Marketing is all around us. Every choice we make is influenced by what we see in the world around us, by what marketers have put before our eyes. We are so used to a certain type of marketing that we take it for granted, without realizing the potential it offers us to change things for the better, to do something good.
Most people seem interested only in business figures: turnover, market share, social media interactions, etc. But in reality no successful business can exist without having a solid foundation.
In this article, we explore what it means to have deep roots, which allow us to grow, and offer people something that makes the difference for them.
Difference between marketing and advertising
Most companies still try to be more visible than the competition, to have a bigger voice, to make more noise.
We are still tied to outdated mechanisms where consumer habits were influenced by prime time commercials, or by record charts. We try to exploit the same mechanisms of the past, but now they no longer work.
The Internet is the first mass media not to have been explicitly invented for advertising. TV and radio were born to broadcast advertising messages en masse, and for years they have influenced our choices as consumers.
But the panorama we find online is different: anyone has access to the network, and can make their voices heard. So what we find is a jumble of millions of different voices, a saturation of messages in which it is difficult to really make yourself heard. In this case, raising your voice cannot work.
In today’s landscape, the difference between advertising and marketing becomes clear.
Advertising is simply a technique with which you present your product, in order to put it in front of the eyes of as many people as possible. Marketing, on the other hand, is the process of finding your own market, the people for whom our products can do something great.
We think of the countless advertising campaigns that we can buy on the internet – from Facebook to Adwords, or the countless SEO techniques that are offered by consultancy agencies.
They all have the same goal: to be seen as much as possible. Identify a target of “typical” customers and subjugate them with our presence. What few realize is that “spreading the word” has only marginally to do with real marketing, and that it must be the last step, not the first.
Marketing is divided into 5 phases:
1. To invent something worth creating, with a story worth telling, and a contribution worth talking about. Decide what change we want to make.
2. Design and design this product in such a way that a small group of people can benefit from it and become attached to it. Do not seek mass immediately, but focus on those people who really care about us.
3. Tell a story that marries the dreams and stories of the people in this group. Create a bond that is much more than just the utility of the product.
4. The most exciting phase: to talk about the product. Here we can take advantage of advertising, try to expand. Those who are already fond of will contribute a lot to make us known.
5. Make yourself heard, always. This step is often overlooked, but it is essential if we want to create something lasting, capable of bringing about the change we have in mind. Maintaining contact with our market helps to consolidate the relationship we have built.
Marketing to speak to the public
We often think that it is the characteristics of a product, the design, the functionality, which lead it to be a success or a failure. But that’s not quite the case. What makes a product a success are the stories that consumers tell themselves.
Those who do marketing must not use the consumer to sell their company’s products, but must use marketing to solve people’s problems. Our culture is based on status, or our perception of what our role is in the world around us, and where we want to go.
We recognize ourselves in a culture, and the thought that guides a group of people with the same culture is “people like us do things like this”, and those who do marketing must understand what the people they are addressing want to, they must create a culture, to connect people.
The consumer does not want a product to appear, he wants what the product can do for him. As Theodore Levitt, a marketing professor at Harvard, said, “People don’t want the drill bit, they want the hole in the wall.” The product is not useful in itself, but its usefulness lies in what it can do for us.
If we want to continue the analogy, the consumer does not even want the hole in the wall. He wants a chance to attach a shelf. He wants the feeling of well-being that he will experience in having an orderly home, or perhaps the admiration of his partner.
Each of us looks for something different, but the emotions behind our choices are always the same: a sense of belonging, of connection, of realization.
Each of us has our own world view. Our way of perceiving what happens and those around us varies from individual to individual, we have prejudices and preconceptions that shape our reality. Even the image we have of ourselves, and what we would like to be, makes us different from each other.
This is why we all have different tastes, desires and needs. But one thing that unites us all is the fact that we are looking for people with a vision similar to ours, that shares our values and feelings. Even when we choose to go against the current, we are still looking for our “niche”.
Real goals and focus on “who our product is for”
The question all marketers should start with is “what change do I want to make?” It may seem trivial, but it is the first step towards an active approach to marketing.
He immediately puts us in the role of someone who is actively trying to offer people something that changes their life for the better, and makes us focus immediately on the goal. One of the biggest obstacles that marketers face is that of setting unreal goals.
