In many ways, marketing is doing more harm than good in the world. It creates false need where there may not be need. It prays upon lack and scarcity. It creates identities that people attach to (ever heard someone talk obsessively about a customer avatar?). It serves up comparison, makes you feel less than and then takes advantage of those comparisons to sell you things.
Marketing also emphasizes status. And that’s just on the consumer side.
Marketing leaders and their teams are overwhelmed, burnt out and under-resourced. This level of stress produces a scarcity mindset, which then produces a lot of unhealthy behavior.
Last April, we wrote about this very issue in a piece called “Stop the Madness.” We proposed four principles that would re-humanize marketing, both for the consumer and for the brand leaders:
- Be humans connecting with humans.
- Make transparency an action.
- Mastering storytelling is mastering marketing.
- Have the courage to own your uniqueness.
None of these ideas require blunt-force trauma marketing practices, big ad spends, complicated campaigns. They do require leaders to shift their thinking on marketing from promos and pitching to invitations and inspiration.
The first shift is this…
Most business people think they need to begin their efforts to connect with their “target market” (a term we loath because nobody wants to be a target and it isn’t a market you serve, it is human beings) with marketing.
If you begin in this vein, you will quickly run out of motivation and material. Because marketing is so demanding and needs to be done so consistently, it requires deep footers, or roots, embedded in the soil of soul. In other words, if how you share your message (your marketing) is not an expression of what you believe to be true (your brand), then marketing will consistently be taxing. It will become transactional as it tilts towards offering-focused discussions. It also runs the risk of being disingenuous and lacking in cohesion.
Instead of tackling marketing first, pause. Pull the car over for a moment. You really do have the time to do that (although much of marketing will tell you that you do not). Begin first with the root system. Begin with your brand in mind, in heart.
Now that you’ve stopped (even if just for an hour), here’s a scenario that helps you prioritize your attention and resources.
What if you couldn’t use any of your branding and marketing resources to:
- Pitch a product or service?
- Compare yourself to your competitors?
- Produce manufactured urgency?
What would you do instead?
We posit that you could focus your energy on doing good in the world. “Doing good” comes in many forms. It could be creating a delightful, consistent and immersive client experience. It could be making a product that contributes to humanity. It could be using your brand to promote and support social causes.
No pitching, no comparing, no urgency.
Now sit back, take a breath and imagine what your life and the lives of the humans that your brand reaches would look like. Your anxiety and stress will ease and you will be more strategic and intentional in your decision-making. Your team will have a renewed sense of purpose. And your customers will breathe their own sigh of thanks that you are not hounding them for more of their attention.
The last year has been filled with fear, anxiety and a lack of assuredness. That mentality has seeped into every aspect of us as human beings. It’s also seeped into our work and how we approach all we do.
If you are the person who runs marketing in your organization, we also suggest pausing to look at how fear might be affecting the way you approach your marketing and branding strategy. It might be worth considering that taking a rushed, marketing-heavy approach is either driven by or designed to address the fear you feel.
Breathe and consider. Marketing from fear is probably the least effective and most damaging approach you can take when communicating to your audience.
By adopting the above suggestions instead, you circumvent fear and begin to create from a place of love and abundance — and avoid marketing altogether.