[ photo courtesy ]
The below post is cross-posted from the newly launched WARC blog, where I’ll be posting the occasional ramble – nothing remotely groundbreaking here for regular readers, but musings I thought worth raising for the WARC audience:
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the holy grail for marketers is engagement – to build meaningful relationships between people and our brands. And yet the way we think about marketing is frequently diametrically opposed to the desired end result.
The vocabulary of marketing is largely one of warfare – with the consumer as enemy combatant, on the receiving end of our merciless attacks. The etymology of the word ‘strategy’ is military – literally meaning ‘the art of a general‘. And it’s just as applicable to the world of marketing as it is to the battlefield.
Think about it. How many times do we start by referring to the ‘target’ when considering audiences? (The fact that we talk about ‘consumers’ rather than simply ‘people’ is another strange beast, as it automatically frames people purely within the context of consumption rather than as the multifaceted human animals that we are, but that’s a whole other issue). So we launch aggressive campaigns carefully designed for maximum impact and to gain captive audiences, thinking about strikeweights and guerilla tactics to do battle, gain market dominance and kill the competition.
Hardly the language of fostering engagement and relationship building, is it?
We all know by now that people aren’t receptacles waiting eagerly for our advertising messages, and very often could quite happily live without whatever we’re trying to sell – but surely trying to conquer the enemy and beat them into submission isn’t the most effective solution? Isn’t trying to earn the right for our brands to be a part of people’s world, rather than trying to force our way in, ultimately going to be more valuable in the longer term?
We’d probably all agree that this is what we’re trying to do, and that a relationship based on permission and trust is far more desirable than one of force and conquest – and yet the language of marketing doesn’t appear to have caught up.
The vocabulary we use undoubtedly affects the way we approach things – both consciously and subconsciously. So if we want to actually develop marketing that’s based on marketing with people rather than to them, awareness of the language we use, and a concerted effort to move away from thinking about marketing as warfare, has got to be a move in the right direction.