I call Adpulp, “The Chronicle of Bright Ideas,” because I’m a collector and admirer of smart thinking and elegant doing.
After a long week with my head inside a strategy deck, I’m now choosing to unwind on Saturday morning by reflecting more deeply on three articles in my queue.
1- “Brand First” Is the Wrong Position
Steve Bryant is a storytelling weirdo at Article Group. He makes a great point about the lenses we use to see ourselves.
A brand does not begin with the audience in mind, and that’s true whether you’re doing feature-based selling or solution-based selling.
A brand begins as an idea about itself (the product) and then tries to sell that idea to an audience (the market). This is why it’s called “product-market fit”.
I accept Bryant’s analysis. I also advocate strongly for a more positive POV that puts the people in the audience first.
Today, an egocentric organization is a relic ready for a museum display. In a world where customers rule, the job is active listening. There’s no other way to get to the heart of the matter because the heart of the matter is what matters to the customer, not to the brand.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I expanded this section into a stand-alone article published on LinkedIn.
2- We’re Dependent on the “Reliance Economy”
We spoof what we’ve become. That’s how the comedy sausage gets made.
On a serious note, Jesse Weaver who is Director of Entrepreneurial Design at @cmci_studio, argues that “With technology, we aren’t becoming dependent on another person — we’re becoming dependent on corporations.”
Today, much of our existence centers on the attention economy, where our focus and time are mined, and the resulting data is manipulated and sold as a commodity in service of driving advertising revenue and feeding algorithms. We’re becoming painfully aware of the downsides of this arrangement as services architect themselves to put us in a perpetual “can’t look away” state. But as detrimental as the attention economy is, it’s just a temporary stop on our way to a very different destination.
“Can’t look away” was never the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal has always been “can’t live without,” and that is a very different animal.
“Can’t live without” is a high bar for any corporation making and selling products and services. Apple achieved it with the iPhone and iTunes. Outside a select group of products or services that fit this standard, just about every other product or service, no matter the quality, is in the “Like to have” category. Hence, the need for advertising and the brand differentiation that is smartly portrayed therein.
3- By Definition, Real Influencers Have Have Great Stories To Share
Laurence Scott, writing in The New Yorker, looks closely at influencer marketing.
Based on the available evidence, it seems that we can’t construct an influence economy without stoking a culture of skepticism and paranoia. The fear of being influenced affects our sense of reality and our ability to trust our own judgments about what is true. Election hackers and commercial influencers have wildly different aims, but both contribute to the unreal, distrustful tenor of our times, in which a language of fakery, deception, and inauthenticity has become fundamental to how we interpret the world.
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit,” wrote Harry G. Frankfurt, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University. Not that he needed to write it down. It’s something we’re all keenly aware of. What we do not know is what it means for marketers. A look at the mounting evidence in every direction suggests that it means marketers must make a radical adjustment.
When the default position is one of distrust and skepticism, how does a brand break through? Not with advertising is the short answer. As hard as awareness is to earn, it’s also far from enough to be known and heard today. A brand must be felt. If it has a chance in hell of being believed, the company has to show up in the real world, in the world of its workers and the communities in which they live.
When brand managers move en masse from being concerned about earned media and focus instead on earning respect, we will all take a step forward—the industry and the culture as a whole.