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As an effective marketer you need to understand the aspects of your brand that resonate with different elements of your target market audience. To effectively do that, you need to understand the mentality of crowds and individuals. Marketing relies on psychology and sociology as much as any individual trick or technique.
These are 7 videos that every inbound marketer should watch. They describe aspects of change in modern consumer culture, identify pitfalls to which marketers have traditionally fallen prey, and detail styles of leadership that generate innovation and inspire followings.
A marketing team requires all of this. You need innovative ideas and the ability to portray your business as a leader within its industry. Success comes through knowledge. We will, however, start with failure:
1. Steve Ballmer Laughs at iPhone
This now infamous clip of Steve Ballmer (then CEO of Microsoft) laughing at Apple’s expansion into mobile phones is a prime illustration of someone failing to understand potential. Ballmer’s failure to comprehend a new product, how financing could alter buying patterns and the ‘lifestyle’ marketing genius of Apple, are all examples of how an attachment to the status quo will limit marketing choices and the investment in innovative ideas.
Ballmer’s iPhone reaction will be our guide throughout the world of marketing failures and pitfalls to avoid.
Although Ballmer is often blamed as the reason Microsoft is still struggling to hold onto 3rd place in the mobile market, we shouldn’t feel too sorry for Ballmer — he has an estimated net worth of nearly $40 billion.
2. Malcolm Gladwell on the Pitfalls of Market Research
Famed journalist Malcolm Gladwell takes us on a journey that begins with chairs. Specifically, the quest to create the ‘most perfect’ office chair of all time — a project that resulted in the construction of the ‘ugliest chair’ of all time, a chair that then went on to win awards for aesthetics and design.
If that sounds like a paradox, Gladwell would tell you that it is simply because people don’t understand what they want or like. Like the iPhone that Steve Ballmer did not understand, that once hated ‘ugly’ chair went on to set a new standard for its industry. It was the Aeron chair — the now best-selling office chair of all time.
In this talk, Gladwell uses examples from ‘New Coke’ to experiments where humans play with swinging ropes and undergraduates are forced to explain why they like one poster over another, to detail why our preferences (that seem like solid and genuine reflections of our opinions) are actually capricious and reliant on context.
We have a distrust of the new, an inability to truly understand the origin of our feelings and interests, and a tendency to make up stories that justify our actions/opinions after the fact.
These are all things that marketers have to understand. In an industry reliant on focus groups and asking people what they want, Gladwell would have you know that this type of investigation is bound to fail for the revolutionary products that will reinvent industries. Beyond that, asking people to think about what they want, or explain why they want it, changes their opinions.
We know far less about what we want than we think. If you are trying to sell stuff to people, that is something that you need to know.
3. Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action
This talk is about leadership. For our purposes, however, it is one of the most succinct explanations of why lifestyle marketing is unbelievably powerful.
Author Simon Sinek draws on historical examples from Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs in order to sketch a theory of leadership (or control) called The Golden Circle. This consists of three concentric circles. In the outer ring is ‘What’, in the middle is ‘How’, in the centre is ‘Why’.
What Sinek identifies is that the greatest leaders in the history and the most innovative brands of all time, all focus on ‘Why’. This is in opposition to the standard strategy of focusing on ‘What’, detailing ‘How’, and leaving ‘Why’ mostly unexplained. You need to communicate what your brand ‘believes in’ before explaining ‘what you do’.
This focus on ‘Why’ inspires people to trust your brand across products. It also speaks directly to the small per cent of the market most likely to become early adopters of cutting-edge products. These people are essential to gaining mass acceptance by the sections of the market that take their purchasing cues from these early adopters.
If only Steve Ballmer understood how many of Apple’s existing customers believed in the brand. It was Apple’s ‘attitude’ of innovation that gave them a major step up even before they developed cutting edge touchscreen technology.
4. Linda Hill, How to Manage Collective Creativity
Linda Hill is a business professor and ethnographer who has dedicated years to the study of leadership and innovation. She catalogued the leadership style of companies around the world and across sectors to identify commonalities within the environments that generate the most innovative outcomes.
Her talk details the Pixar development process, how Google solved their storage issues and the success of an Indian outsourcing company.
