Forget consumer benefit, think community benefit.

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.

  • Grazia

    He’s a Tory.  That explains everything.

    Your writing style is a bit odd – stream of consciousness springs to mind as does the word “convoluted”…

  • Hugh Salmon

    Most people find my writing admirably logical and well-argued but thank you for your positive contribution!

  • TB Lee

    Observations of a former “true blue”

    Of all the points you raised, and the rhetorical questions posed, I believe the affirmative answer to “Is he fatally flawed?” is close to the truth.

    So why is he CEO rather than his, more in-touch, rival at the time of his election (to party leader) – David Davis. The answer to that is in my view, in-built elitism (aka snobbery *) within the Conservative party.

    As well as DC lacking judgement of people (your listing of those he has chosen to work with is ample proof of that) there are also many examples of his just not being able to relate. So we get meaningless phrases like ‘we are all in this together’ to which the electorate rightly and pretty obviously reply ‘no we are not’. He just doesn’t understand ‘people’ – but then how can he for he has had no regular contact with ‘real’ people either inside or outside politics without which critical decisions are inevitably compromised.

    And then ‘big society’ – where did that come from? Probably a focus group who are similarly ‘out-of-touch’ and from the same infected waters.

    The poisoned chalice (almost winning in May of 2010) called for another Reagan – sadly such a figure is not on the political stage. So we shall continue to decline until the non-political (non-tribal) leaders are not only listened to but their advice headed. Before that point is reached I regret the nation will suffer a severe reduction in living standards with increasing levels of anger and actions (that will achieve nothing) by the usual suspects.

    Leadership is, in part, about listening and also about being seen to respond – be they voters or employees. Not always giving in (aka making u-turns) but explaining when that which was requested is not the ‘wise’ course of action. And yes, you are right again Hugh, listening does require humility – again sadly missing despite the words used (provided by speech writers).

    If I draw parallels with the corporate (real) world then the most successful organisations are those that have leaders who emphasise purpose, values, humility and ethics, inspiring people to raise their performance. Can these positive virtues be applied to a nation? Yes for sure but only by leadership of the highest order – whoever and wherever you are please step forward.

    Finally a female perception of DC who, from the time of Cameron’s emergence as a possible (party) leader, referred to him as a chocolate teapot. Looks good but not fit for purpose. Simplistic but pretty near the mark I think.

    * The definition of snob eloquently described by Sebastian Faulks regarding ‘Emma’ is so
    applicable to both the subject of your item (DC) and his coterie.

  • Hugh Salmon

    Thank you TB Lee. An interesting contribution. As you have recognised, the word ‘snob’ does not equal ‘Tory’. Those day are long gone. The Mandelson guacamole story comes to mind!

    One further thought. It was Rebekah Brooks job to smarm up to Cameron. And it was his job NOT to smarm up to her. The fact that he did not recognise this, especially, as Prime Minister, is further evidence of his basic lack of human understanding.

  • Hugh Salmon

    For the record, here is an article, headed ‘Why the Prime Minister doesn’t understand the middle classes’, by Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail dated 19 October 2011:

  • Max Harrington

    I agree Chris, so many brands have been missing the obvious. I think many are still stuck in Thatchers era of “greed is good”. Now it’s ‘green is good’.
    I did actually sit through a lecture at college from a wacky professor trying to explaining how ad folk hide subliminal messages in ads. It’s what got me interested in advertising. 
    Still trying to put hidden images of naked women into my clients ads, but not found a relevant reason yet.

  • Alex Pearl

    Excellent piece, Hugh. If Brooks and Coulson don’t change their plea, they’ll be going down I reckon. And I don’t suppose they’ll be getting a visit from the PM.