Disconnected thoughts on marketing

I’m sitting in my garage office on a September summer Saturday that is beyond good. The garage door is open. There is no internet access in my garage, so I am totally disconnected. The sun and breeze are as drifting as my thoughts. It’s one of those days…oh, a butterfly just fluttered in, took a quick glide around, and fluttered out. She has more important things to do than watch my putter-think.

OK, let me concentrate.

I was reading a fascinating book the other day. The title is “The Brain Dead Megaphone” by George Saunders.  Mr. Saunders teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University and Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people. 

Mr. Saunders made a comment on consumerism that triggered a thought in my, sometimes dead, brain. He wrote, “A human being is someone who joyfully goes in pursuit of things, brings them home, then immediately starts planning how to get more. A human being is someone who wishes to improve his lot.”

A certain segment of society and philosophy spends a lot of time condemning consumer consumption. Today’s consumer is branded as wasteful, voracious, avarice-laden creatures. With natural resources seemingly shrinking, climate change reshaping our world with every new season, and a constant daily barrage of marketing messages urging the consumer to buy and use more, the criticism seems correct.

However, Mr. Saunder’s observation caused to me to stop and re-think my position. What if the desire to “improve” one’s lot in life is not propelled by media and marketing manipulation but is as natural as the butterfly that just fluttered back into my garage, took a 2nd look around and didn’t find anything more interesting than before, and glided back out?

What if your desire to have the latest tech device, fashion item, food dish, isn’t simply greed on your part to have the latest and greatest? What if your desire is just natural and part of your DNA I suppose.

Thinking about it a bit more I thought of bees.  Not because I like bees particularly although I have nothing against them.  It’s the time of year when bees are all over the place propagating, gathering the last bits of flower power, or whatever the heck they do when the fall season is close.

A bee does a marvelous job of building a hive.  Complex yet simple in its construction, the worker bees work constantly to build a structure that any architect would be proud of but does the bee ever think of improving the hive in some way?  They’ve been building the same style hive for millions of years. You’d think one of them would say, “Why are we busting our butts building this hive when it’s going to be our tomb once the cold weather shows up?  Hey, why don’t we build an insulated hive so we can all be around next spring when the flowers bloom again?  What do you think?  Any you bees have any ideas?”

No. The bee just keeps building the same old hive. Dies when winter shows up. Then the new bee crop go about building the same style hive. You would think one of them would watch a few episodes of HGTV and maybe put together an open-concept hive.

The bee isn’t concerned with improving its lot.  The whale, our biggest mammal relative, doesn’t swim all over the world looking for the perfect fishing spot and then stay there. Whales are constantly swimming up and down coastlines and across oceans, season after season, year after year, in search of the same old krill. Personally, I don’t get a thrill from krill but I’m not a whale.

Our animal and insect neighbors aren’t obsessed with making things better. They are content with the way things are.  Of course, we assume they are content because they can’t communicate with us.

But we humans, oh boy do we have a problem.  This urge, craving, passion to always be making things better is our blessing and our curse.

It’s a blessing because without it I wouldn’t be able to sit here in my garage office “disconnected” from the internet, which was created as a more efficient means of communication. (Where the internet has led us is the topic for another posting.)

Our improve-now gene is also our biggest curse. It leads to a constant and aching feeling of dissatisfaction.  Philosophers and theologians urge humans to “accept things the way they are” but not only is it tough it’s also, sorry all you Acceptance Prayer people, unnatural.

It’s not in the human make-up to simply sit back, put our feet up, and just let life happen. That is not what humans are about from what I have observed and experienced both personally and professionally.

For example, I know how to drive a car. I’ve been doing it for 50 years.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t drive it better. I also know how to fish.  Been doing that for 50 years. But a new rod and reel means I can do the act of fishing better. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to catch more fish but it’s going to make the entire process easier.

As a marketer and copywriter, I know how to present a product or service, inform the targeted market segment about it, and compel them to act on the message.  I’ve been doing that for 40 years. Media changes. Consumer attitudes change. Preferences shift. But the one thing that has remained constant in all the time I have been writing marketing messages is this:  The consumer always asks, “How is this product or service going to improve my lot in life?”

Communicate the benefit clearly and creatively and the consumer will transact with you.  If the marketing message doesn’t make it 100% clear how the item marketed is going to improve the consumer’s life in some way, then it will fail.  Period.

The fact is the consumer needs, and wants, to improve their life. That urge is as natural to us as breathing and gives the smart marketer a tremendous advantage.

That’s how to connect to consumers and turn them into loyal customers. There’s a lot of corporate breast-beating and horn-blowing going on in the marketing world right now. Forget you. Connect with the consumer, make their lives better with your product, and you will win.

Wait the butterfly jump flew back and brought two friends with her.  I’m going to join them in the garden and improve my lot right now.

Thank you for reading.


About nhbrownlee

Advertising copywriter, Creative Director and state of New York college professor. I love true stories. Who doesn't?
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