One simple assumption we make in marketing is to think that it’s all about the self. That people are all driven by self-need, greed and self-satisfaction. Me, me, me!
The concept of the selfless ego doesn’t even register within marketing thinking. Which begs the question, how come we have missed such an obvious factor?
Maybe if you read too many marketing books you’ll be led down the path of belief that tells us that people are all self centered and selfish. We buy to feel and look good, to satisfy our egos and reinforce our self-image. And even giving is actually an act of greed, as the giver is really trying to manipulate or seduce their victim.
Could this be because those writing these books have been corrupted by the lust of money and seduced by the trappings of status by surrounding themselves with exclusive up market brands?
Ok, this may be sounding like the ranting’s of a left wing college lecturer who also does a seminar on how admen hide subliminal images of naked ladies in cubes of ice in glasses of whisky, but it’s one way to illustrate the subject.
It’s a simple observation that doesn’t need a major research project to validate; many of use do things for other people. Not to manipulate or seduce but because, built within our psychology is the need to look after others. We are pack animals after all, which is why we cluster together in communities. Where would charity be without it?
The recession has had an interesting effect in making people more community minded. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (who helped me with my book on Ethical Marketing & The New Consumer) there is a growing desire for community.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites haven’t created the phenomenon of social media, their success is due to a natural desire to communicate and support others. They just provided the platform.
You only have to post up a call for information, “anyone know a good piano teacher in Ealing?” and locals will reply with enthusiasm, falling over themselves to help.
A year ago several of us set up a community based group for creatives in the Crouch End area (Crouch End Creatives), home of many people in the advertising and media world (and a few Brand Republic journalists). Not to mention photographers, illustrators, writers, painters, musicians, actors, poets, and every kind of creative you can list.
The desire to help each other, and the community, is amazing. Within a year it has run a creative writing competition for kids and is planning Christmas activities for the community and an arts festival in May. All give, no take. It’s all about community benefit, not about self.
Take warning though, upset a community and your brand can find itself in a dangerous situation. Communities are very powerful things, just remember “united we stand”.
So my subject for debate is, the next time you are writing a brief should you think ‘community benefit’ before you think consumer benefit?
Personally I think those brands that engage people on a community level – I’m not talking about a puffed up social media strategy or throwing a few hundred quid at a local guerilla gardening project – are the ones that will win hearts and minds.
Of course, for those brands desperately trying to achieve any success at all in social media this is a great approach. Start with the community and the people will do the rest.