Friday, September 12, 2008

Fresh insights from Max's brain

Some days I get reflective about my own consumer behavior. Deep from my cortex, here are some certified 'Max Billings Thoughts on Marketing'.

Thought #1:

In one of my recent classes we were asked to consider our mental schemas in relation to a certain brand and form associations between that brand and certain concepts, things, or people. The great thing about free-market capitalism is that social values or individual perceptions have no bearing in the decision making process unless those values have a direct influence on profit. So if I believe that Starbucks is a brand known for environmental stewardship, terrible service, and high comfort in-store, who’s to say that I’m wrong? If I’ve forged those associations in my head, I own that unique mental schema and it’s the responsibility of Starbucks to make sure that it meets my expectations.

Thought #2:

Another strange thing occurred to me, spurred by a comment in class. By its nature, marketing excludes people. It’s about understanding who has the greatest likelihood of responding and opting-in to a certain message and then appealing to that fractioned audience with a communication that resonates. If the marketer is lucky, then the communication will be well-received and a mutual dialogue is created. So then a whole bunch of people are excluded because marketers have deemed them tot not be valuable for the strategic objectives. If the client’s business is stagnating and it’s obvious that younger customers need to be attracted, then does it make sense to craft a marcom campaign that appeals to old men? Targeted marketing ignores people. It’s not about being fair or politically-correct. There are some people (suspects, not prospects) who were never meant to receive the message because they’re not a valuable potential audience to the brand.

Thought #3:

Consumers in general have a very poor understanding of their purchasing patterns and susceptibility to marketing messages. Germane to this is a limited awareness of how incredibly personalized and relevant most forms of marketing are made for them. It’s mass-media that gets a lot of the attention because it’s superficial and so painfully shilling unwanted/unnecessary product, but what about the targeted ads you receive online? What about the DM inserts that come into magazines you subscribe to? Plenty of campaigns happen that we don’t even realize. Don Draper, my fictitious hero from Mad Men, said that effective advertising is that which we’re not even aware of but still does its job.

Thought #4:

I’m scared by how willingly my peers in class accept that a viable strategy to marketing communications is to shout louder at consumers. Consumers are willing to listen but only to brands which speak to them with words that are relevant. Consumers tune out and become disaffected and unresponsive with marketing strategies meant on drilling some message deep into your brain. Enough already with the Rogers Wireless commercials with the texting teenagers – it misses the mark! Marketers must never make the mistake that the objective of doing marketing is “to be heard”. Rather, the objective of doing marketing must always be “to be relevant”. Increasingly it’s experiences that supersede messages as the primary mechanism to drive relevance to consumer.

Thought #5:

This is unrelated to marketing, but it just popped into my brain. Be the change you want to see in others. Leadership by example is a great strategy and one I’m trying in all aspects of the agency here. It’s challenging, but rewarding when you see substantive positive growth in employees.

Thought #6:

If I’m serious about being an agency head, then I’ve got to continue to do everything I can to cut my teeth on creative development, brand building, and copy-writing. These are the central facets of agency operations. If I can’t excel at these functions, than what use am I in a marketing capacity…?

Since returning to school, I feel like I’ve been paved into the ground with a bulldozer piling work on me. Thank God for four-day weekends.

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