good better best, tin cans

Is all marketing lying?

The advertising industry has a reputation in some quarters as a bunch of liars.
And I hate marketers being tarnished by association.

Advertising is not Marketing

Well advertising is not ALL of marketing: it is a part of marketing.
Good marketing offers products to prospects with robust positioning and offers features and benefits.
The psychology of how to present your pitch is deeply studied and understood.
And you can choose to lie or tell the truth or part of the truth, or a slanted version of the truth, backed by statistics, or dodgy arithmetic or you can choose not to do this.
Marketing does not have to be this way.
Let me introduce empathy into the marketing mix.

Prompts around brand positioning

In marketing messaging there are two big issues which the well-informed marketer and consumer needs to understand before they made the purchase decision

  1. The problem of manipulation. Sales copy that gets the customer to do something they later regret. But if they knew what you knew would they still buy?
  2. The problem of “better”. We are taught that there’s only one answer to this – that a cashmere sweater is better than a fleece; a Rolls Royce is better than a Nissan. but better is not linear and not necessarily accurate because people actually make decisions on axes not on linearity.

How can we take a robust and honest assessment of our brand positioning and add empathy into the mix in order to facilitate prospect buying decisions that are not manipulation and are not [always] about a linear scale of betterment?

What does the customer do and why?

When you make a product purchase decision and I made a different decision, remember it’s possible the you are right and I am wrong in my purchase decision.

Reading the Board of Innovation article about what matters when pressing consumers to adopt sustainable products, the decision drivers are how your product makes ME feel; and how I think your product makes OTHERS feel about me.

Two drivers, two different motivations and both are under pressure from modern lifestyles and constrained budgets.

But actually I think this dual analysis is misplaced.

A linear product decision is incorrect

Representing decisions in a branched “decision tree” is not how the real world works. Individuals’ value systems affect how they choose between brands. If status doesn’t matter to me, your cashmere sweater brand offer is not going to stand up to scrutiny for me. And if I’m worth it matters a lot, then my choice is made regardless of the brand positioning of a substitutable product.

You are the marketer – don’t lie

Another consumer is not you and they don’t think like you think and know what you know.

This is why empathy is such a giant challenge to marketers.

If you genuinely know your brand and product set, you are at an immense advantage.

If you genuinely know your customer persona, you are at an immense advantage.

Merge these two and what do you get?

Axis of purchase decisions

We make our value judgements on a scale. It’s not black and white, on or off. There’s a gradient of choices.

And so let’s consider the how does a brand make you feel – saying it’s ‘better’ does little for your self-appraisal. It may do something if you are more motivated by what others think of you. BUT if their values differ from your own, the result may not be what you hope.

Our brand choices are not in a single direction (linear) nor are they along a single axis.

We make our decisions on at least 2 axes – like a graph. It might be price and convenience, or environmental impact and design.

And so lets re-assess whether all marketing is lying.

Marketing as a service

We as marketers offer you, the consumer, a service.  We can make an assertion about a choice which you might want to make.

We can help busy people to see that there’s a product which is an alternative to what they have bought or previously chosen.

This is neither manipulation, nor lying and it’s not on the good/better/best axis either.

As marketers (and copywriters) we can know and understand our product and our ideal customer really well. And by empathising with prospects we can position products appropriately to appeal to the audience who will value our marketing service. Our descriptions, videos, explanations and photography of the product are a service to the customer.  We offer a new choice which has resonance and meaning on the axes which matter to them.

Can you put your hand on your heart and say your brand does this?