Beware Of The Guarantee

Out of all the quotes to choose from, I have to chuckle that I'm referencing Chris Farley and the 1995 movie "Tommy Boy." In the classic 1995 comedy, Tommy Boy (Farley) asks, "...why would somebody put a guarantee on a box? Hmmm, very interesting."

This is indeed very interesting. To me, a guarantee means to devalue or to assume something is cheap or that a business doesn't believe its offering is strong enough on its own, therefore it needs to offer a little something extra. It's been a long time since I flipped through late night TV, but when I have, I recall seeing infomercials pushing offerings like "buy one couch cleaner and get the other for free" or even better "buy our closet hanging set and get another one free, if you call now." These guaranteed offers, almost always include the 30-day money back guarantee. On the latter note, if you've returned something within 30-days, I'm betting it hasn't been a pleasant experience.

A guarantee (I'm hearing about these offers more and more as of late) in digital marketing might sound like a pleasant proposition, but marketers beware. While it might make you "feel all warm and toasty inside," according to Tommy Boy, there are no real guarantees when it comes to Internet users' behavior -- they are fickle creatures. Fine, buy the safety of knowing what the results will be, when running basic, well practiced programs, such as banners. Today, however, the landscape, especially as it relates to social media, isn't about forced, predictable results. It is about engaging the user in contextually-relevant ways that add to the conversation, rather than detract.



Doing so, you can't -- unless you're remarkably gifted at predicting user behavior -- guarantee a result. However, if you're in the mindset of creating or offering something that social media users want, they will interact, share and generate results that produce campaign headlines that deliver desired, not guaranteed results.

When spending in social media, advertisers should consider who the audience is, how they can connect and speak with them relevantly, and how they can engage the audience and better their user experience? They shouldn't be considering reach. For example, if you are selling baby products you should be looking for audiences that attract moms or families. If you are trying to reach new viewers to watch your new comedy TV show you should advertise to people interested in TV and looking for new shows.

If you were approached with the ability to buy 100,000 moms talking about baby products or 80,000 people that love the show "Friends" wouldn't you consider these options over buying a million guaranteed "people" to install, click or come to your site? The reason being is those one million guaranteed people don't translate into one million people who care about your brand, will talk about your brand or more importantly engage with your product.

I'm not saying you shouldn't align yourself and business strategy with the best opportunity for distribution, reach, impressions and engagement, but you can't simply buy guaranteed results in social media. So, beware of the guarantee online. Of all people, Tommy taught us the lesson of the guarantee. Not bad for a guy who graduated college in "...just under a decade..."

3 comments about "Beware Of The Guarantee".
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  1. Gary Klein from GKlein&associates, April 20, 2009 at 8:48 a.m.

    Nice piece........good sound, straight-forward logic and as we all agree, Tommy knows!!

  2. Robert Viney from Interactive Commerce Solutions, April 20, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.

    Marketing is an investment made to deliver a return via purchases and profits. Marketers have to use their creative thinking and insights to test and measure the purchase and profit outcomes that come from their media investment decisions.

    In any targeting decision, a marketer should have determined by testing and measuring outcomes which targets and in which context they are reached, result in the highest ROI. High reach of a specific target doesn't equal high ROI, necessarily, unless the target reached reponds with an interest in a purchasing experience.

    If as a marketer, I know the target I want to reach from a rigorous test and measure process, and I know the contexts where I receive higher responses related to purchase interest, then a guarantee helps me know the acquisition cost. When that's a given, I'm able to plug in my forecast of response and purchase, and the value of those purchases to me, and determine the ROI of that media purchase.

    As stated in the article, not all targets are equally valuable or profitable, and neither are all contexts in which the "right" targets are reached. It's key to understand the target/context impact on responses, purchases, acquistion costs and ROI of all options. When reach and even response datapurchase behavior are disconnected from purchase and profitability outcomes . . . even a guarantee won't help a marketer deliver a great return for the investment.

  3. Chris Cunningham from appssavvy, April 21, 2009 at 5:20 p.m.

    Robert thanks for your insightful comments and Gary for your thumbs-up -- both are very appreciated. I look forward to writing further for MediaPost and that our paths cross again. If you'd ever like to connect one-on-one, feel free to reach out to me at

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