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The Essence of Marketing

by Todd Kasenberg

It's definitely a rant. 

I don't know about you, but I find myself increasingly disinterested in marketing communications that are trying to reach me.  I suspect that the reasons for this include:

  • the inevitability (i.e., it's happened to me) of coming down with technology-induced attention deficit disorder (TIADD), which means your messages better grab me fast because I am used to quick stares at my phone or my iPad;
  • my increasing pace of work;
  • my increasing self-absorption (geez, I have my own issues, just get lost);
  • my growing impatience with a Friends list on Facebook obsessed with images of animals (which means that I can tune out marketing with animals without a blink);
  • a certain satisfaction (hopefully not smug) in the things of life; and
  • a decline in the quality of creative

Perhaps most important on this list - something that must not be forgotten - is this:

"If I don't have pain, you aren't likely to impress me enough to move me to buy something."

Now, I can be naive about the lack of pain - in fact, about a year ago, I thought I had no pain on the home security front until ADT showed up at my door and got me thinking.  And I ultimately acted.  But generally speaking, you gotta hit me these days with a mallet to provoke a pain (or, for the security message, break down my door?), and I'm pretty darn likely to resort to literal or figurative Motrin (i.e., something very familiar, cuz I'm largely a satisfied person) when you do.

So - here's the translation of that rant into marketese.  I don't give a darn about you if I don't have a pain.  I could care less about your company, your history, your mission, your values, and, truly, your products unless I feel a pain.  I am reminded of the old McGraw-Hill advertisement with the man who pronounces a long list of "I don't knows..."  This is not rocket science. But based on recent experience just surfing the web, it sure seems to be.

Why do I continue to see websites that just don't help me identify pain?  Or that don't at least try to create an empathy bond with me so that I can see I have a problem.  Yet all I see - over and over and over again - are websites and marketing brochures and even videos that are bordering on egotistical.  Chest thump. We do this.  Chest thump. We do that.  Chest thump. We are great. Quite literally, we we we all the way home.

Frankly, I've had enough.  This blog entry - a long time coming if you are following me - was provoked by an email I sent to a colleague and friend today, and I think it's so valuable that I want to repeat it here:

"People buy when they have pain.  And when they have pain, they are only secondarily interested in hearing the solution provider’s story – they’d much rather see themselves in the sales pitch, and understand how it could work out well for them.  The more solution providers drone on about themselves and ignore drawing the potential buyer to pain, the more frustrated the buyer gets.  Period. "

So - let's get over ourselves and under the skin of others.  Let's help them see themselves in our solutions.  Let's change this insipid playground of marketing so that we actually are bringing value to others, and we actually become diagnosticians in the process.  It's a hard shift, but so necessary.

Let you every marketing action reflect the thinking of a team that wants to help. Isn't that desire to help, when you have a pain, downright soothing?  That's what this is about...


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