My experience and background in the field of marketing taught me about a transactional field of work that involved two parties: content producers and content consumers. In this relationship, the power and influence were assumed to be solely held by the producer. I was taught that there were levers (money) the producer could pull to increase engagement, reach more consumers, and increase conversion rates.

I was taught to measure success through the lens of open and click rates, conversion rates, and engagement metrics, but what about two-way conversation? If the producer's one-way sales pitch was likened to a discussion, does that mean that in turn, the consumer's appropriate conversational reply would be a silent purchase? Money exchanged but without human connection.

In what world is this a conversation? What has become of our economy?

A real conversation takes into consideration nuance, circumstances, and subtle non-verbal queues.

We should normalize two-way exchanges between producers and consumers by modelling marketing campaigns off of human interactions.

When we speak with one another in a typical one-on-one encounter (whether it is online or in person), we perhaps unknowingly enter into dialogue with the following order of operations in order to achieve clarity:

  • Preparation
  • Initial attempt
  • Interpretation of feedback
  • Further clarification
  • Clarity achieved

In fact, this pattern is typically repeated with each and every person we encounter through a linguistic behaviour known as code switching. We adapt to different circumstances inadvertently through the use of our reptilian brain as a way in which to more easily convey a message or feeling to another human. For instance, you might share more specialized details of a breakthrough discovery in your biology lab with a fellow scientist than you might with your friend who works as a paralegal. This isn't about sharing different's about sharing information differently.

Most millennials I know end phrases with questions like, "Does that make sense?" so often it seems somewhat patronizing, but it speaks to a larger issue:

Communication is difficult.

Marketers hold an unrealistic sphere of influence. We can drill down into data points and target people who are solidly middle class, white, majority female, living in the Cincinnati vicinity, and primarily Catholic if we want, but that does not mean our campaigns are for their eyes only.

Marketing is a social justice issue in that it explicitly includes and excludes based on data points that are intended to disarm the targeted consumers while simultaneously excluding potential clients simply because they are not represented in the board room where the messaging is strategized.

Remember the biology lab breakthrough I mentioned?

Imagine if that breakthrough was a cure for cancer but only those with higher education in the sciences were deemed a target audience. This information ultimately trickles down to you and me, but by then who do you think has taken advantage of these new treatments? Who do you think feels comfortable trying this experimental drug because they can understand the science behind it?

To target audiences and segment them based on interest areas is not necessarily an unethical path forward, but designing a marketing campaign around such specific attributes that that audience is given a major advantage over other consumers is. Equal access to information - the same information conveyed differently - is key in order that we can establish strong relationships with diverse consumers. Their feedback will make our brands and messaging better, more accessible, and equitable.

As marketing professionals and content creators (yes, you...the ardent Instagram user), we must approach marketing, advertising, and promotional efforts with empathy, compassion, and a desegmentized mindset in order that we might actually enter into conversation with those on the other end of our messaging.

Published on:

Saturday, April 10, 2021