Set Solid Expectations for Marketing Messages That Convert

Set Solid Expectations for Marketing Messages That Convert
A team strategizes their marketing messages

When I was around eight years old, a well-known shoe brand ran a commercial that had me clamoring for their shoes. The shoe had a special “air pump” that pumped the sole up with air. In the commercial, someone put them on, pumped them up with air, and suddenly ran faster and jumped higher. They could even slam-dunk into a full-size basketball hoop! The advertisement was attention-grabbing. The shoe generated quite the buzz but failed in one key area: setting expectations. Inevitably, this marketing strategy led to a poor consumer experience.

When I finally met someone with these shoes of legend, I was rather disappointed. In reality, if the shoes could make one jump higher or run faster, it was not perceptible to the human eye. The boy I met, around my age, could not slam dunk a basketball because of his not-so-incredible shoes. Once people realized the shoe was just a regular (but pricey) shoe, the buzz was gone. No one cared anymore. Everyone seemed to have a bit of resentment toward the shoe. It did work as a shoe, but it was supposed to be so much more! The high expectations led to disappointment, creating a negative consumer experience.

For sales to create happy customers, and a positive consumer experience, the customer’s expectations must be satisfied. This, of course, applies to marketing because its intended purpose is to generate sales. Which, we could argue, the shoe above did initially, but it wasn’t sustainable. Any serious business wants to create something sustainable. Here are a few critical tips for setting proper expectations:

Be Careful With Hyperbole

Ads today are filled with hyperbole; think of the shoe example above. Some hyperbole is acceptable, some are not in terms of building a positive consumer experience. We must be cautious as marketers when using hyperbole because it can set false expectations. An excellent example of using hyperbole well is Geico’s claim that getting a quote is “so easy a caveman can do it.” The claim is palpable and done in a way that’s obvious hyperbole. It doesn’t erode trust at face value. Consider these consumer experience words of wisdom by Claude C. Hopkins, Scientific Advertising:

To say, “Best in the world,” “Lowest price in existence,” etc. are at best simply claiming the expected. But superlatives of that sort are usually damaging. They suggest looseness of expression, a tendency to exaggerate, a careless truth. They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make. 

Overcome Objections

Rather than avoiding pain points such as long wait-lists or stock shortages, advertise them. We’ve seen great success for many clients with ads such as “Buy Now, Swim by Next Summer” or “Find out Why X is Worth the Wait.” In this case, we accomplish three things:

  1. The ad sets realistic expectations before entering the store.  
  2. The customer wants to know why your product and service are so good that people will wait. 
  3. You earn trust by being up front.

If you have a retail store, this will relieve a lot of false expectations for the clients.  If you are offering “15% Off Purchases Today Only,” potential customers will assume they are getting the goods that very day. A subtle change that could avoid the entire false expectation is simply changing the ad copy to “15% Off Pre-Orders Today Only” or “15% Off Reservations Today Only.” In this case, the offer did not have to change; it just needed a minor tweak.

Marketing with Proper Expectations Can Revive Products

Remember those disappointing air-pump shoes? Well, they are back! Quite a few companies have incredible success with the same concept that caused youth so much disappointment in the 90s. The current success is all about realistic expectations in marketing, leading to a positive consumer experience.

The current iterations of these air-pump shoes aren’t making claims about jumping higher or running faster. Gone are the false hopes of being able to dunk a basketball just by getting some new shoes. Instead, we see the focus on comfort. The shoes are advertised as being so comfortable “it’s like walking on air” or “standing on a cloud.” Everyone (I hope) realizes people can’t walk on clouds. So this makes the expectation of comfort with a fun use of hyperbole. You can run comfortably, not faster, with these shoes. 

Often it’s not the product that needs to change. It’s the claims and messages around that product. When people approach a product with the correct expectation, everything changes. So, whether it’s in-store sales or digital marketing, our messaging should set proper expectations for the customer. Proper expectations make a better consumer experience for all of us.

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