Hype Reaches New Heights

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was an article about the “Freedom Tower” claiming that, with one magic beam being installed today, it will become New York City’s tallest building.

Wow!  Isn’t that SO exciting?  Isn’t that a major accomplishment?  Isn’t that something that should be all over the news?

Actually, no.  It’s total hype.  Or to borrow my favorite new phrase from Tom Scott and his anti-Klout website Klouchebag.com, it’s total asshattery. And frankly, nobody cares.

So let’s explore why.

In marketing, celebrating milestones is very powerful, and can actually help in creating promotional punch.  Some brand-focused events are worth celebrating:  an anniversary, a milestone, a celebration of something or someone special.

Promoting such milestones can add color and character to your overall marketing plan.  Mostly, it can help you create discernible distance between you and your nearest competitors (or would-be competitors if that’s the case,) and importantly, it can create more top-of-mind awareness, even if it’s temporary.

But, as with almost everything in marketing, publicizing such an accomplishment doesn’t hold much weight if it doesn’t have an explicit VALUE to your consumer.  Seriously.  If the consumer is not at the very center of this milestone, then why bother?

Nobody cares if your millionth vehicle just rolled off the assembly line at your Alabama plant.  (Good for your shareholders, maybe.  But there’s no consumer benefit there.)

Nobody cares if you just flipped your billionth burger.
(Nice story for the trades, maybe.  But there’s no consumer benefit there.)

And REALLY nobody cares if your unfinished building is about to (technically) become the tallest in the city.  Especially when it’s still a construction site, is likely unoccupiable for at least another year, and is, oh, about 9 years too late to the party.  Nobody cares about that except maybe the developer who is hoping against hope to sell real estate on the uppermost floors or the mayor’s office that loves/needs a feel-good story about…actually, there’s nothing really about this building that makes anyone in New York City feel good.  Scratch that.

But the consumer (in this case we’ll identify the consumer as two groups:  the New York City area residents who are still rocked and spooked by what happened down there more than 11 years ago, and potential renters/leasers of the office space being created in that building,) could really care less.  First off, we’re measuring the top of this construction site against the top of the observation deck of the Empire State Building.  So, in that case, using this logic, with the shoes I’m wearing today, I’m actually one inch taller than the 6’ 11” New York Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire.  (Top of my head to bottom of his goatee.  Whatevs.)

Let’s face it, The Freedom Tower is an epic fail of skyscraper proportions.  It’s a trite name.  (It’s so lame, they’re quietly going about a re-branding–before it even opens–to One World Trade Center.) It’s got trite features (including ultimately standing at 1776 feet tall upon completion of the spire. More on that in a moment.)  In response to the devastating attacks of September 2001, it’s a towering symbol of cowardice and compromise.

Now on the topic of height, if you really look under the hood, the building itself isn’t really that tall.  The spire/needle thingy that will top the building is 408 feet tall (that’s 40 stories, kids.)  An article on the AP website gives you some more background on this topic.

Here’s a rule of thumb: don’t bother promoting an anniversary, a milestone, an anything unless it has a built in BENEFIT to your consumer.  Celebrating your 100 year anniversary?  Nobody cares, unless you’re giving me a $100 rebate on any purchase of a major appliance.  Now the leading provider of toner in the laser printer category?  Great – but only if you send me my next refill for free.  And so on.  (I know I’m just using retail promotion examples, but you could do something good for the environment; something cool for charity; something that makes me think more highly of the brand and reminds me why I might prefer it.)

I once wrote that a marketing “gimmick” is something that focuses on the marketer and not the consumer.  And that’s exactly what’s going on here.  If you run a brand (a restaurant, a credit card, a line of clothing, a piece of technology, a building…just about ANYTHING,) keep the focus on your consumer.  Especially when it comes time to celebrate.  Otherwise, it may be the last milestone you promote.

Article first published as Hype Reaches New Heights on Technorati.

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