Borrowed Culture of Marketing
A missionary acquaintance from Indonesia returns to the states every four to six years. In a recent visit he described how people from the country are being “Americanized” at extreme speeds. Instead of a normal cultural cycle of slow to moderate learning and unlearning, where errors and victories can be understood, the Indonesian culture has been introduced to hundreds of years of technology and social structure in less than 60 years. Children who use iPhones and video games as a norm are balanced by parents who don’t watch TV or use computers at all. That is to say, not only is there a proverbial firehose of culture hitting them, but more critically, it’s a culture that hasn’t earned its own history in a sense. Instead, the small country has injected the newly introduced ways into a people who didn’t do the hard work to get there. It is, plainly put, a borrowed culture. As a result, the “understanding” that accompanies time in a developing culture is lost. How to manage growth, economy, technology and other byproducts of culture acclimation tend to hit back harder than sometimes expected. Crime, for example, is one way the borrowed culture shows tension. Metropolitan areas such as Jakarta, and other locations like Aceh and Central Sulawesi are often cautionary destinations for westerners due to very high crime rates.
When it comes to brand building, marketing professionals have a difficult time agreeing on who or what controls the brand of a company. Some marketers lean towards the idea that the consumer controls the brand. What consumers say about the company is what makes the brand relevant. This describes the “perception is reality” take on branding. Other marketers feel the company controls the brand reflected in Henry Ford’s quote about automobiles. If Ford had listened to consumers, he would have made a faster horse, not a car. This reasoning tends to think company leadership in any marketing space outweighs consumer response or feedback. Without thought leadership within the company, there would be no brand to follow.
The truth, for business and the marketing professionals who help them, lies somewhere in between both extremes. Branding is controlled both by the company who has created it and the consumers who provide insight and feedback into what they feel the business brand is. The challenges a company faces in branding effectively reveal themselves when a company doesn’t believe in or understand the consequences of how to brand well in this dynamic.
Look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? We never really see the same image others do. The reflection is, instead, the reverse of what others see. Curiously, how we emotionally connect to the visual presentation that is reflected (versus how others view us) is often far removed from other perceptions as well. When what we see before us is distorted even more than what would be considered reasonable—typified by deeply negative or critical feelings—we could be subject to a disorder called dysmorphia. Dysmorphia is based off the Greek word for “bad form” and means “malformation; an abnormality in the shape or size of a body part; also called dysmorphism,” as defined by Dictionary.com. Similar to a person who has dysmorphia, a company can have marketing dysmorphism.
The ability to develop substantial brand communication has suffered. It’s not necessarily the fault of the brands themselves but seems to rest on delivery and communication methods. Arriving in the last 10 years is an unprecedented accessibility to publication and consumers. Gone is the slow burn and thoughtful presentations brands relied on. In it’s place the quick, down and dirty availability of social media and online distribution is an often careless “push marketing” frenzy. More succinctly, in a world that proposes to deliver profundity in 140 characters and relies on large images and brief quotes to provide impact and substance for consumers, the ability to create deeper, long-lasting foundations for brand building has faulted.
How does someone who owns his or her own business become a more effective marketer? There are some important things to look at this summer that can help a business develop more pro “active” marketing implementation and become less focused on “after the fact” indicators. While it’s a good idea to know the response indicators of poor performance, relying on them for business decisions is not priming the business for success. Using leading indicators and creating success with known expectations is a more powerful position for any business marketing plan. It’ll help you now, and during the oncoming lull that summer can lead you to believe it is…but if you are active, isn’t.
Marketers should be called “key makers.”. They are always selling the keys to your business success. When looking at what each marketer sells as a whole group, of course, the “keys to success” number somewhere in the hundreds or even thousands. New angles and spins on classic marketing crop up every day. Add different solutions to that for the digital age, and you can see what I mean.
There is a lot to be confused by in advertising: releasing a new Google AdWords campaign with all the appropriate extensions, daily budget limits, network display opportunities and URL paths that can measure conversion; or retargeting Facebook ads with the correct marketing spends; or even capturing names through pop-ups on a website. Never mind simply tracking list serve opens and closes, clicked on links and the dynamic traffic flow or TSO. All of it adds to the difficulty of understanding the options available. Toss in SEO practices, such as domain management, keyword placement, linking structure, conical tagging and other “keys” to better traffic development, and the brew cooked up in any marketer’s cauldron is an intimidating one.
Steven turned seven years old. He celebrated as he sat in a lavishly decorated living room with twirled streamers, blue and red balloons, plates with printed webs and a large plastic caricature of Spider Man as the center piece on a table. A gathering of children encircled the youngster, craning their necks to see what Steven would wish for as he blew out the candles of his cake. It was as if, for a moment, they expected he would break tradition and say aloud what he wished for. And, while he did not do the unthinkable and wish aloud for his most desired gift, it was clear from much earlier on in his childhood, at least to his closest friends and family, what his wishes were. Steven wanted only one thing, to create the most important brand in the world. It would be the brand that saved the world.