Your Message Shouldn’t End with a “.”

20Oct07

 

I have become increasingly aware that we’ve become too comfortable pushing well-crafted, one-sided messages at consumers. We say, “BrandX is the leading provider of digital music;” “BrandX is committed to creating sustainable, eco-friendly products;” and “BrandX delivers unmatched quality at an affordable price.” We tell them what the brand stands for rather than giving them the space to tell us.

We should know that in this age of social media, it takes a community to raise a brand and it takes an opportunity for dynamic conversation to really get that community engaged.

As we move forward in our work with clients, we should question whether the messaging we create leaves room for the consumer to discuss, debate and contribute to it. Instead of pushing our positioning on the community, we must think of our messaging and communications work as a platform to learn more about and listen to our consumers. This means trading in the “.” for an “…” and leaving room for the consumer to contribute.

Dove illustrates this well with its Campaign for Real Beauty ads that challenged audiences to vote on its models. “Gray or gorgeous” and “oversized or outstanding?” it asked.

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By opening up the communications about the brand to include room for the consumer to contribute, Dove sparked an international debate and not only got consumers to talk about beauty and its products, it also inspired many to advocate and fight for its position with friends and family. That’s good communications founded in and fueled by priceless engagement that no amount of ad spending can match.

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One Response to “Your Message Shouldn’t End with a “.””

  1. I agree with you completely. That said, I’m going to touch on a related point. As a consumer, your brand is what I decide it is, not what you tell me it is. That is, of course, the collective “I.”

    Your brand is courting me, and every other consumer. So, let’s use dating analogies, as they seem to work for everything. Your personal ad says your smart, kind, and sexy. You’ve got an athletic build, You’re tall. And your professionally accomplished.

    When I go out to meet you, you can’t hold down a conversation. You’re out of shape. You really don’t seem to have a life. Which to I believe, the personal ad or the person I see?

    You can tell me you love me every night, but if I find out you’re talking behind my back and undermining me every step of the way, well, those words are hollow.

    In other words, brands need to show us not tell us. What’s the beauty of this Dove campaign? They’re not just telling us the beauty industry’s concept of beauty is fucked up; they’re using beautiful, real women in their campaigns. They’re also working to educate parents as to how to deal with their young daughters and messages about beauty.

    Now, I’m not going to get all idealistic here. I don’t know whether the folks at Dove have a real sense of moral responsibility or simply see there’s money to be made in doing the right thing. Point is, they are walking the walk, and that defines their brand far more than anything they could say about it. They are also — and it’s hard to believe this is novel — targeting their consumers. What I mean is that the beauty industry tries to push a male fantasy of women on their (female) consumers. “Buy this product so men will fall all over you.” Dove is pushing self esteem and reality. If men were only attracted to super-thin twenty something models, most women would be single and most men would be fighting over the handful of women who met the criteria. By the number of straight couples I know, I’d have to say that we (men) do find ourselves attracted to, and even fall in love with, women who don’t stand a chance of making the cover of Maxim.

    I’m digressing into the politics of beauty here, but perhaps that shows what a strong brand example Dove is. But back to the point, marketing today is about engaging consumers not about pushing a message at them. That may involve interactive media, but it may also be as simple as walking the walk. In some cases, say the pink ribbon campaign, it may sadly be about appearing to walk the walk.



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