Marketing is not about lying or cheating, or tricking consumers into wanting what they think you’ve got (even if you don’t). So what is it?
I’ve briefly opened my psyche’s closet doors, shoved back the “Haven’t studied for finals” nightmare, knocked out the three-headed monster that keeps yelling “Ian, the clowns are coming” and even dodged past my daughter marrying the leader of a right-wing biker gang to bring you my definition of marketing.
I use this definition to test my assumptions, and keep myself honest:
My Definition of Marketing
Giving authentic, compelling information to the right audience the way they want it, when they want it.
That’s it. I’m a simple guy. So I have a simple definition.
Let’s break it down.
AdAge or the New Your Times would use a word like ‘communicating’ or ‘delivering’ or maybe even ‘rendering’. I prefer ‘giving’.
You’re providing a consuming audience with a message. Which equals ‘giving’.
You might be doing this through the radio, in print, by word of mouth or (gasp) on the internet.
And, by doing so, you must be doing the audience a service. Repeating your company name 400 times in a shouting radio spot is not giving. It’s slapping.
A marketing message works if it’s both compelling and authentic.
Authentic means true in the eyes of both the audience and yourself. You can’t be authentic if you’re lying to yourself. Authentic also means that, even if it isn’t entirely true, everyone receiving the message will feel good, even if they know the message to be a fib. I don’t care if the manufacturing carbon footprint of my Prius is worse than your Hummer’s. I still use less gas. Nyah nyah.
A compelling piece of information makes the audience feel good about taking action and buying, voting, speaking out or otherwise doing what the marketer asks. This is an emotional component, not a factual one. I love my Macbook, not because of the UNIX-based operating system or built-in camera, but because it has an air of solidity and silicon chiq about it.
A compelling, inauthentic message is a lie. That’s not our job as marketers.
A wimpy, authentic message is a whine. You can make that your job if you want, but stay the hell away from me.
A compelling, authentic message speaks clearly and honestly. That’s our job.
If you just yell “I am so COOL” I’m not going to respond. You have to couch that authentic, compelling message in hard information.
So, Toyota informs me about the mileage my Prius gets, but simultaneously shows me images of the cool GPS unit, stereo and other miscellaneous geekery. They deliver information as the foundation of an emotional appeal.
Great marketing informs me. It helps me make a decision about which I can feel smart (even if I’m a car moron, which I am).
The Right Audience
If I’m a hardcore Lexus fan, I’ll make a crappy potential Prius owner.
Grabbing the #1 spot for ‘Touring Sedan’ would do the Toyota Prius no good. Ranking #1 on Google for ‘hybrid car’, though, would be great (it’s #4, which ain’t bad either).
The Way They Want It, When They Want It
The TV commercial is dead. Long live the TV commercial.
Marketers can no longer force their audience to listen during defined time slots. Instead, we have to make sure that the marketing message is out there, floating around, ready to be snatched out of the ether by the consumer on their terms.
That’s why search engines are making so much money. Discoverability is the key.
Understand where and how your audience spends their time researching your product or service. Then go where they are. Don’t expect them to come to you.
Why You Care About This
You care about this, or you should.
If marketing is cheating and trickery, then marketers must find shortcuts and loopholes, and it’s OK for others to cheat and trick you.
If marketing is helpful, entertaining communication, well-executed, then marketers must be great communicators, and all marketing should teach, entertain and compel us, just a little.
Which sounds better to you?
[Thanks to Seth Godin and David Ogilvy, as well as John Caples, for the many great learnings behind this post.]
I know, I know, I’m awfully pompous this week. I’ll stop after this, I promise. I think my impending 40th birthday (still months away) is making me try to turn my life hawking bullet proof vests and wedding tchochkes into a higher pursuit.
I wrote a book about this stuff, by the way. get it, and you’ll have my undying gratitude.