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A NY Times article about the art of listening and the constant battle against noise caught my eye last weekend. One paragraph resonated with me:
“We have become insensitive to listening,” he said. “The most important thing you can do to become a better listener is to simply go to a naturally quiet place and allow your senses to open up again. When you become a better listener to nature, you become a better listener to your community, your children, the people you work with.”
I believed for a while that marketers get overpaid for talking and barely reimbursed for listening. It’s time to switch that model around.And, yes, many companies are talking about listening or Social Listening. Am I the only one that feels this is just another excuse for brands to talk more?
Does anybody ever really listen anymore? Just look around at conferences, especially Social Media conferences. Is there one person really listening? Or are we all too busy talking, creating snarky tweets? How can we as an industry recommend listening as a #1 tactic for all brands to dive into Social Media while we are busy sharing our lunch place on Foursquare? Most often than not, instead of listening to what is being said to us, we are already listening to what we’re going say in response.
I think it’s time for us take a break from all the noise and signals and explore silence again. If you’ve experienced complete silence, you know it has the loudest voice. A voice we need to hear again.
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When we started this venture we call BatesHook, I was reflecting on my work life and experience, trying to implement best practices into my own company, hoping to avoid the dreaded pitfalls. And I was trying to find the common thread why I loved working for this company and dreaded working for this one. Why 8 hours at one agency killed my spirit, while 16 hours here made me feel alive. It all came down to one thing: Values. One brand stood for something, the other place shared only one tangible value: shareholder return.
There’s nothing wrong with making money but if that’s the only reason for an organization to be around, you can see it permeating the entire organization, up to the C-Suite where the sound of cash registers drones out any sense of decency and humanity. Layoffs just equal cost savings not human misery. All sorts of shortcuts equal improvement of the short-term bottom line, just to conveniently ignore the long-term costs.
After the multitude of bubbles have burst, shareholder value and making money for the sake of money doesn’t feel that good anymore. And consumers are craving institutions that care and give back. This and the age of product parity lead to an avalanche of brands that suddenly care, that support businesses in making positive change, try to rebrand themselves as green or just transform communities around the world (right after they almost destroyed the whole financial system).
Most of this comes across as advertising, not as a commitment. Because it’s not rooted in real values, we are starting to deal with caring parity: Suddenly everybody cares for the wrong reason. Consumers want us to care, let’s care. Brands purely jumping on the caring bandwagon are missing out on a huge opportunity: Stand for something. Have values. And express yourself as an organization based on these values.
What gets you more excited? The horsepower of the new Accord or the power of dreams outside of Honda’s corporate walls? What are you talking about more? That Dove has no soap scum or that physical beauty is only skin deep? What’s more interesting? The newest feature on a Dell Computer or their commitment to eliminate the digital divide? (Just an idea, Dell.)
Standing for something that’s rooted in corporate values eliminates the need to spout off undifferentiated messages, bland and politically correct brand communiques and mind-numbing feature lists. Sure, standing for something is not easy. It might offend some. Actually, it better offend some. Not everybody will like it. But real leaders don’t care. Brand leaders. Human leaders.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where stands at tome of challenge and controversy.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Kr.
The values of your brand determines the value of your brand.
So, what’s your brand standing for?
Tags: brand, brand management, Corporate Strategies, Creativity, green revolution, Human Business Design, product parity, Shareholder Value, Stakeholder Contribution, Stakeholder Value, values
This ad caught my attention almost 2 decades ago. Law degree in hand, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Copywriter for the best advertising agency in Germany? Why not? I wrote a 20-page screenplay about my life, 2 applications of thousands were invited for an interview and I got the job. The rest is history. Literally, since the once proud creative agency just filed for bankruptcy.
When I started at Springer & Jacoby, advertising was the most interesting thing around. Especially when you have a slight case of ADD. Who wants to toil with a screenplay for months and years when you can turn a commercial script into a 30-second spot in a few weeks? Would you rather improve business system processes over years to improve customer experiences or create great advertising that engages millions of people and helps the bottom line of the business? (Come on, be honest.) This made advertising so exciting. Our goal was to deliver creative advertising that sells. Art meets business. And we could use the canvas of urban living to make our vision come to live: billboards, screens, bus stops, urinals. That made it even more exciting. Well, maybe not the urinals.
Ultimately, our job was to take risks. We were the crazy uncle that shows up at the family reunion. The one everybody laughs at. And talks about. That was Springer & Jacoby’s goal: Create something entertaining that people talk about. Period.
Not much has changed. Sure, we have new technologies, new buzzwords (Social Media, Buzz Marketing, WOM, etc.) but in the end, marketing and advertising has to produce something people talk about. Or it’s just a giant waste of money. Even worse, a giant waste of creativity.
John Wanamaker said famously: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Here’s a little a secret: In today’s world of attention deficiency, more than 90% of your advertising is wasted. Just another Facebook page that looks like the other Facebook page. Just another commercial that could be from Brand A, B or even Z. Just another Twitter stream that floats by. And a radio ad that made absolutely no impact.
Nowadays, most big agencies try to mix art, science and business together. And most of their efforts are still a waste of money, time and creativity. They might have the metrics to prove me wrong. But, in their heart they know I’m right.
My former Creative Director said to me once: “Advertising doesn’t work when you want to share your idea with your parents and friends. Advertising works when you find reasons why it won’t work: the client will kick me out, the agency will fire me, I will live under the bridge). That’s when you hit magic.”
We need more magic in this world.