End Your Hashtag Hubris


A big part of Apple’s brand is ease of use. Successful suppliers like Apple simplify customers’ lives and never ask them to perform heavy lifting.

Simplify and ease. What a concept!

Long before YouTube and the iPhone, everybody owned a VCR. Comically, most VCRs’ clock displays were blinking 12:00, as people found them too difficult to set. Software designers call unusable features the “blinking-twelve problem.”

Heavy lifting isn’t just trying to use an unusable product or feature; it’s also wasting time trying to decipher an unfathomable message — and there’s no excuse for burdening your customers in this way.

Enter the Twittersphere. Imagine sitting in your car, listening to all available radio stations simultaneously. Your head would explode. That’s what it’s like to read the Twitter feed. Yet, vendors increasingly rely on Twitter to reach their customers. Does this make sense?

The essence of branding is getting your audience to react to, remember, and repeat your value proposition, your brand. That means it must be simple, unique, and compelling — not work, not a burden, not a blinking-twelve problem.
Stack of Tasks

In “CEOs: Fire Your Hashtaggers,” I explain the absurdity of the hashtag (#), the out-of-control tweet-categorizer, and how it kills brands. One example I cite is Walmart, which used #LotsOfOptions and #Awesome in a TV spot. Seriously. Someone greenlighted this crap.

Let’s break this down: Walmart is asking the potential customer to remember the:

  1. Walmart name
  2. Product name (Straight Talk prepaid cellphones)
  3. Two vapid hashtags that mean nothing, either as standalones or in combination with other names.

How is this stack of tasks simple, unique, and compelling? Hint: It isn’t! Instead, it’s a burden Walmart inexplicably expected its customers to bear.

This is why I tell you, repeatedly, that branding is your #1 priority: it affects your top and bottom lines; so, you must excel at it.

It is pure hubris for Walmart, or any vendor, to expect its customers to work for their purchases, including searching for inane hashtags on Twitter — as if they have nothing better to do.

Try to imagine checking into a hotel, where the concierge asks you to mop the lobby floor and mow the lawn before entering your room. You’d leave. Suppliers are supposed to do the heavy lifting, to simplify their customers’ lives.
Parting Advice to CEOs

Your customers aren’t your employees; they don’t work for you. Stop asking and expecting them to work for you. Remembering your endless barrage of cloudy messages is work.

If you can simplify customers’ lives with Twitter and relevant, easy-to-remember hashtags, great. Otherwise, avoid Twitter altogether. Fix your Website. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

People don’t react to, remember, and repeat complexity, ever, and they don’t want another blinking-twelve problem. End your hashtag hubris.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Harvard Business Review: Social Media Don’t Help Your Bottom Line

POSTSCRIPT #2: Target CEO Says Retailer Was Making Customers Work Too Hard

Late Late Show’s James Corden Demonstrates How to Burden Your Customers with Social Media


Toyota’s Hashtag Lunacy


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.


© 2015 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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