I came across an Inc. article by Abigail Tracy
with a brilliant Seth Godin quote in it.
When asked how companies can become more effective at marketing, he said:
Start by understanding that no one cares about them. People care about themselves. Anyone who tweets about a brand or favorites a brand is doing it because it is a symbol of who they are—it is a token, it is a badge. It’s about them; it’s not about the brand.
I’m a single parent of two teens, so this quote instantly made me think of teenagers and their built-in narcissism. If it is true that nobody cares about anything but themselves, perhaps we haven’t come far from our high school days.
I don’t think it’s a universal truth about people in general, but it definitely resonates with brands and how people feel about them. They just don’t care.
With that in mind, I’m connecting what marketing and teenagers have in common. It’s hilarious just how similar they are:
1. The world revolves around me!
My 16-year-old daughter is wonderful, but like every teenage girl on the planet, her life is fraught with drama. She thinks nothing of raiding Mom’s wallet for whatever cash might be found, interrupting my workday three times demanding chauffeur service because her life is obviously so much more important than mine, and “borrowing” everything from my hairspray to that new makeup brush and MAC eyeliner I hadn’t even had a chance to use yet. In a teen, such behavior is natural, even expected.
This kind of attitude no longer has a place in marketing. If your conversations and strategies don’t revolve around understanding your end customers and target prospects—and their
needs—it’s time to graduate from high school and grow up. Separate the “me, me, me” and “us against the world” attitudes, dump them in the circular file, and close the lid.
Marketers have been taught over decades to be completely self-centered in our approach. How do we sell our product or service? How can we get them to our website? How can we cram our message down their throats and make them take action?
Though certain aspects of promotion remain this way, it’s time to let go of making it about the brand in favor of making it about everyone else. Perhaps this is why some people insist there is a chasm between marketing and public relations—as a way to separate which side of the fence they are on.
Me? I don’t care about labels or departments. I care about results and working together to make incredible things happen. As Seth says, it’s time to realize nobody gives a crap about you unless you give them a reason.
2. Bullies rule the playground.
In middle school and the first year of high school, my daughter had to deal with some horrific bullying and cyber-stalking issues. The things I’ve had to learn were a bit horrifying, and the impact on her was monumental.
Surviving high school requires dealing with bullies at school and online. It’s just the sad truth.
In some ways, marketing is like a bully. You will
see my ad in front of what you want to read. You will
be forced to watch my video in your Facebook stream until you turn it off. You will
get my emails until you unsubscribe. You will
have to leaf through more ads than content in your magazine. You will, you will, you will.
Push marketing is the bully in the room, shoving itself under your nose until you do something to move it out of your way.
I hate push marketing, but a certain amount of it in the overall mix can be very effective in capturing attention, if it is done with care, sensitivity, and creativity.
Don’t you think it’s a bit like the bully on the playground? We are forcing their attention.
Same goes with social media trolls—they love nothing more than personal attacks and jumping into a conversation to stir the pot. They are also nothing more than bullies on a social media cyber-playground. They should grow the heck up.
3. Obsession with what other people think.
With the exception of my metalhead, bass-playing musician son who beats me hands down on the stubborn scale and doesn’t give a fig about what he wears, most teenagers center almost every decision they make around how they look and what other people will think.
Isn’t that marketing in a nutshell? Almost everything we do for marketing is based on the assumption that we want to capture attention, create buzz, and sell something.
Unlike teenagers, who are set free once they realize what other people think just doesn’t matter and that they should follow their own path—our success is completely determined by what other people think. It’s called branding.
Our reputation has a massive impact on success.
4. Attack of the clones.
Like teenagers, many brands are clones of others in their industry. Whereas teenagers are desperate to fit in, it’s the lazy side of marketing that drives “me, too” similarities. Companies can’t or won’t invest what it takes to understand their customers and their industry, so they look to their competitors and emulate what they are doing. It’s an epidemic. Yuck.
I call this me, too-ness
It would be one thing if they chose to emulate a company doing a great
job and effectively creating ROI. Instead, they simply choose to imitate what they like. It’s a subjective decision that doesn’t truly move their product or service forward. It’s like going from lame to acceptable, instead of good to great.
Carrie Morgan is a 20-plus year public relations veteran based in
Phoenix, specializing in digital PR. A version of this story first
appeared on the Rock The Status Quo blog.