I work in marketing, and sometimes… I’m ashamed of our industry. If you were to judge the marketing field by the articles and books being produced, consumed and promoted these days you’d think we’re all parasitic wastes of skin.
From oversimplified, vague and useless content like the “Top 5 ways to increase your followers” and “3 things you didn’t know about Kim Kardashian’s ass”, to books on using the latest psychology and neuroscience to manipulate customers into buying MORE STUFF – it’s hard to believe marketing hasn’t been outlawed yet.
The sentiment I get from reading these kind of materials and seeing what are considered award winning campaigns is that we, the customers, are viewed and treated as mindless masses that just need the right carrot in front of them to get us to move, and buy. And unfortunately, it works often enough that we have an entire industry dedicated to shoving shitty products into our lives. Products that hurt the environment. Products that make us fat, sick and stupid.
However you choose to think about it, marketing is often used as a weapon of mass control. A tool of spreading “a message”, reaching “target audiences”, and influencing their behaviour towards certain biases (vote republican) or outcomes (buy a Big Mac).
And this worries me. Because all of it is coming from the wrong place, driven by the ever increasing need to show higher profits and revenues.
The motivating factor
A lifetime ago, at my last “real” job as a radio cluster interactive advertising manager, we had revenue targets to hit. They kept increasing every year. In particular, my department was expected to generate 20% – 50% growth year over year. A “normal” revenue goal increase was 8% yearly for most other departments. And so we buzzed around, meeting clients and pitching promotions, airtime and banner space. My role was to go in with a sales person and find a way to sell the interactive real estate we had on our websites.
A few times, the salesperson would pitch something I knew wouldn’t actually work for the client. But we were selling air and banners with the goal of reaching our sales targets. Not because we genuinely wanted to help. And I would feel the knots growing in my stomach as we sat there, pitching things.
That was the beginning of my downfall as a corporate employee, and the the start of an aspiration to higher values in my own business.
Reality is… I didn’t (and still don’t) give a shit about revenue targets. The question that matters is: Can I help you? Do I genuinely believe my advice will make you happier with your life and your business? Is this the right thing for both of us to do right now?
You see… THAT comes from a different place, a different motivating factor. That sentiment now guides how I do my work, and who I work with.
And this was just my journey – millions of other entrepreneurs are rising to higher values and serving their community. Want another example? Check out 10 Tree – a company that plants 10 trees for every garment sold. Or Toms Shoes – a company that gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.
So, it’s important to ask where is this coming from? What is the driving motivation? Meeting sales targets… or genuinely wanting to help and make a difference.
Sidenote: I recently read “Start Something That Matters”, written by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Tom’s Shoes – and you can follow the whole story including his motivating factor from the very beginning. Highly recommended read.
Hacking the marketing machine
The marketing machine, when utilized by big brands, spins its engines to reach groups of people and influence their behaviour. But even for master marketers, things are getting more difficult. We are getting harder to reach and manipulate.
Millenials, in particular, are circumventing the entire system. I recently flew out to Victoria, BC and while at the airport I noticed a couple of tweens puttering around, faces buried in their electronics. I happened to walk by the two girls who were about 10 or 12, happily giggling to each other while remaining focused on their devices. One watched a YouTube video of a girl around the same age speaking into the camera, about what seemed to be glitter or something, while the other was snap chatting away with her friends. All with full control over which brands they ALLOW into their lives.
Right now, there are 100 hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute. That is 4 days worth of content. Every minute.
Snapchat is less then 3 years old. And it has 100 million active users. That is 500% the readership of The New York Times.
These new apps and social networks have thrown a wrench into marketers’ gears, because they allow us to evade the marketing machine and make our own choices of who we want to connect with, how and when. You can easily block popups, and video pre-rolls on YouTube. You can read magazine-quality content on blogs, or block annoying brands on Twitter.
This phenomenon is flipping the entire industry on it’s head. It’s no longer about shoving unwanted content down people’s throats… It’s about getting us to choose you. It’s about creating genuine and meaningful relationships. It’s about love.
Love is all you need
I flew out to Victoria to meet with Paul Jarvis, a bestselling author and web designer extraordinaire (who is booked a year in advance BTW). I really admire how he built his business, so we chatted about his journey. One thing really stuck with me… A couple of years ago, when he started refining his voice and growing his community, he offered a free 30 minute Skype chat to his email subscribers. He wanted to get to know them better, and see how he could genuinely help them. He spoke to 36 members of his community – offering advice and help without asking for anything in return.
Armed with insights collected from that effort, he went on to write and publish four books and numerous articles aimed at giving something valuable to the people he spoke to and their peers. His community. His list has since more than quadrupled and keeps growing steadily.
No shady tactics. No manipulation.
Let me switch gears for a minute… and turn our lens on a REALLY big company. A company where a customer service agent can be Thor, son of Odin, and who will send a Valkyrie flying to deliver your package to keep peace in the galaxy.
Pretty cool story hey? These are the types of brands we CHOOSE to connect with because we are human and we feel human emotions. We need to feel heard and understood. We need to feel valued. Loved. Not targeted and influenced.
I believe our value systems are beginning to be reactivated. And with the proliferation of choice in communication channels, sources and connectedness – we are starting to make better, more informed decisions.
If you are reading this, chances are you’ll love the concept behind 10 Tree or Toms Shoes, and you’ll choose to allow them into your life. Because they don’t try to manipulate or market, in the traditional sense of the word. They publicly display what their values are, and then manifest those values through their work. And we, as customers, want to connect with other real people with similar values.
I put together a simple graphic below, outlining the key differences between marketing as we know it, and using LOVE as a marketing strategy.
If you are an entrepreneur, we are waiting for you to put some love back into your business. Love is what makes good brands great, and great brands timeless.
So, instead of “Made in china” wouldn’t it be great to see “made with love”, and know that it’s true?