Partial truths. That’s what you’ll find at the heart of most marketing advice. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The guidance of a blog post, the counsel you receive from a marketing agency, and the latest bestseller—they all contain some level of truth. Whether intentional or not, those concepts usually don’t connect to a broader story. But many times, those partial-truths are presented as the whole story, and the entire truth.
Does sex sell? Sure. Is building a community around your brand important? It is. Does brand perception trump actual quality? Most of the time, it does. All of these nuggets contain some level of truth, but for a marketing strategy to be vibrant, pulsing with life and fully effective, these and countless other partial truths need to be integrated into a more holistic, strategic framework.
Marketing—as an art and as a science—can and should evolve. And the pioneers on the leading-edge of this revolution will say that it already has. It’s only a matter of time until we’ve reached a tipping point; where business leaders understand the need for a truly integrative vision and demand it from those they seek strategic counsel from.
Take human perception, for instance. The venerable concept of “positioning” is based on the target audience’s perception of a product, service, brand, etc. It’s an enormously valuable concept in the world of marketing, advertising and public relations. It’s a tool I grab daily at my own firm. But the concept of positioning focuses on only one perceptive—the inside, first-person viewpoint of our target audience. And yet, positioning is often touted as the only truth.
What happened to the third-person perspective, which puts most or all of the emphasis on tribes and community? Some marketing professionals would venture to say that tribes and community—a third-person perspective on your brand—is the only real perspective which requires your attention. But again, that’s only one perspective, and so, only represents a partial-truth.
“But, wait!” some data-driven marketers will say. “I have scientific data—second-person evidence—explaining your target audience’s behavior.” But what about the first-person emotions and beliefs of those people? What about the third-person, cultural worldview or economic environment?
The unwillingness or inability to framework different ways of viewing reality reminds me of an observation I made some time ago: It appears that an evolved marketing approach and an evolved human being look strikingly similar.
As infants, we don’t think about goings-on from the perspective of our parents. We simply can’t fathom why Mom and Dad make that face when we decide to pee the moment our diaper comes off. But as we grow and evolve, we gain the ability to take the perspective of those closest to us, then those of our family, the tribe, and the community. We also begin to see them from the outside in deeper and more meaningful ways. We begin to identify with them. We take further steps forward when we stand witness to, and from, the viewpoints of others in our state, our region and our nation. From there, we’re able to subsume the perspectives of all human beings and beyond.
The most evolved human beings we know are wise—wise because they can take into account a wide variety of perspectives, seen at and from different depths. The most evolved marketing strategies are also wise—wise because they take into account a wide variety of perspectives, seen at and from different depths.
Problems in business and in marketing and in life arise when we can’t see past our preferred point of view. Issues arise when we reduce every perspective into one, and call it the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But magic happens when we see the partial truths for what they are—the immense value in them—but at the same time, take care to place them into a framework that’s both integrated and evolved.