MARKETING: The Magnetism of Heart (part II)

     There are people we associate with qualities we admire so that when we think of certain virtues we are also invariably reminded of them. For instance, every time I come across a version of the quote “Your character is defined by what you do when you don’t have to” I am reminded of a classmate. He was the only person I’d ever seen to take anonymous peer evaluations seriously. While everyone else was engaged in an unspoken race to be the first one finished and out the door, he put into the form the kind of thoughtfulness you’d be fortunate to find on an adoption paper. Although I’ve never spoken to him, I will always remember him and what he stands for.

Why do these people stay in our minds? I believe we are attracted to those with uncompromising principles, those with extraordinary ambitions, and those who can breed empathy from adversity because they live so determinedly by causes we too believe in and hold dear. Their overt identification with strong ideals leads them to be recognized as people with substance. Substance is heart and like moths to a flame, we gravitate towards this essence.

In this way brands are similar to people, when they have substance, when they embody values we admire or lifestyles we aspire to pursue, they hang around in our minds. Even when we don’t encounter them often. Even if they are not an integral part of our lives. When the occasion arrives that we must recall a certain product or service, the brands with purpose will be the ones to come to mind and when we have to make a purchase decision, the brands with heart are often our first call.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization, the desire to become all that one is able of becoming, penetrates the deepest level of human motivations. This suggests that a brand that can inspire and champion consumers in realizing self-actualization has the precious opportunity to create one of the most lasting connections. In recognizing their big ideaLs (see part I) brands take that first step in establishing such a bond. 

Global PR firm Edelman has concluded that purpose beats innovation, loyalty, and even design. It is the fifth p in the marketing mix. Although purpose is not a magic key it is a fundamental dais on which successful strategies are built on. Purpose will move brands closer to extracting maximum value from their communications initiatives.

Read More

MARKETING: the big ideaL (part I)

          A while back Ogilvy & Mather made a discovery they call the big ideaL

In their words the big ideaL is a platform of thinking that “allows brands to commit themselves to and then identify themselves with some cause of enduring importance. So that the qualities of a brand are no longer passed on merely through positioning, tone of voice, a visual identity or a big idea. But through its actions and words in support of something bigger than all of these.” 

     “big ideaLs exist in the intersection between two things.” 

The Cultural Tension is an articulation of something that is wrong with the world that needs changing, and that is addressable by the brand in question.”
The Brand’s Best Self is what the brand is like when it is at its best – what contexts and situations does it seek out and revel in.”

                                        What does it give consumers?
A big ideaL allows consumers to give voice to a model reality they’d like to see transpire. It makes people feel good.

                                       What does it do for a brand?
A big ideaL helps a brand stand apart from its competitors. It helps a brand penetrate markets by relating to consumers through cultural “trends”. It engages emotional responses and by driving interesting conversation it can make a brand famous.

                                       What are its tangible results?
A big ideaL leads to higher consumer consideration (brand X is my first choice), salience (brand X stands out the most), and brand voltage (how successfully brand X can convert awareness to bonding).

Let’s look at something concrete

                                           Chivas Regal’s big ideaL

Chivas believes the world would be a better place if people lived with chivalry.

A brand that embraces this philosophy is the premium whiskey maker Chivas Regal. Their marketing campaign “Live with Chivalry - The Resistance Movement” encourages people to live with “honour, brotherhood, and courage in an age of the individual”. The campaign celebrates friendship and endorses gallantry through a variety of short films, multimedia ads, and events.²

                                              What it gives consumers:
It reminds people, in an age where individualism is the norm, to look at another way of life. Living chivalrously makes the world a better place. 

                                            What it does for the brand:
It differentiates Chivas from other premium whiskeys and widens its market by becoming relevant to a bigger population (E.g. Men who don’t regularly drink premium whiskey but believe in living chivalrously). Its romanticism evokes a sense of dignity and a desire to live in accordance to knightly ideals. Mostly, the message is so creatively unique, idealistic, and optimistic that it is talked about, remembered, and shared.

                                                 Tangible results:
Over 3,000 people surveyed identified with Chivas’s code of chivalry; they believe these values are relevant to the way people live today. Chivas’s online movement “The Wall of Resistance” has acquired over thousands of signatures since its launch in 2008.

¹Ogilvy & Mather, the big ideaL

²Live with Chivalry Campaign

MARKETING: A Medium for Change

When an artist sings a song for other people, he hopes to reveal a shared consciousness and arouse the empathy of his audience. When a war journalist writes an article, she wants to communicate a reality that transcends spatial distance and can be felt universally. Marketers do the same thing. When they design a campaign, they derive the features of a commodity and translate them into messages that touch the desires of targeted consumers.

