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Modern marketing – promoting real goodness vs creating artificial needs

Modern marketing is focused to persuade people into becoming interested in company’s products or services.

Marketing research, analysis and understanding interests of customers, are helping forces of modern marketing and its activities.

This activities must be done in balance, so that it is not all about creating artificial needs of customers, but real benefit and contribution to the society.

Table of Contents

marketing pros and cons

One of the most important roles of marketing is to have significant impact on consumers view and behavior. This also supports the fact, that average number spent on advertising worldwide each year, is more than 400 billion dollars.

If it would not be proven that advertising really works, millions of companies would never spend such extensive amounts on marketing activities.

Hand in hand with such great influence should also go a certain amount of responsibility for opinions that are spread by marketers, and actions they encourage people to take based on their advertising activities.

One of the reasons is that regardless of our political view or moral standards, majority of us wish to live a sustainable life in democratic society, and leave future generations with healthy environment.

Modern myth tellers in marketing

Myths are generally important, as they teach us how to behave in difficult situations of our lives. Every country or tribe creates their own set of stories, which it relies on, especially in more important situations.

Their goal is to raise a selfish and frightened child into a responsible and mature individual who will have something to contribute to their community.

Instead, modern myths teach us to think in an immature way instead. They make citizens consumers who are waiting for someone to tell them what they want, and then offer them an elixir that will miraculously satisfy their needs.

Why marketing has taken this form for the last century is not a coincidence, but is closely related to the development of another social science – psychology.

One of the most influencing opinions regarding moods of public, had nephew of famous Sigmund Freud – named Edward L. Bernays.

Bernays was greatly influences by his uncle, but adopted himself several famous theories.

Edward L. Bernays

One of them was theory, that it would be better for society if the state or the market took on the role of telling people what they really wanted. Many aspects of modern marketing were created by Bernays – from PR to product placement, and he also created idea that one should shop for what one wants, not needs to buy.

Bernays’ marketing works on a simple principle, which consists of two steps – inducing a feeling of scarcity and offering a miraculous solution.  As soon as you become aware of them, you will easily recognize them in many,  even modern marketing campaigns. This type of advertising should first evoke a feeling of scarcity and uses one of three basic negative emotions. 

The first emotion is greed – “you are missing something that will make you happy.”  The second, probably the strongest is fear – “you’re not safe.”  The trio is closed by a feeling of inadequacy – “I’m not attractive enough  for people to like me.” Modern marketing tries to overcome negative emotions and to give people a miraculous solution in the form of a product.

You can buy your luck in a can of Coca-Cola, express your power and success through brand new expensive car or watch. It should also be noted here that modern campaigns are already working much less  with the first phase – inducing a feeling of scarcity, compared to the past – and focusing more on the second part – offering a miraculous solution.

Marketing that inspires and encourages people

In the 1960s, a new direction emerged in psychology called humanistic psychology. It looks at people like a free, self-conscious and proactive creatures. Highlighted are higher human qualities which include, for example, freedom of choice, love, responsibility, creativity or self-realization. The main representative of this new and encouraging direction was Abraham H. Maslow.

He believed that in  order for a person (and with him society as well) to be mentally healthy, the higher human needs, which Maslow calls meta-needs, must also be met and are actually part of self-actualization. On the contrary, insufficient satisfaction of these meta-needs can lead to mental illness, which Maslow refers to as “metapathology.” 

Its manifestations include, for example, depression, a feeling of insignificance, loss of meaning in life, apathy, anger, cynicism or lack of life values. Maslow named a total of seventeen meta needs. 

Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sachs

Storytelling guru Jonah Sachs selected nine of them for the needs of marketers, which can serve as the main characteristics or values that define the brand and thus the entire project or company.

