When my daughter was younger, one of her favourite movies was Matilda. Based on the book by Roald Dahl, the film stars Danny De Vito and tells the story of a lovely young girl being raised by awful bullying parents. De Vito is the quintessential, evil used car salesman. In one scene, Matilda asks her father why he is cheating people by selling junkers that are beyond repair. “Don’t people need good cars? Can’t you sell good cars, Dad?” He replies: “Listen, you little wiseacre: I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Every time I am reminded of this exchange, I am struck by how similar this attitude is to that held by the marketing establishment over the past fifty years. For decades, brand bullies have been abusing their customers with their “I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it” attitude.
Bullies Still Exist
Remarkably, this bullying culture still exists within the marketing industry. “If we just force our way into the face of our audiences, they will relent.” Old school marketing agencies continue to take client dollars under this misguided and, increasingly futile, principle.
The sad truth is that for too many advertisers the response to a hyper-social world is more advertising. Young people are hanging out on Facebook – Great, let’s advertise! Twitter is lit up with rapid fire exchanges! Super, how do we advertise? 800,000,000 people visit YouTube every month! OMG! Is our latest ad up there?
Yes, there was a time when the marketing objective could be satisfied by placement. When there was a finite amount of marketing real estate, all you had to do was buy and fill your spots. (OK, it was not quite that simple, but you get the idea.)
In today’s hyper-social universe, placement is virtually dead (except for search). It is no longer possible to bully your way into the lives of people who connect individually in order to work, collaborate, socialize, learn, and play.
If traditional marketing real estate is evaporating, what does a marketer do? In a word: publish.
Traditional ad placement is being replaced by brand publishing – in its broadest meaning. Photographs, documentary films, video clips, articles, online magazines, news stories, animations, cartoons – anything you can think of that has the ability to travel far and wide through networks and channels (traditional and new) solely based on its merits. This type of brand journalism is powerful and can create space in the market, instill confidence in change, build community, and sell products and services.
It comes down to what we have come to call the Currency of Meaning™– give me something of value and I will gladly repay you with my attention.