Monday, February 11, 2013

MONDAY MARKETING Building a Trend Called Trust #branding #marketing #pubtip #indie #selfpub

Welcome back to my Monday Marketing blog. I've previously discussed the difference between a "fad" and a "trend" (not to mention the recurring fad, which is called a "fashion"). You can learn more about it in Chapter 21 of my marketing handbook (get The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (for Indie Authors) from Smashwords). Basically, the difference is the speed at which the publicity builds. Hence, the name Law of Acceleration.

Today I want to discuss the effect on "trust" that a fad (versus a trend) can have on an Author Brand Name's success. Click through the jump break to learn more.

Consumers Buy Brands They Trust
Brands that take off quickly will quite likely die off just as quickly. They will be a flash in the pan or "fad." The last thing you want is to turn your brand into a fad. I am not alone in the belief that if it's popular, it should be avoided just on the basis of "not supporting a fad." It's a well-documented psychology in sales that some consumers (myself included) even go so far as to actively avoid fads.

Why do we do this? Part of it is a lack of trust. As a consumer, I want to be able to trust in a brand to be there in my future, rather than wondering if this brand will last long enough for me to really enjoy what they have to offer. There's nothing more aggravating for a consumer to give a brand two or three tries and then, just as they are "hooked" on the brand, it disappears. This makes consumers wary and is why fads are actively avoided by consumers like myself.

From breakfast cereals to cosmetics, brand loyalty takes years to build and fads never quite last long enough to achieve a level of trust. This is even more true in the Digital Publishing industry. A reader needs to try more than one book from any given author before they will consider that Author Brand a name they'll add to the much-coveted "buy anything this author writes" list.

Reverse Psychology Does Not Build Trust
With the KDP Select Program, restricting publication of eBooks to the Kindle Stores--and nowhere else online at all--Amazon has tried to apply a classical strategy based on the Law of Acceleration. The goal is to reduce availability and  distribution points, to make the brand "unavailable" to the mass media with the idea that this will make the acquisition of the brand more desireable. The goal is to stretch out the adoption rate of the brand from a fad into a trend.

The problem with Amazon's approach of exclusivity is two-fold:

1) Not everyone in the world uses or is enamored of Amazon and their Kindle platform, despite what Amazon would like to think. Their hold on the Digital Publishing industry dropped from the 90% they originally held at the time they first released the Kindle hardware to a meager 55% and falling as of the 4Q12 reports by trackers such as Publishers Weekly and Bowker (who issues ISBN numbers to Digital Publishers). Amazon may still be the "#1 Retailer in the World" but they are no longer the top seller of eBooks--and the more they claim to be, the less trustworthy they are becoming.

2) The Digital Publishing industry still relies upon a hardware/software marriage for delivery of the brand to the consumer's hands. Not everyone wants to limit themselves to what's available in the Kindle Store--and only what's on Kindle. A Kindle device can read PDF files but not ePubs and that was on purpose. Additionally, Amazon has made it incredibly difficult to move eBooks a person OWNS from one device to another. I've experienced this myself, trying to move Kindle-format eBooks from one of my Kindle accounts to another. It's like Amazon thinks I'm stealing a book I already bought!

Even setting aside all of the hardware issues and format preferences, the fact that Amazon restricts access to the titles a brand has to offer means that readers cannot trust they'll be able to buy everything the author writes if they go with a Kindle format collection. Especially when it comes to series writing (which is my personal forte), it serves neither the author nor the consumer to restrict access. Decreasing supply by restricting access like Amazon is doing only increases demand when you're talking about widgets. It just doesn't work with books.

Author brands are not widgets and having "only 3 copies left! order now!" plastered on a page on top of it only being available at Amazon actually annoys a reader more than it does, say, someone who wants to buy a component audio/video cable or a dehumidifier for their room or some other household item that is not a book. A book is a personal purchase, since reading it allows the consumer to make a personal connection to another world, another reality. A consumer will not risk that experience simply because the store says "only 3 copies left! order now!"

Consumers Trust Only When They Care
Consumers don't really care about Amazon's DRM concerns or Nook's expansion into Europe or even Apple's dominance in the English-language reading world. All the consumers want is the brand. They know when they've enjoyed a book and when they have not. They know when they've enjoyed several books by the same author that they are likely to enjoy another and they will trust that author's Brand Name to deliver the same Satisfying Reader Experience the author has previously delivered.

Consumers don't really care, deep down, what device or delivery system they use to get their favorite brand into their hands. They care about price, ease of acquisition and consistency of the product's quality. They want to be able to trust that the brand will be there, be the same every time and deliver the same Satisfying Reader Experience every time.

When it comes to Digital Publishing, consumers care only about what they know and read. If they do not know how to acquire your books, they won't care about you and your books. If they do not know how to make your books work on their device, they won't care about the book because it is not designed to work for them on their chosen platform. They are unlikely to jump through hoops converting file formats just to get a copy of your book to work on their eReader device. There are simply too many other choices freely available without hassle for a consumer to "do battle" with Amazon's DRM or anyone else's for that matter.

Making your books as widely available as possible, in as many formats as are available and through as many distribution channels as you can find is what will make your books fall into the "trustworthy brand" category in a consumer's mind. They'll know they can trust you to be there when they go looking for a new book to buy.

Trusting Publicity's Motivating Factor
Then there's the issue of consumers not knowing about you. How can they trust you if they don't know you exist? When consumers hear about a new brand, there is usually some advertising slogan proclaiming why they should care about the brand. Best New Thing Since Sliced Bread! (or some similarly expansive claim). If the motivating factor is "trustworthy," the consumer will go on listening to the brand's message. If the motivating factor seems too ridiculous to be true, they will dismiss the entire message as though they never encountered it at all--and worse, categorize the brand as "not trustworthy" in their minds without even having first sampled your work!

You cannot lie and manipulate and deceive your away into a consumer's hands and then expect to be positioned in their minds as "trustworthy." Delivering a trustworthy message of your brand's value is how you "enter the mind" and establish your position. Publicity can help you establish your position before you try to further your branding message. Publicity is the way in. Publicity is the delivery system for your "one word." Make it a good one.

What's Next....
Tomorrow I'll wrap up the Tuesday Tool Tip review  I started before the hiatus by telling you my feelings on the Wacom Bamboo Capture tablet now that I've had a chance to work with it a bit. I hope to see you then.

Thanks for stopping by!



Anonymous said...

I really love this post and agree 100%. I have never put a book of mine into KDP Select because I never wanted to limit its distribution. In the beginning I questioned my sense when some friends reported these major sales during their 5 free days. But they quickly saw those didn't bring the money thought and frequently didn't even bring reviews.

I've learned that this digital world is a long game, not a short one. The long game requires trust and that is what I want associated with my author brand.

Webbiegrrl Writer said...

Good to hear from you, Maggie! Yes, it is a long game, no doubt, and it does take time to build a relationship with a reader just as it does with any other kind of interpersonal connection we humans may form. People are people after all (as my faves Depeche Mode once sang)

I still maintain that KDP Select can be a good way to launch a book, but it is definitely not a good approach in general. Readers need to be in charge of making their own buying decisions without us providers dictating the terms to them. If they are not allowed to make their own choices, they'll simply discard the whole question as unappealing. It's basic human psychology. No one enjoys being subjected to coercion. Not authors, not readers, not anyone.