Ethical Reality vs. Short-Term Impression in Marketing
My father and I share an unconventional Indian relationship where we discuss a lot more than just what’s made for dinner. He’s played a big role in shaping my thoughts and present outlook towards life. Today, I’d like to take a leaf from our countless conversations and share it with you. When I was growing up, he often asked me a simple question- what makes us unique from each other? Initially, I thought that he implied our names, faces, physical appearances, status in society, and whatnot. But he explained- it is our value system.
This one time, I caught my friend backbiting on me, just to mingle with other classmates. I was fuming. But when I got home that day, my father explained that my values would determine if I choose to nurture hatred or forgive and be smart enough to maintain my distance. That’s when I stopped being angry and had a changed perspective towards everything. Over time, people started understanding how I looked at things, and that’s when I engaged in deeper conversations with more and more associates.
When I took up marketing as a full-time career priority, I met students, teachers, and professionals from various backgrounds. The more minds I met, the more marketing strategies I was acquainted with. The more experienced ones always spoke of how to create a meaningful impact while the younger batch spoke of more views on social media and other digital platforms. And that’s what started a debate in my head- values vs. views (or ethical reality vs. short-term impression)
Why should marketing focus on values instead of views?
Communication is the basis of human evolution and existence. I feel marketing is a pivotal form of communication that keeps the world economy running at any given point in time. Imagine a day when all big and small brands stopped their marketing efforts. Advertisements methods would come to a standstill, transport lines would halt, and production chains would suffer. Yeah- it’s terrifying!
The most common type of marketing is advertising through media (print and digital). My question is: Would you like to see an ad that brings a new approach to life, or would you cherish an ad that supports stereotypical age-old traditions? I would definitely choose the initial one.
To be more precise, the value does not only refer to the moral principle you are following. It also applies to what customers learn from your brand and the bond you form. Buyers are no longer attracted to only fancy products- they need to vibe with your mindset and thought process to be onboard with you.
Talking about myself as a consumer, I have followed Vogue for a long time now. While it has hosted many ad campaigns to date, one that I clearly remember is #StartWithTheBoys. A part of #VogueEmpower, it discussed the gender stereotype that “boys don’t cry.” Further, it left an indelible impression when it highlighted that crying is an emotional expression (irrespective of gender). We need to teach boys to respect women (not make them cry). The ad spread like wildfire because its message (value) kept the audience hooked.
Understanding value elements of the society
I live in a nuclear family and often meet my relatives/cousins during festive celebrations or family weddings. There’s a stark contrast in how they interact vs. mine. While no way is superior, there are just too many differences in outlook. The same is the case with marketing. Thus, I always ask my team first to understand the target audience and the message that should be promoted. Culture and values are strongly intertwined.
The target is to focus on quality over quantity. If you excel in quality, the numbers will automatically walk towards you. A book you will always find on my shelf or the bedside table is The Secret. A short book, it focuses on the human value of believing and accepting. What shows its credibility (and proved my point) is that it has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide. Moreover, it has been translated, by various agencies, into 50 languages.
A successful way of connecting with the masses with a value-based strategy is to identify society’s follies. During one of my international travels, I was stunned to hear an older lady tell a young girl that she needs to put on more weight and look fair to get the “man of her dreams.” First, I was shocked. And then, it hit me- women face this in not only India but everywhere. That’s why body shaming has become a part of the accepted face now. However, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign showed women of all colors, ages, and sizes and beautiful. Period. (I am not even sorry for putting it out there because this is something I strongly feel for as a world citizen)
How do views affect a brand?
A common misconception people have that the number of views determines the brand’s success. However, I can’t entirely agree with this. Let’s consider a basic example, such as an Instagram post. Now, just because a picture does not cross 5k likes, it does not make it a bad photo or the photographer any less talented. Investing in values over views is like investing in a plant- it grows over time.
Values and views are often directly proportional. If you focus on inculcating a value-based message in your marketing campaigns, there’s no way that the right people will not come to it. Yes, it may not be immediate, but it is most likely to yield positive results. When I asked my mother for her views on this topic, she quickly identified Surf Excel’s campaign, Daag Achhe Hai. She’s impressed with the values it has focused on, such as never lose hope, all religions are equal, and it’s easy to make friends, through different ads.
Now, I know the brand has been successful in creating a loyal buyer when someone, with no marketing expertise, remembers the ads and brand name.
Have you wondered why some of the old songs are considered classics and masterpieces? Because the lyrics carry meaning. Yes, it’s that simple to understand. We, as listeners, keep going back to them. However, this does not mean that none of the modern songs have values attached to them.
Marketing should focus on the values onboard and not the views. You see, our values and effective communication of those values make us unique (as an individual and a brand). As a child, this is what I learned from my father, and today, when I’ve become an independent adult, it reflects in my personality. True, it was indeed a seed of success that nurtured and grew over time. I thank my father for teaching me this life lesson, and now I’ve passed the baton to you.