Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



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.

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