Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.
In the month that I've blogged, I think I've come a little closer to where I'm trying to take this thing. I started out with the purpose of adding something to the blogosphere, this online marketplace of ideas where anyone, regardless of social status or resources, could rise in prominence based on the power of their ideas.
But I didn't want to write a blog about blogs. Recursion is for programmers. As Hugh Macleod says, blogging has moved beyond the tipping point
. It has moved mainstream -- I don't think writing about blogging really adds anything to the conversation.
For about a half day, I envisioned GrokMart as a place where the blogosphere's most fascinating ideas could be discussed. That would be great -- even noble -- if I didn't have a job and an ever-increasing to-do list outside of work. Plus, I'm really not that interested in debating the value of someone else's ideas.
A few weeks ago, I changed Grokmart's description from "Don Seamons' contribution to the online marketplace of ideas" to "An examination of the power of ideas." Persuasion is really what gets me excited. How do we reach people, deeply? How do we go from getting their attention to changing their mind? In my opinion, that's the core of advertising/marketing/public relations. And that's what this site is about.
PR vs. Marcomm?
I'm having an email conversation (I love gmail) with an owner of a PR agency. In her latest message, she said "you may be more of a marcomm professional than an overall PR pro."
Yeah, marcomm is different from PR in its execution and in its strategy. But the core of marcomm, PR and even advertising is the same. It's understanding and listening to our audience. It's building relationships. It's speaking the truth.
I have a suspicion that this type of a statement is a relic of the old competition between PR, marketing and advertising. That's irrelevant today. "Markets are conversations" is the new mantra. The method
of the conversation -- be it direct mail, channel marketing, the news media, or a full page ad -- is much less important than the conversation itself.
Marketing to Higher Motivations
Quick. Name an advertiser or a marketer who motivates us to act out of pure love. Or virtue. Or kindness. Or compassion. Can you think of any? I can't. Sure, I can think of advertisers who tug at our heartstrings. AT&T encouraged us in the 70s to "reach out an touch someone." My mom could never watch one of those ads without crying. Hallmark still sponsors emotion-laden made-for-TV movies, and entertains us during the commercial breaks with 2-minute spots that show us why we're better off when we "care enough to send the very best." Budweiser (!) just about brought tears to my eyes during the most recent Super Bowl when it showed American GIs coming home from the Middle East to the applause of perfect strangers.
Is that marketing to our highest motivations?
I think those advertisers are encouraging us to associate our noblest feelings with their products. They're showing their understanding of what makes humans tick. They're using inspiration to break through the clutter.
Honestly, they may be pandering
to our highest motivations.
Does marketing/advertising equal pandering?
In some cases, yeah. Did the AT&T bigs care how many friends and family they were bringing together? Does the Hallmark ad agency give a flying fig how many hearts they warmed? Do the Budweiser product managers really appreciate the sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform.
Maybe, maybe not. But they know their audience cares.
In most cases, I think a better word than "pandering" is "appealing." We marketers have our hats in hand, and we're making our best pitch, and, some of the time, we are promoting exactly what the customer/client/public needs. Oftentimes, we're trying to make numbers and are just putting lipstick on a pig. Can we market to our audience without manipulating our audience?
I'm an optimist. I think we can. Sure, we need to use our talents of influence and persuasion. But we can do it with the customer's/client's/public's best interest at heart. We can do it by appealing to the highest in all of us. It's not easy. But it's worthwhile. I don't know
that it's more effective. Appealing to our fears, our lusts, and our self-indulgence works. But my gut tells me it has
to be more effective over the long-term. Stands to reason it will be better for the brand, better for creating loyalty. And better for keeping the demons at bay.
Reading through my last few posts (I'm my most avid reader), I'm seeing more of a political slant than I thought this blog would have. I'm not sure if that means I'm trying too hard to get noticed (political blogs are heavily read) or that politics means more to me than I thought.
I don't mean for this blog to be a political rant, but in the interest of full disclosure, here's my politics in a nutshell:
- I'm not registered as a Republican or a Democrat, which I guess means I'm an independent.
- I'm socially and fiscally conservative.
- I'm an environmental moderate (smart growth, not sprawl)
- I'm liberal when it comes to interpreting the free speech clause of the first amendment
- I'm conservative when it comes to interpreting the establishment clause of the first amendment.
- I voted for Bush, but thought Kerry would have made a fine president.
- I love America.
There you have it.
Marketing to Base Motivations
One of the wonderful things about working in marketing communications is that I get to dabble in the noble art of persuasion. I'm fascinated by why people do the things they do. And I'm equally fascinated with how communication in any form can motivate people to act.
Following up on last week's post
, I think the reason there is so much fear-mongering is that it's so easy. It's much easier for Sen. Kerry to say that Bush would be to blame for thousands of possible flu deaths than it is to convince Americans that his own health care policy should get him elected. It's much easier for Pres. Bush to get us to fear Saddam Hussein's ability to share weapons of mass destruction with terrorists than to convince us that deposing a despot and building a democracy in the Middle East is better not only for America but for the entire world.
We marketers use fear and other base motivations all the time. Writing promotional copy for a conference, I've used the phrase "this is a conference you can't afford to miss" many times. The implication is if you don't attend, you won't get essential information, or worse, your competitor will.
The marketing profession more often than not motivates using these lower motivators including:
- Greed (see financial services ads)
- Lust (see beer commercials)
- Self-indulgence (see travel industry commercials)
The problem is these type of motivators make empty promises. In the end, Merrill Lynch won't make you rich, Bud Light won't get you the girl, Carnival Cruise Lines won't make you happy and attending my company's conference won't make the difference between success and failure.
Is it any wonder that marketing, advertising and PR is becoming less and less effective?
Three Degrees of Motivation
So the Centers for Disease Control is saying that despite the flu shot scare of last fall, we now have a flu shot surplus. Remember back in October when Sen. Kerry was saying Pres. Bush was to blame for our flu shot supply being cut in half? Doesn't that seem silly now?
Of course, scare tactics are standard fare in the world of politics. Pres. Bush made the case for invading Iraq based on "intelligence" that proved Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. (What gives me the greatest pause about having our troops there now is that the case for war was made -- intentionally or not -- under false pretenses.)
When we humans are motivated to act, we can file our motivations under one of three headers: fear, duty and love.
- Fear is the basest of our motivations. Hate belongs in this category, too, but the root of hate is fear.
- Duty is sort of a middle ground when it comes to motivation. We aren't acting for a negative reason, but since we're doing something because we have to, we aren't doing that thing for positive reasons, either.
- Love is the highest form of motivation, and I'm not talking about the lustful, selfish love. I'm talking about the love that causes us to put aside our own agenda and genuinely want to do something for someone else.
Would we be at war if Pres. Bush had tried use duty to make the case for war? How about some higher motivation like love or compassion? Either way, the war would have been a tough sell.
Just reading a NYTimes article
on the rift between Democrats and Republicans re: the Alberto Gonzales nomination. So I get to the bottom of the article (which consisted mostly of quotes from posturing Senators) and see this under "Advertiser Links":
Great deals on new and used items. Search for democrats now! -aff
Are Democrats so rare that they're now being sold on eBay? lol.