Even the babies are getting into the act led by my new favorite brand Seventh Generation. Now that’s what I call progress, and a very sweet brand experience. Okay, they’re digital babies but they’re still cute and they have something to fuss about. 80,000 untested toxic chemicals on the market to be exact. This is just one of the many cause-related initiatives in Seventh Generation’s portfolio of socially responsible uh, hum, dare I say “marketing” programs. Given the amount of good Seventh Generation is mobilizing in the world, it kind of seems sacrilegious to call it marketing.
Most marketers I know (those with heart) are experiencing a kind of classic ego death. In the old days, “marketing” was a verb. To some it meant, “We’re taking some unfinished shit that the product team built, and shoving it out there ‘cause the research says the suckers will buy it. It’s too bad the packaging might choke one of the 180 Puffins left in the world but that’s the breaks.” To others it meant, “We’ll package up the old version of the product to look like a new version and see if we can sell more of it. Let’s just take the leftover packaging and ship it to Armenia where it can be used as fuel to warm houses” And to even more folks it meant, “Hey, let’s just shout as loud as we can because we have to spend this budget before we lose it. That billboard they just stuck in over at the bird sanctuary is available for $20,000 day. That’ll just about use up our budget.”
For most of us who’ve devoted our lives to marketing, the term evokes feelings of shame. Product development and manufacturing have done their thing according to some product management road map littered with self-serving research to support the notion that this new widget just might help corporate make their numbers. And then it’s our turn. “Hey it’s time to run some ads, or maybe get a Facebook page, or how about trying that Twitter thingy. Let’s get Brad Pitt and then drop some leaflets on Manhattan. Dare we e-mail our customer list one more time? Too bad they canned spam!” Never mind that we’re “selling” a product the consumers didn’t ask for and if they did, we can’t possibly live up to their expectations of experience. But did anyone think about the impact on the planet or on the people we’re selling to? And we wonder why the consumer economy is in crisis.
According to Shoshana Zuboff co-author of The Support Economy, “Today’s individuals seek psychological self-determination. They are the origins of their own meanings, not a passive mass audience. This new phenomenon is expressed in myriad ways, from the success of the Vietnam Memorial Wall to the proliferation of laws extending human rights in every domain. The new individuals have plenty of things. As consumers, they now yearn for the kind of support that will enable them to live the lives they choose.”
The marketing from companies like Seventh Generation look more like a rallying cry for global action. When I buy their products, I know I’m doing something good. Oh and by they way, they all smell fantastic! But that’s not all. Given all the choices there are to help the planet but with little understanding of which causes are actually good (not shams) it’s nice to have a company that’s been leading the way for 20 years to lean on. Wow, I can stock up on dish detergent, diapers, shampoo, and do my bit to save the planet. That’s what I call a satisfying brand experience. These guys get how to impact the triple bottom line.
Some great companies are running ahead of the pack but there are lots of opportunities for companies big and small, new and old, to create experiences with their brand that will not only engage consumers to purchase their products and services, but also perpetuate positive change for the planet or for people. Take huddle for instance. They’re an online collaboration service that’s pretty cool. They play a critical role in helping people really work alongside each other remotely. Not an easy task. I know first hand from my years of managing global teams across multiple agency and client constituents. It’s a Class A pain in the backside. But it’s the reality of world today and the sooner we adapt, the more we’ll get accomplished. That’s why I think there must be lots and lots of opportunity for them to add even more value to their customers and be a voice in the market for effective distributed team development and management. When I searched the web for best practices for remote collaboration or creating strong virtual teams I just couldn’t find anything substantial. Surely there must be a movement somewhere to bring the voices of talented managers and leaders together who know how to make virtual teams hum. It’s been a problem for years. Hasn’t someone cashed in on it? If not, hey huddle, here’s a way to really get connected to people technologically and emotionally. Give people the tools and then help them succeed using them. According to CIO Magazine, “The 21st century is likely to be the age of collaboration because many of today’s problems are complex, often demanding cross-disciplinary expertise.” Sounds like an opportunity to me.
So Mary, what’s your point you ask? I have lots of points, but the one I’m really passionate about today is looking at brands as holistic experiences. In fact, I’d like to rename marketing “experience delivery.” It’s time to really think about how through their products, their services, their content, and their partnerships companies can deliver experiences that make consumers lives exponentially better. Stand for something, not just a quality tangible, a quality experience, progress towards a better world, or a better workplace, or an easy life. Oh, and don’t wait until the product is finished before you think of something.