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Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Donovan Rule of changing your audience's perception of you

Your target audience's perception of your product or service is often permanent. In fact, it's one of the hardest things in the universe to change.

Which is why it's crucial to make sure you get it strategically right in the first place.

Donovan is a good example of this.

In the mid-sixties, Donovan was Great Britain's answer to Dylan. Like Dylan, Donovan sang Woody Guthrie songs while playing guitar and harmonica at the same time. But while Dylan stayed on the A-list for over four decades (and even won a Grammy for his 2006 album), Donovan's career basically ended when the sixties ended.

What happened?

With such albums as Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow and A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, Donovan became the poster-flower child of the sixties. He cemented that perception by dressing like a flower child and joining the Beatles in India to study with the Maharishi. And when the sixties ended and his audience embraced either the harder or more progressive sounds of the seventies, they left him behind. It was time to move on.

What Donovan really sold was his name. It was his brand. And it would always be too closely associated with Flower Power and the Summer of Love -- just like Cream and Jefferson Airplane. Only he didn't have the luxury of Eric Clapton who could leave the brand-name Cream behind -- or of Jefferson Airplane who could change its name to Jefferson Starship. The Donovan brand was the sixties. And this meant he would always be a nostalgia act. It was too late to re-invent himself.

The obvious lesson? We all need to be conscious of our audience's perception of us -- and avoid branding ourselves with a trend or fad. All trends and fads end, and we don't want our products or services ending with them.

Again, changing someone's perception is one of the hardest things for a marketer to do.

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