In his book Winning the Story Wars, Jonah Sachs defines these nine higher values as follows:

  • Integrity: The need to transcend one’s own selfish interest, to connect with others as part of something greater.
  • Perfectity: The desire to become a master in a dream profession, to acquire a certain skill professionally or to achieve perfection.
  • Justice: The need to live up to the highest moral values, to correct injustice and to eliminate wrongdoing.
  • Wealth: The desire to explore life in all its complexity and breadth, to discover new experiences and to overcome one’s own limitations.
  • Simplicity: The need to experience a state where nothing is extra, to look beneath the surface of things and better understand them.
  • Beauty: The need to experience or express something that delights our senses, arouses admiration and causes aesthetic pleasure.
  • Truth: The need to experience reality and to act freely in accordance with a perceived inner attitude.
  • Uniqueness: The need to express oneself through special talents, creativity or differences.
  • Playfulness: The need for joy, fun, humor, cheerfulness or detachment.

Do you want to stand out? Tell the truth

The truth in advertising is something that has long been downplayed or ignored. Many ads try to convince customers that by buying a product, they will feel more confident, more powerful, more sexy, fun or popular. It worked, in particular, until radio and television were the only channels through which such messages spread.

However, in the digital age, every brand is  constantly monitored by customers. And if your communication does not correspond to a real experience, customers can see it. The truth in advertising is something that has long been downplayed or ignored. Many ads try to convince customers that by buying a product, they will feel more confident, more powerful, more sexy, fun or popular.

On the contrary, an open and transparent approach can be a powerful marketing tool. Authentic communication – especially one that goes beyond basic needs and focuses on developing and supporting the company’s potential, can be the basis of a long-term successful brand strategy.

There are known examples of real campaigns and well known brands, that with orientation on higher values, and authentic communication, achieved effective marketing.

Volkswagen: Think small

In the 1950s, American carmakers tried to convince the public,  that the vehicle you were driving was a sign of your chosen taste and personal success. A typical advertisement of the time, for example, was such an advertorial, which promised that a single glance at your new Cadillac would reveal to everyone around you what a noble person you are.

It provided an ideal space for the Volkswagen as a carmaker to succeed with its “Think small” campaign. In the flood of bombastic and hyperbolized commercials, the one from Volkswagen seemed shockingly honest and playful. To this day, this legendary advertisement  by the German carmaker is considered by many experts to be the best marketing campaign of the 20th century.

Basically the advertisement explained nothing more than that their Beetle  is a modest and efficient car for everyday use. Beetle was even described  as flivver- a slang term for a small car with poor performance. However, it helped people to name anxiety that skilled marketers had instilled in them for years: that brand of the car defines their  social status, and they will be judged upon it.

VW has shown everyone why owning a simple and minimalist car is not a shame  or a trivial thing. On the contrary, it requires the same courage and unconforming thinking, it brings specific benefits and, in the end, it is a much more sensible solution in many ways.

Dove: Real beauty

Another example of how focusing on one of the higher values ​​combined with a bold statement  of truth can help in brand communication is the “True Beauty”  campaign from the Dove cosmetics brand.

Dove built his 2004 campaign on the findings of a study that shows that only  twelve percent of women are happy with their appearance and only two percent consider themselves beautiful. The vast majority of respondents blamed the media for this state of affairs, celebrating unattainable ideals of beauty.

Of course, this phenomenon did not arise by chance, but is the result of a long-lived myth in the form of thousands of advertisements aimed at selling beauty products or services and for which hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually. Instead of creating a feeling that women´s beauty is not enough, the brand chose a mission  to help women build self-confidence and reach their full potential.

Authenticity is a key

Companies should be authentic in their values. Today’s Internet era reveals brand dishonesty much more easily than ever before. Bad news about the company can spread to the world overnight and cause great damage to the brand’s reputation. For marketing strategies based on higher values to work, they must be part of the real functioning of the company.

 It is not enough to just communicate them, organizations and their managers or employees must live them.Telling a story that is based on authentic values can be a creative challenge, but it is also a huge opportunity for the brand. Today´s world is overwhelmed with superficial stories that create fake picture of many companies. 

That may be also a reason, why authentic values and meaningful vision can win over the crowd. Only a few companies have the courage to take this path, but yours may be the next one.

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