Pictures and words have the expressive power to reach people because they are mediums for conveying human experiences. The best songs or stories or billboards are the ones that linger in people’s minds. These creations engage thought and drive conversations. They give answer to questions that haven’t been asked. The key is in understanding the “product” and identifying with its intended “market” so completely that you can extract its full value and create from it an undeniable proposition.

T.E Lawrence once said “All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible”. Vision and action cannot stand alone in any great pursuit. Rather, any such possibility must come from a combination of both resolves.

Accordingly, truly successful marketing is equal parts investing in the process of artistic creation (of a message) and attributing purpose to that creation by generating results. Without result there is no meaning, without meaning there can be no passion, and without passion what is the purpose of a creation?

MARKETING: Our Consumerism Kills the Earth

Consumerism can be defined as a way of life based on the accruement of luxurious goods and extravagant experiences. In today’s society, this lifestyle reflects all-important attributes such as status, affluence, and power. Consumerism sets into motion a range of global repercussions but for the purpose of this argument, let’s focus on its effect on the planet.

In early 2011, Japan faced a nuclear disaster when the Fukushima power plant was hit first with an earthquake and then a tsunami. At the very same time in South Africa, thousands of elephants were being slaughtered for their tusks. By the end of the year, radiation from the Fukushima plant continued to seep into the surrounding atmosphere and the earth had lost more than 30,000 elephants.

It could be argued that the nuclear tragedy was a consequence of corporate mismanagement or that elephant poaching existed well before ivory was commercially traded. Indeed, the culpability of consumerism often hides behind these façades. Reality is both events are intricately linked to our consumerism. Consumerism exacerbates originally sustainable demands to dangerous levels. Instead of operating responsibly, nuclear plants are pressed carelessly to meet our energy mandate and instead of living and dying in the cycle of life that is an innate part of the animal kingdom, wildlife is systematically exterminated for our material pleasure.

WWF’s Living Planet Report from 2008 states that “globally we are consuming 30% more material than is sustainable”. Deforestation in the Amazon is one example. As the “Lungs of the Planet”, the Amazon Rainforest produces 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to half the world’s flora and fauna. Due to activities taken to meet consumption demands, one fifth of the Amazon is now gone forever. Instead of protecting this hen of golden eggs, the world has engaged in a reckless competition to pluck out her feathers.

Production also hurts the planet. When factories churn raw materials into consumable goods, vast amounts of waste is created. In 2006, the Amsterdam-based MNC Trafigura dumped 500 tons of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. This poisoned the shoreline causing environmental and human damage that is still obvious today.

The bottom line is that our consumerism IS killing the earth. Driven by an insatiable desire to “have more” we are clinging to an attitude that is ultimately deadly to our planet. Fortunately, this finding presents marketers with a very real opportunity to change habits. After all, marketing has the power to transform beliefs into attitudes, attitudes into behaviour, and behaviour into culture.

Consumerism is often thought to be a cultural paradigm created by marketers but I believe that marketing cannot fabricate realities we do not feel an affinity for. Marketing is an enabler not a creator. People have always competed to build taller towers and don more expensive clothing than their neighbours. This universal attitude of one-upmanship was the foundation of consumerism. Presently, people are beginning to place greater value on the future of the earth. This outlook may become the cornerstone of a new and more responsible era of consumption. 

NEWS, Hong Kong: Dolce & Gabbana Photo Spat

Credits Associated Press

Riding at the crest of not-so-hidden sentiments that wealthy mainland Chinese are given preferential treatment in Hong Kong is the recent Dolce and Gabbana protest. It all started when one of the Italian fashion house’s stores enacted a policy simultaneously forbidding local Hong Kong residents and allowing mainland Chinese to take photos of the storefront. This blatantly discriminatory statement enraged Hong Kong citizens who accused Dolce & Gabbana of prejudicial treatment on the basis of assumptions on wealth. The incident sparked mass protests outside the store as locals demanded for an apology from upper management.

Dolce and Gabbana’s response? A vague apology of regret declining management involvement delivered at 2 a.m in the morning days after the protest. To many people, this was much too little too late. News of the photo spat spread in a matter of hours through various media platforms. Unchecked discussions and damaging comments were left on various blogs, forums, and D&G’s facebook page. If a tidal wave could be used as a metaphor for the ill-advised policy, Dolce and Gabbana’s inadequate reaction could be likened to the wave’s destructive undertow. Together they have created long-term impairments for the brand’s image.

Poor policy decisions happen. Why though would a prestigious brand such as Dolce & Gabbana put such little effort into managing the outcome of their mistake? If the scanty response was due to a miscalculation of consequences, then this is a juvenile mistake indeed. A recent article published by the Harvard Business Review titled Embracing Complexity purposes that in today’s complex world even good intentions and seemingly brilliant strategies can result in unpredictable outcomes and far reaching consequences. Democratized media channels and consumer scepticism are the realities of the 21st century and companies must be prepared to manage in this environment or risk irrevocable losses.

Read More