trolling the business card website, trying to find a new way to display my goat pictures, when a friend of mine, who used to have a career as a graphic artist, offered her advice:
"The card was too busy, the goats in the picture did not stand out clearly, and the card did not look professional."
Okay, I could see all that. The card had a homespun charm, but I was looking to move into a different market. I wanted professional. So with her help, we re-vamped the business card. Instead of goats, I had a beautiful lavender field with professional graphics. It was nice. It spoke of "clean, fresh, fragrant soap."
And so I ordered lots of business cards and a banner for a farmer's market booth. And guess what?
The people still bought the soap. The soap sells itself. The problem was that the old customers wanted pictures of the goats on their soap, and they complained. I thought the first request was a fluke. And then I got another. And another. Hands down, the old customers liked the image on the new card, but preferred the old card because they liked seeing the faces of the goats.
Alrightie then. The people have spoken.
Fortunately I found a couple of boxes of old cards so I can give them what they want. I still have milk from Crimson and Clover in the freezer and so these cards are still good. And I've learned something:
The people don't always want professional. Sometimes they simply want the face that they've come to associate with a product.
And who am I to argue?
Anheuser Busch, are you listening?