Marketing In 2019: Goodness
Marketing In 2019: Goodness
If you’ve given your marketing your time and your honesty, the last bit required is a little goodness. Of all the three transcendentals, this is the one that’s appeal is currently seeing the most growth.
So, what is “good?”
Yikes. In the simplest regard, “good” breaks down two ways, both of which apply to advertising: Moral Good and Perfect Good. Moral good is the common convention of virtue, dictating manners and behavior and typically determined by societal norms. When your mother told you to “be good,” this is what she was talking about. Perfect good implies a goal or purpose and the ability to fulfill that goal or purpose. In this case, “good” is perfect completion and realization of potential, such as how people see it as good when an exceptionally tall and athletic person becomes a basketball star.
Dove has been excellent at both of these, particularly with their #Always campaign from 2014. It offers a lesson in how audiences can better perceive others and themselves while also uplifting a vast people group. Viewers redefine themselves and are empowered as a result of the ad’s message, exactly as Dove’s products are supposed to help consumers redefine and empower themselves, and so the piece hums with fulfillment and harmony while also endorsing a moral position approved by the majority of society.
A company doesn’t even have to be particularly moral themselves to employ this creative element (though they obviously ought to do their best). The NFL 100 Years ad was funny and action packed, elements distinctly lacking from most of 2019’s Super Bowl ads. But what made it good advertising is it brought the viewers back to why so many people love the NFL in the first place: the game and the people who play it. After several years of controversy about anthems and concussions, people needed a glimpse of what the league can be when it’s at its best. Recapturing control of the narrative, even if only for the night, was the purpose of that ad and it performed admirably.
In order to make an ad work, you need both. Skimping on one can’t be compensated by the other, especially with today’s savvy audiences. Here are two examples of using one without the other:
Bad Morals, Fulfilled Purpose
Immoral intentions that fulfill their purpose result in situations like Fyre Festival. The goal was to use the power of influencer marketing to prey on dozens of rich idiots’ fear-of-missing-out. It worked! Dozens of rich idiots got to experience the ride of their lives, and they paid a premium for it. In return, it came at the cost of the reputation and legal standing of many of the individuals involved at the top. Unrealized promises are never profitable in the long-term.
Good Morals, Misaligned Purpose
Similarly, moral intentions applied out of alignment feel like a scam. Remember the Dodge Ram ad from the 2018 Super Bowl? It relied on a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. to propel the piece, which overall was well done. Unfortunately, using Dr. King’s words to sell trucks ran entirely counter to the spirit of the civil rights leader’s message, and audiences intuitively knew that, sparking a backlash. Ram wasn’t trying to scam anybody, and they claim to have been very careful to respect King’s estate, but the intent of the ad and the ad that they made weren’t aligned, and it cost them both credibility and the $5 million they spent on a Super Bowl slot.
Incidentally, “good” marketing doesn’t begin and end with ads. Are you labor practices ethical? Are your top-rung employees keeping a clean public persona? Is your customer service attentive and quick? Marketing to the incoming buyer profiles of Millenials and GenZ starts with these factors and not necessarily by flooding digital spaces with interrupt advertising.
Tolerance for ads is going down with every passing generation as ad-blockers, multi-screen content consumption, and paid subscriptions spike. Ads, if they want to be noticed, have to offer value. When your ad is over, the viewer should feel engaged. This means expanding the viewer’s mind, either intellectually or emotionally, with content that has some part of your brand at the center. If, in theory, you’re selling something that they ought to want, why should any ad end with the viewer being satisfied with going back to their life as-is? A new world has been opened, a previously unknown inadequacy has been revealed, and the only course of action remaining ought to be your company’s CTA. In short, Millenials and Gen Z are driven by a search for meaning, so if you can’t find enough meaning in your brand to market with, why should they buy it?
Meaning has three vehicles of expression: beauty, truth, and goodness. Wrestling with these issues on a personal level can take a lifetime, so don’t feel discouraged if applying them to marketing feels daunting. Remember, dear marketer, you are a storyteller. Your product isn’t the point of the story, it’s the medium. The story you have to tell using that product must ultimately walk the path of these transcendentals, and this will take all of your creativity and insight, but you can do it. Approach life with wide-open eyes, tracking the ley lines of of beauty, truth, and goodness as they wind through art, science, and human interaction.
Now go and make something great.