Madison Avenue culture has shaped marketing for the better part of the past century. It has been the single biggest influence on culture at-large. But Madison Avenue needs and extreme makeover.
Proctor & Gamble’s A.G. Lafley recently said, “We need to reinvent the way we market to consumers. We need a new model. It does not exist. No one else has one yet.” P&G’s global marketing officer, Jim Stengle succinctly summed up marketing’s biggest problem a short wile later. “Marketing is broken.”
The old marketing model is broken for one big reason: Marketers (and researchers that serve marketing), who are supposed to understand consumers’ minds, are mostly clueless as to where the mind of the market is today.
I know. That’s a humongously big and sweeping charge to make, but just reflect a moment about what motivates human beings. All willful behavior breaks down into two motivational categories: comfort and pleasure seeking; avoidance of discomfort and pain.
These two categories have two dimensions:
- physical (like fine dining for pleasure and aspirin for a headache to avoid pain)
- psychological (esthetic appreciation of a fine automobile for pleasure) and a gift of flowers to someone you’ve hurt (to cure the pain of guilt).
Most marketing is overly focused on idealized pursuits of pleasure seeking and pain avoidance. Inbeing this way, most marketing fails to address consumers’ need for meaning in their lives. Without a sense of meaning, people suffer psychological pain (which then can induce physical pain, from backaches to stomach ulcers).
Today’s 86 million young adults generally have idealized and somewhat narcissistic images of their life’s meaning. Life is all about self. And it’s been that way among the young from time immemorial.
Today’s 132 million middle-aged and older adults generally have more realistic and less self-centered images of their life’s meaning. While the young dream of what they want to be in the future, older people tend to strive to be what they want to be in the present. Much of that striving revolves around the pursuit and expression of life meaning.
The search for meaning is the number one task of the inner self in midlife – the time of life that dominates culture today. Ninety percent of midlifers are boomers.
By now, most readers have seen the new Dove campaign that has replaced the idealized images of life that have been a staple in marketing personal care products with images of real people in real life contexts. The campaign first broke in Europe.
Results surpassed all expectations. Dove Firming Lotion sales, for example, exceeded forecasts by 110 percent in Western Europe in 2004. In the UK, Dove Firming Lotion sales rose from 280,000 bottles in 2003 to 2.3 million bottles in the first six months of 2004.
Idealizations are out. Realism is in. It all has to do with culture shifting from a foundation built on fantasies of what I would like to be to grounded self-images of what I can and should be. Doen’t sound very elegant, does it?
That’s because we’ve been so brainwashed by Madison Avenue, Hollywood and catwalk glitzy fashion that its hard to find beauty, grace and inspiration in the mundane. But when you manage to find those things in the ordinary, you wonderfully transcend to a higher state of human beingness where the real meaning of your life resides.
This concludes the 7-part thread inspired by Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. Does anyone out there want to suggest a new topic?