The commonality she finds is that truly innovative leaders create a fluid and attractive community environment, and almost entirely avoid the standard leadership technique of pushing ‘a vision’. Rather than being visionaries themselves, leaders of innovation bring together individual acts of genius to architect a solution that no one person could have ever created.
What Linda identifies is a process of creative abrasion, creative agility and creative resolution in a meritocratic and open environment. It is this formula that fosters innovation time and again. If you want to be on the cutting-edge of marketing, you need to hire people who will argue with you and create a culture in which they feel empowered to do so.
If only someone working for Steve Ballmer felt empowered to tell him what the iPhone would do — if only he had listened.
5. Andrew Stanton, The Clues to a Great Story
Andrew Stanton is the writer of Toy Story, Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and WALL*E. Stanton has reinvented our understanding of animated storytelling.
In this talk, Stanton describes his journey to becoming a storyteller. Throughout, he provides insight into the key elements necessary to capture an audience and deliver satisfaction.
Marketing is, in large part, storytelling. As discussed by Simon Sinek, telling a compelling story is the key to brand success. People are driven by the ‘why’ of your company just as much as the ‘what’ of what you do — if not more. This is true for hiring purposes and sales.
What Stanton tells us about storytelling is that it comes down to making your audience care. You create that interest through characters that make sense, and a promise of something captivating. Create anticipation around an outcome, create suspense around its delivery and then follow through. Throughout, however, make the audience work. Give them ‘2+2=’, don’t give them 4. Fill the audience with wonder.
If you can apply these rules of writing to your brand, you can captivate audiences around the ‘why’ of ‘what’ you do, and generate interest in that ‘what’ that would have otherwise not existed.
6. Rachel Botsman, The Currency of the New Economy is Trust
Rachel Botsman is a professor at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. This speech is less a lesson on how to market, and more an outline of the future that you need to think about.
Botsman is a champion and researcher of the collaborative economy. This is a term that encompasses peer-to-peer share-services such as Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Uber, Kickstarter and Zoopla.
It is well known that these platforms provide connectivity opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs. What Botsman details is how these platforms have entirely transformed the goods and services it is now possible to monetise, and how the whole market is driven by a radical shift in online reputational importance and our cultural willingness to trust total strangers.
What Botsman theorises is a future where reputation ranking from a conglomeration of online activity and peer-to-peer driven reviews will replace every kind of traditional assessment — from CVs to credit scores. Your value to institutions, employers and customers will become dependent on your reputation among relevant communities. The internet provides the connectivity, tracking and aggregation abilities to make this a reality.
It is hard to decide if this is horrifying or a move that can deliver meaning and connectivity back to a digital world dominated by isolation and individuals.
It is, however, an obvious opportunity. It is something every business should think about. The possibilities for change range from hiring practices and business models.
From a marketing perspective, curating the right online reputation is critical to your business. Your reputation is everything, this has never been more true than now. Don’t be like Steve Ballmer and miss the shocking importance of this paradigm shift.
7. Jon Ronson, One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life
Our last video is a cautionary tale. Journalist Jon Ronson shares the story of Justine Sacco, a communications executive who was fired for a joke she made to her 170 followers on Twitter. That joke was inappropriate. It blew up and crushed her reputation.
Ronson’s lecture covers the challenges of mob mentality, virtue signalling and online activism. The takeaway for marketers operating in an era of digital reputation is to remember to be selective with the words you choose. Don’t be so careful that you sound like a robot, but be careful. Even with the new GDPR Right to be Forgotten, actions you take online will likely follow you for the rest of time.
BONUS VIDEO: Prof. Galloway’s Career Advice
For those that made it to the end, your reward is Professor Scott Galloway of NYU delivering the career advice you missed out on when you were younger. This incredibly succinct video is well worth the 4 minutes for anyone looking to expand or change their employment opportunities.
- Get certified
- Be remarkable
- Find the variance
- Get to a city
- Boring is sexy
- Be willing to delay gratification
- Demonstrate strength and grit
- Don’t follow your passion, be passionate about what you do
- Ignore the myth of balance
- Fight unfair
As a marketer, if you can develop these attributes around your brand (either through the acquisition of new capabilities or the public perception of existing capacities) you will improve your brand’s chances of success for the same reasons that they will improve outcomes for individuals.