For much of its existence, the theory behind marketing was simple: if you have the means to create a message and the wealth to distribute it, you can control the dialogue about your company or product. When people feel a certain way, however, more words won’t change their minds. But new feelings may.
Activist and academic Lawrence Lessig describes this effect in his book, The Future of Ideas. The concentration of media and distribution, he explains, would eventually falter not because of governments or regulations but because of the way disruptive marketing instills itself in our world—that is, by people inhabiting the Internet.
As I have stated before on Branding Strategy Insider, a concentrated media world kept power and control in the hands of the few. It allowed only a few movies to be released, a certain type of music to be distributed, and only specific types of books to be published. But as Lessig notes, there was a dark side to all of this that led to a growing fragmentation of the media. More sources didn’t necessarily mean better content. More cable channels didn’t mean better programming. It simply allowed those cable channels to maximize their profits.
The fragmentation continues. The only blessing in this fragmentation for the field of marketing is that there is no longer an architecture that permits centralized control. Brands and organizations may continue to think they can drive the narrative, or land a message, but the new norm is about what particular kind of content or products or goals or messages or cultures or movements the marketers can inspire people to create. And most of what people will produce in the future will be very different from the mind share that companies have created in the past.
There’s a good reason the feelings evoked by those who have broken the grip of convention live in our hearts and not in our minds. Whether it’s art or technology, or medicine or literature, the people who have dared to seek new routes have made crucial advancements in their fields that also resonate with the rest of us. Marketing is no different. And as the world continually advances, we need those who are willing to forge those new paths. Jackie Chen, a social media manager at a prominent technology company, thinks there will always be a desire for human connection, particularly as digital experiences become more sophisticated:
I see it in the popularity of online gaming and social networks and the reach of Upworthy and TED. What we see touches us on an emotional level, which entices us to spread content because we want to have that shared experience, but we do less of that in person. Digital experiences are actually providing a way for us to feel even closer to one another. Twitch, for example, allows us to observe, yet also feel like we are part of the action.
Because human connection is so core to the human condition, there will always be a need for that human element in marketing, which will only be needed more as we spend more of our time in digital forums.
Conventional Marketing Vs. Disruptive Marketing
Many conventional marketers have been hesitant to make any dramatic changes to the way they orchestrate their marketing or establish their organizations. For far too long, they have been hung up on the idea that if they create content and then purchase a target audience on which to spray it, that content will somehow bring instant value to the customer. It’s almost as if those marketers forgot to put themselves in the customer’s shoes or to note that people aren’t waiting eagerly to read, watch, or see their content (i.e., if they even notice it at all). One reason for this disconnect between content and customer is that the messages have become too complex and they present too many statistics; rather, they need to evoke emotions and feelings.
What is another big disconnect? Too much marketing is done by marketers and is not truly influenced or created by the people who use those products or identify with the company based on its ethics and the meaning that conveys. Specifically, the best marketers no longer try to get into people’s heads. That is, if you want to make someone love you, make a good product.
No amount of marketing will ever make a bad product last. If you want to make a product that appeals to people, don’t just rely on the engineering or development team. The disruptive marketer sits on the design team as well, and thinks of new ways to touch people’s hearts.
Think about it. Why do people flock to some products like Google, but ignore other products like Bing—even if some of the former has been influenced recently by the latter’s design and functionality? Is there no love of Bing? Or is it lack of awareness? Would more awareness mean anything?
To the conventional marketer, the answer is yes — more awareness is needed. To a disruptive marketer, however, the data says that more awareness isn’t the answer. The answer is to spread awareness of customer love stories for the product, not more product user stats.
Perhaps David Brooks, senior vice president of digital and social strategy at Ogilvy & Mather, put it best when, during one of our many dynamic conversations about marketing, he said:
“I think things have gotten so noisy that the mind is shutting down and it is becoming even more important to reach the heart and evoke feelings. I think we remember how we feel more than what we think, but I am guessing on that. In any case, messages must evoke feelings even more than before, due to information overload; and I think even more so, messages must create a space where people can think and feel and feel inspired to create for themselves. We may be shut off from things being sent our way, but hopefully we will never shut off what we come up with on our own.”
Maya Angelou, the esteemed poet and essayist, said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Written by Geoffrey Colon at Branding Strategy Insider