Emma Watson, the film star you might know as Hermione Granger from Harry Potter fame, was pictured recently carrying a copy of the third volume of “Chicken Soup for the Soul“. Quite why a hugely successful, multi-million pound earning, much-praised individual needs “self-help” remains pure speculation of course. But it is an interesting example of the phenomenon that is “Chicken Soup” and the readiness with which people buy in to the concept of “self-help”.
The self-help industry is huge; at the end of 2010 Marketdata Enterprises estimated (PDF) that it was worth $11billion. Clearly we love the stuff. But take a peek inside someone’s home if they are a self-help seeker. They don’t just have one self-help book; they have dozens. Plus the CDs and the DVDs and subscriptions to magazines – oh the list goes on and on…! Perhaps Emma Watson hasn’t only been reading the third volume of Chicken Soup; perhaps the previous two have been devoured and who knows what other self-help volumes she has on her shelves at home?
It is all a reminder of the fact that when people want to improve their life, or confirm they are doing the right things, they seek support and guidance from an expert. And what do all of those experts say? They say: trust your instincts and get off your bum and take action. They say, don’t just sit there and wish your life away – get on and do what you want. Period. That’s it. All the self-help gurus say the same thing – though some take many more thousands of words than I have just done. However, self-help fans read this and then when their life has a down (we all have ups and downs) they seek advice in yet another self-help book. They adjust their life and then another down happens and they buy another self-help book and so it goes on. It is a “rinse and repeat” kind of life.
And strange as it seems, marketers are just like that. It appears that when people involved in Internet marketing want to improve things they get their website redesigned. Then when it doesn’t work, they redesign it again – and again and again. A recent study shows that in the past year 68% of those involved in marketing commissioned a redesign of their website. Now whilst a website should be a constantly evolving thing, constant redesign is not necessary. Often you can evolve within a fairly standard design; after all Amazon appears to manage it without substantial design changes.
However, everywhere I go I hear the same kind of information as revealed in this study. People are always redesigning their sites. “Why?” I ask. And the answer? “Well, we’ve had our existing site for a year and it hasn’t worked as well as we expected so we are redesigning it.”
It seems that marketing people believe that the success or failure of their site is wrapped up in the design. Rather like self-help fans they gravitate to one solution – which actually is not a solution. It all reminds me of some work I did a few years back in the pharmaceutical sector. They would launch a new drug and need some public relations, or so they thought. So, the companies would have a “beauty parade” of PR practitioners who would “do their stuff” over the ensuing months. Then, the drug company would realise that the PR wasn’t working – and what did they do? Well, they had another beauty parade, chose a different PR firm who did their stuff, which didn’t work and so the pharmaceutical company held another beauty parade and…well, you can guess the rest.
Online, the Internet marketing world appears to be in the same trap. Design a site, see if it works, if it doesn’t redesign it, see if it works, if it doesn’t redesign it….and on and on and on and on…..!
Design is NOT the issue in marketing.
True you need an easy-to-use, functioning, accessible website. But you can achieve that with even the most basic WordPress template for instance. What matters most is the content you deliver. Amazon will not win design awards, but boy does it make money. Google’s various offerings could be designed better by a schoolchild studying art, but they make pots of cash. Marketing success and design are not inextricably linked. When companies focus less on design and more on delivering what their customers want, then they succeed.
And it’s the same for self-help (are you listening Emma Watson?): focus less on working out what is right and wrong with your life – just get on with it and do what you desire.
- 68% of Marketers Did a Website Redesign in the Last 12 Months [Data] (hubspot.com)
- “Emma Watson Throws on a Sports Bra For a Pittsburgh Jog” and related posts (popsugar.com)
- Why self-help still flies off the shelf (telegraph.co.uk)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+