The most common CMO mistake

We recently participated in an ‘all-agency summit’ for a well-known meal kit company. Also invited were their brand, digital, and TV agencies along with extremely bright marketing execs and team members from the company. Without question, this was a room full of very smart people, but intellect does not always equate to smart marketing. We were all asked to present big ideas to the summit and it was interesting to watch all these brilliant marketing people fall into the ‘group think’ trap. Group think is when marketers mistakenly believe the path to selling their product is contained in their unique selling props. It is not. Selling propositions are important if you’re selling vacuum cleaners, but not meal kits.

I cringed every time an agency person uttered the word aspirational while describing the meal kit consumer. I wouldn’t mind if we all just let that word rest for a decade or so. It’s a B.S. word; what does it really mean anyway? We sat quietly as teams presented ideas such having women say the words ‘ta-da’ after cooking their own meals thus somehow congratulating themselves with how aspirational they are for actually cooking a meal. Each presenter followed practically the same path of presenting how easy this meal kit is and how wonderful each dish is. All that’s true, but it’s NOT going to work.

Meal kits are an example of a product that is replete in consumer resistance. While some people may love the idea of home cooked meals, most people are resistant to the idea. They may be intrigued, but their intrigue quickly turns when these thoughts enter consciousness:

  1. I barely have time to drive through, let alone cook 30 min. a night.
  2. Nothing is easier than drive through or home delivery.
  3. Yeah, the meal takes 30 min., but so does cleanup and I don’t have time.
  4. I don’t have the energy to cook a meal after work.
  5. I hate auto-ship commitments .
  6. I won’t love each recipe and I’ll be stuck with crappy meals in a box.
  7. It’s probably a pain to unsubscribe or pause, so why bother?
  8. I don’t love cooking, so why would I want to do this three to five nights a week?
  9. If I want to cook a meal, I’ll find a recipe online or go to the store.

You get the picture, right? No repetition of cute ‘ta-da’s uttered after some aspirational person holds up her pan triumphantly after cooking a meal kit will neutralize any of these resistances. NONE! Marketing group-think goes off the rails when we drink our own Kool-Aid and believe our product is so amazing (let’s pause that nonsense word a bit, too) that we just need to show happy people using it and ‘ta-da’ everyone will buy it. Uh… nope. You’d be better off saving the money you’re going to lose shooting and testing doomed commercials and just give a free kit to everyone and assume a decent percentage will love you and continue to buy. Seriously, that would work better, but it’s too simple and not aspirational enough. Yeah, I said it.

So, here’s the bottom line: be bold, think deeper, and flip the script. If you want a massively successful marketing campaign, spend at least equal time on overcoming the top reasons even interested consumers will talk themselves out of buying your product.