[Adformatie] Marketing must deliver on its social promise

Published in Adformatie, 07-07-2020

Marc van Eck’s plea for purpose-marketing post-corona: “We will now show how it is possible, otherwise we will just quit the profession.”

A crisis is a period of reflection. With both the corona crisis and the, justified, riot around Black Lives Matter, reflection is sore

A crisis is a period of reflection. With both the corona crisis and the, justified, riot around Black Lives Matter, reflection is sorely needed. Marketing is a wonderful profession. The essence is not to force your products and ways of thinking on others, but to delve into others, understand their needs and respond to them with valuable solutions. The result is value for the other person and therefore value for yourself. It is literally a valuable concept.

All the more insane is the persistent assumption that marketing is about “pushing consumer products down the throat”. While the essence of marketing is exactly the other way around. It’s all about market orientation, that’s where the word comes from. Fulfill needs and thus create value for the other.

The awareness is growing that the other can be both an individual and the collective of individuals, read: our society. You could say that the greatest asset of marketing is sustainably meeting society’s needs. We all get richer from that. The strong rise of purpose marketing is based on this idea. In essence, it is nothing new, it is old wine in new bags. It is the reaffirmation of what marketing is and should be.

  Our fault

Yet the average view of marketing in society is radically different. That cannot be the other person’s fault, it must be our own fault. I can only conclude that marketing does not live up to its promise to society. Unfortunately, marketing is not a strong brand. We do not consistently deliver what we aim for. We may even raise the wrong expectation. If marketing is to survive, a reset is really necessary. We don’t get any further with “doing what we always did”. Adjusting our vocabulary from brand essence, to why, to purpose works against us. It reinforces the idea that marketing is just a play on words.

We are lucky. There is a crisis, a corona crisis. Let me immediately clarify that the crisis is terrible for anyone who has become ill, or worse, who has died, for the care workers who have worked their lungs out, for the elderly who have had to stay in solitude for a long time and for all entrepreneurs and employees. who see their work go up in smoke. But it is an opportunity for the marketing profession. An opportunity for a real reset. The chance to go back to the origin and purpose of the profession. Not with words, but with concrete actions that advance our society.

I am not going to predict that this will happen. It is anything but certain and all the predictions, both of the dreamers and of the doom thinkers, I get completely bothered. What the profession needs is not words but action. Have we seen any good deeds in the crisis? Yes, but unfortunately, I remember more that we once again copied each other en masse. So much so that in fact good deeds evoked the opposite of many. Let’s face it, it wasn’t an advertisement for the trade.

The marketer as a world improver

Now that the world has opened up a bit, marketing should seize the opportunity. People crave freedom, diversity, tolerance and security, just to name a few. How can we help marketers to achieve this? By giving free rein to the most important characteristics of a marketer, namely: creativity, curiosity and stubbornness.

After corona there is also a wave across the world against racism and all other inequalities. We can hope that this movement will turn out better than the Arab Spring. Or we can choose to actively contribute to the movement. And make it work. It is not a choice; it is a must.

Marketing now has to show its best side and that goes much further than taking a step towards diversity in our own business operations. Of course, that must also be done, but we marketers must be able to do much more. We can theoretically ensure that we meet the needs of consumers and also the needs of the society in which they live. Leading to satisfied and happy people in a satisfied and happy society.

Theoretically we can. There are books written about it and again we are bombarded by passionate blogs from marketers who swear to us that their method or approach will realize this. I sincerely hope so, but the past shows that despite all the wisdom of marketers, there is still far too much wrong in our world and that marketers are certainly not yet recognized and recognized as world improvers.

The good pull

Purpose marketing is hot after we embraced Sinek’s why. Logically, you would think that brands that fulfill not only the needs of the individual but also those of the community would now lead and dominate their markets. Walking through an average supermarket, shopping street or browsing Amazon or Bol.com you quickly discover that this is not the case. Not at all.

Many markets are still dominated by brands that want to fill the shareholder’s wallet through responding to customer needs. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but it is a pity, because it can be done differently. Bill Gates is one of the world’s greatest benefactors, and he argues for it, but not because his company was so socially committed to Microsoft. The company misused its market position, as evidenced by countless convictions, which was partly because of this so successful and made Bill Gates treasure heaven rich. Fortunately, he feels indebted and now gives generously, but it would have been better if he had become rich by being good to the world.

Marketing is the art of responding to the needs of the other, creating a pull instead of pushing your own offer. We must therefore seriously ask ourselves whether there is SEA or SEO marketing. In practice, it is more like sales, we may have to rename terms such as digital marketing and marketing techniques into sales techniques.

Not being able or not willing

The key question is how it is that our marketers are so unsuccessful in getting consumers and companies to buy good products and services. By which I mean “good” of course, good for the buyer, good for society and good for the seller. It can only mean that we are either too little involved, that marketers have too little social motivation in practice, or that we simply cannot do it. That we are mainly talkers, with beautiful words, beautiful theories, good intentions and everything that is more, but that in practice we do not know what we preach.

I think we should be open and honest. “Face the brutal facts,” they say in English. We don’t do it and so we can’t. In short, we will either withdraw modestly and let others make our world a little better, or we will start working hard and learn how to do that. Naturally, as captain of marketing the Netherlands, I think we should go for the latter. Not because we have to, but because we want to. Because we want to be proud of our profession and give our customers a better world.

Continue or stop

We should have this passion. We should also have talent or at least develop it. After all, we can reason back based on needs and then create solutions for them. After all, we are creative, curious and stubborn. And to complete Collins’s Hedgehog principle (passion, talent and economic value), the world is ready and willing to pay for it. In other words, now is the time for marketing, we are now going to show how it is possible, otherwise we will just quit the profession and the marketing experiment has failed.

But how? How exactly I don’t know. If we knew, we would have. Presenting “the perfect method” would be completely out of place, we have excelled too much in the past. No, just by doing, trying and learning. And slowly getting better. We can only speak firmly to each other to stay on the right path and to share our learnings as much as possible.

No nonsense products

We can of course agree that we will no longer help to market products that are not good for others or the world in which we live. So, no too cheap products, no harmful products, no nonsense products, etc. But then our energy goes to what is not allowed and what is often a bad source for real change and improvement.

Now let us marketers take the lead rather than none. Let us actively search for and market good solutions. Looking forward for better with infectious energy. Helping each other where we can, step by step; marketing as a means for a better world. I like to contribute to this with full conviction. Who will join me?