Are we all marketers now?

We all have things, people, or behaviours we align ourselves with and define ourselves by.  That choice of shirt or car, crane or lawyer reflects an internal identity and what we want to project to the world – whether that’s to customers, competitors, or that guy down the pub.

In marketing, it’s simply and obviously vital to identify what the consumer wants to project and link your product and service with it, as honestly and clearly as possible. That isn’t new, of course.  And in our summer of global sporting events and the expert level brand associations that go with them, we’ve seen a crisis of linking disparate identities in a way that I challenge if the audience believe is in any way genuine.  That is a new and crystal-clear marketing crisis.

But we are all post-marketing marketers.

So, do the majority now still believe in the linking of sport with products at the furthest reaches of the healthiness spectrum?  It remains one of the last relics of affinity marketing, via a distant connection, which is currently putting cities into states of emergency to run sponsored events in a clean branding environment, fans in masks are kept outside the stadia, recommending that exempting sponsors and their guests not complete the COVID travel checks, facing-up perfect bottles of beer in front of practising Muslims, etc. And frankly, most of us are too smart to fall for that at this point.  Transparent marketing is okay, and most think it fine to surround human excellence with products, but post-marketing we’ve moved on from the 80-90s heyday of product endorsement and affinity.

The gap and reappraisal COVID-19 offered has given us all the space to question this cynical association more than ever.  We clearly see a more respectful, moderate approach to marketing challenges. In the same way, the content-led marketing revolution gives marketing activity at the highest level a genuine purpose for their audience beyond immediate sales; it’s way more nuanced in building long term value. The more subtle world of business-to-business influencer and experiential marketing will move towards this positive association and humanistic reinforcement.

Paul Pogba, a Muslim football player, removing a Heineken bottle from the conference table during a Euros 2020 conference

Source: YouTube

Risk vs reward runs both ways

I was taught by many a wizened old marketeer that there was always a risk with associations. That, while you may gain the positive attribution of brand values by osmosis, the risk that the association may go sour if the person or event somehow went rogue; of course, now we’re seeing brands go somewhat rogue and the person takes the branding high ground.

Originally, it was easy to decide what you wanted your business to stand for and an easy option was just by aligning to who or whatever sponsorship fitted that hyper idealised identity.  That sometimes-cynical approach is no longer effective. It doesn’t value who you’re speaking to, not 2019 and certainly not in 2021.

Today, we rightly question that association can now only operate if it is reasonable, simple, and compatible. It’s no longer, “it can’t go rogue”. Now, we need to embrace the hygiene factor of “does it respect your target and their intelligence as an informed reviewer and consumer of marketing, and does it have a level of realism and congruence?”

Dove is renowned for aligning their values with their audience, consistently showing 'real women' in their ads. Their latest push, The Self Esteem Project, targets retouching ads and the effects on girls and younger women.

If your marketing and communications feel too obvious, or lacks the integrity you know your reference audience values in their chosen products and services, then let’s have a chat about finding an ‘identity’ pathway and communications model that actually means something positive and genuine you can celebrate sharing.

These are the approaches that will drive value for business and sales and feel a little more sensitive to the individual in a post-Covid world.

Let’s talk (NH@cwa.co.uk) as we are all marketers now!

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Written by
Peter Carroll
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