If our purpose for being in business is something more than mere profit, if we see our product or service as a way of bringing change — of making lives just a little better — then the tone of our marketing is more important than the methods we use to market.
What most businesses strive for is a formula that ensures success in the form of more customers, more clients, more online sales and a larger audience, and marketing is most often seen as the mechanism that leads to this form of success. It’s not that “more” is not important, but rather it’s how we go about achieving more that can get in the way of our true goal.
Why? Because the way we market ourselves is sending both a direct and an indirect impression to an audience, and it’s the indirect impression that says something about who we are as a company.
When we invite people to “Buy” a product or service, or simply to “Learn More,” we are inviting an audience to go further. That’s the direct message. The indirect is how the message feels.
The Place We Feed Within an Audience
A billboard for a personal injury lawyer with an image of a menacing looking man in a suite and copy that says “We fight for you” is saying we have what you want, not what you need. More deeply though, such an ad speaks to an egoic place within people who want to feel more powerful. They don’t feel powerful in their life, and they just got rear ended at a traffic stop and now (through this lawyer) they have the ability to feel powerful.
Selling products with sex appeal speaks to a similar place within us. Or appeals to purchase designer jeans that everyone with status wears. Or a car with a robust amount of horsepower. Or even marketing gurus claiming to have the next silver bullet that leads to more customers.
This form of marketing (common as it is) speaks more so to what we want than what we need, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. I don’t need a frozen yogurt smoothie on a hot day, I want one. I don’t need to eat out at a high-quality restaurant, I want to.
The difference is the place within an audience that we feed. Do we feed their desires for power and status, or do we feed their souls with products and services that make a difference? Do we overlay our messages with hype, or do we say it the way we really want to say it — with authenticity?
The Real Reason for People to Use Our Products & Services
Why is this important? It’s important because more so than what we feed within the psyche of an audience, is what we’re saying about who we are as a company. If we’ve created a product or service that we truly believe in, and then market to an audience by appealing to base human desires, we are cheapening the value of what we’ve created. More importantly still, we are failing to convey the real reason people ought to be using our products and services.
It’s a subtle difference in execution, but powerful in effect on brand building. It’s the difference between,
“We make this because it makes a difference and we feel you are someone who cares about making a difference.”
“We make the best . . .” or “We are the best . . .” or “Buy now so you can be more powerful, desirable, obtain more status,” and so on.
What We Are Really Saying
Appealing to desires for status or power says (very subtly) that we don’t truly feel our product is good enough on its own merit to earn your business — that we have to resort to emotional manipulation to get you to buy.
Or . . . it’s saying that we do feel our product is worthwhile, but we don’t have the time or the money to show you, so we will resort to manipulation to get you to buy. And what that says is that we don’t care enough about you, to be real with you.
Or we can state (directly or indirectly) what we stand for as a company by communicating how our product or service makes a difference. What this says is we care.
The Subconscious Mind Gathers Data
“Academic,” you might suggest? Brain science has shown us that our subconscious minds gather and retain vast amounts of data from all forms of input. We gather and retain subtle messages all the time — body language, tone of voice, choice of words, colors, sounds, smells, tastes, and even electromagnetic fields.
We gather, we store, and we are affected by everything, both subtle and overt, and when it comes to marketing, sophisticated marketers have been playing to this fundamental axiom of human consciousness for quite some time. It is why manipulation is used — because it works.
For Those Who Care
And yet in present day, a sizable portion of our culture is moving in the direction of valuing and desiring authenticity. For those who wish to engage with companies who care about making a difference — about making things just a little better — they will gather subtle clues and input, and they will assess how they feel about a brand more so by the tone of the marketing, than by features and benefits or even price.
For this audience, the subtle messages we convey through our marketing will be picked up and felt by those who care enough to want to do business with companies who care more about making a difference than merely generating “more.”
To this audience, the tone speaks volumes.