September 30th, 2014
I recently watched the webinar (online seminar) of a Silicon Valley tech company and wasn’t disappointed: it was predictably awful.
For 21 minutes, prior to the product demo, the rapid-firing host force-fed his online audience with product features, big-name customers, and bluster about his company’s inclusion in the coveted “magic quadrant” of Gartner Group, a vendor-knighting industry consultancy. This is amateur hour, I thought, while incredulously staring at the computer screen and my watch.
What he didn’t do was address the three fundamentals of Product Presentation 101:
The whole production lasted 50 minutes, including the demo and wrap-up. Despite seeing a modicum of product functionality, I had wasted my time.
Does the CEO know this webinar is so bad? I wondered. Chances are, he likes it.
Ambiguity Is Expensive
This situation is more common than not. Such presumption about one’s audience, believing it already knows what’s going on, is arrogance of the highest order. But, in venerable Silicon Valley, where product, not purchaser, is king, presumption rules.
As I explain in Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding, vendors in all industries tend to imitate each other — preferring blending over branding, presumption over explanation, ambiguity over clarity.
Mark Leibovich’s provocative page-turner, This Town, about the inner-workings of DC, aptly explains this pervasive blending/ambiguity phenomenon:
You know you’ve made it in DC when someone says that — “It isn’t clear what he does” — about you. Such people used to have such an air of mystery about them. You assumed they did something exotic, like work for the CIA … Ambiguity pays well here.
Leibovich is stating, unambiguously, that brand is elusive, irrelevant, and/or undesirable to most people. It’s ironic that politicians are hated and emulated simultaneously. Ambiguity is expensive. But, politicians are spending your money; you are spending your shareholders’ money.
Gentlemen, This Is a Football
Contrast the presumptuous approach with that of Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. At the beginning of every season, Lombardi, football in hand, gathered his players to review football fundamentals and reiterate team objectives: “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Watch Dan Lauria portray Lombardi in his one-man Broadway show.
Parting Advice to CEOs
Your brand is a success if, within 15 seconds, people can react to it, remember it, and repeat it. If your organization is product-centric and infused with presumption and arrogance, this will not happen — and your brand will fail.
Nobody ever left a Vince Lombardi meeting confused about its purpose or his purpose. Even though he was a football coach talking to football players about football, Lombardi stressed the basics and assumed nothing. He spoke clearly and emotionally, so that players got and remembered and repeated his message. This is axiomatic about building a brand.
Today, Lombardi’s brand lives on, even though he died in 1970 at age 57. That’s why Super Bowl victors win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. That’s why football players and sportscasters still reverently invoke his name and repeat his famous quotes, such as “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
Evaluate your brand. Scrutinize all branding billboards: brochures, homepage, keynotes, webinars, advertising, salespitch, tagline, corporate video, and media interviews.
Would Lombardi get your brand?
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.