For many, the goal right away is to make their product known, and therefore buy, to as many people as possible. Here, therefore, thousands of euros are invested in advertising campaigns on social media, without pausing first to think about a fundamental thing: for whom is our product?
The biggest lie in advertising is to send the message “this product is better”. A much more truthful and honest message would be “this product is better for some people. Maybe it is for you too. “
Our main goal is to understand which group of people our product is best for, and not be afraid to tell others “it’s not for you”.
Initially we may be tempted to give in to any criticism, to any negative comment, changing our product, making it more “acceptable” for the average, thus satisfying a greater number of consumers.
But in doing so, the risk is to create a mediocre product, which does not bring about the change we had set ourselves, and does not change people’s lives. In other words, a replaceable product.
What we have to do instead is to focus on that group, however small it may be at the beginning, which finds our product fantastic, almost indispensable.
Those customers who, if we were to disappear, would miss us. Those who are so satisfied that they are willing to support us, to buy our next product, based on the trust established.
These will be the people who will then speak to others about us, who will make us known, and their word has a far greater value than any promise we can make with advertisements.
“Get to” the consumer and make him identify with the product
Everyone acts on the basis of their own world view, their own personal narrative. Changing one’s behavior, adopting new habits and products depends on our desire to belong.
We identify with a particular group (people like us) and adopt their uses and habits (things like this). For decades, the culture of advertising and marketing has operated on the principle that everyone was “people like us”, on the assumption that everyone wanted the same things (or trying to push everyone to want the same things).
Popular culture today is much more fragmented, and “everyone” is a concept that no longer makes sense. Most of the products that have been successful in recent years have done so with very low adoption rates in absolute terms.
The concept of “people like us” has narrowed, but this should not be viewed as a bad thing. Today’s consumer has many more options to choose from, but he is also much more aware that certain choices give him a sense of belonging, make him feel closer to the type of person he wants to be.
Our product must aim to promote a change for those people who recognize themselves in a certain group, who think “those like us do things like this”.
In this case, identifying the “we” of these people is very important: the clearer and more specific the group of people we turn to, the easier it will be for us to identify their characteristics. To identify this group, we need to think not only about demographic aspects, such as age, education, employment, etc., but we should use what is called psychographics, or the study of the consumer that is based on behavior.
Thus, we will be able to focus on a group of people who share a culture, or at least some cultural aspects, building a story that resonates deeply with them, which offers them the change they seek.
We must have the courage to leave aside those who do not belong to this group, without fear of losing potential customers. We must have the courage to try to change one culture, and choose which one, leaving out the others.
Creating and maintaining a bond: obtaining permission
Traditionally, advertising has always operated on the concept of interruption, from the advertisements in the first printed newspapers to the “shopping tips” during TV programs.
Nowadays, attention is a limited resource, and there are hundreds of thousands of voices trying to catch even a little bit of it. Competing for the consumer’s attention, trying to stop it, doesn’t work.
What works is permission. A customer who joins our mailing list because he is interested in our products has given us his explicit consent to contact him, to let him know that we are working on the launch of a new product, to keep him updated on our initiatives. In short, to maintain a bond.
Buying clicks or views is a shortcut for visibility, not for permission. When a Facebook user sees one of our sponsored posts, it’s not because he gave us his consent. In this case, the consent is of the platform. If we change platforms, we don’t carry the user with us.
If the user leaves the platform, we lose it. Of course, advertising campaigns often attract new customers, and they also end up repaying the investment made, but what happens is that usually the margin earned is reinvested in advertising, and a vicious circle is created that ends only when the campaigns stop generate sales.
Furthermore, on social platforms like Facebook and Adwords, the margins are extremely thin. This is because most of the income goes to the platform, which is designed specifically to fuel this reinvestment mechanism. In this scenario, the only real long-term gain goes to the platforms.
Evil marketing and positive marketing
When it works, marketing can lead people to change their habits, to buy something they otherwise wouldn’t have bought, to vote for someone they otherwise wouldn’t have voted, or to support an initiative that they would otherwise have ignored.
All of these things can improve people’s lives. But marketing can also be used for less noble purposes, such as convincing people to smoke, manipulating election campaigns, or disseminating information that can lead to even disastrous consequences.
So yes, sometimes marketing can be used for purposes that we might call evil, but it wouldn’t be fair to demonize anyone involved in marketing simply because a minority has used it incorrectly.
Marketing allows us to promote changes for the better, to give people the tools to change their lives, and to make a difference.