Take the public transportation, sit down, if you can, and observe. What do you see? People with their things, their phones, books, blank stares, snoozes and some conversations.
When I take the subway and I observe, especially in the morning or when I get home in the afternoon, I wonder how far we are, most of the time, from the wonderful everyday reality and the simple, wise, tough and honest heartbeat in us all.
I see people, myself, taking over our heads the insecurity that are causing these years where we were told we were wrong, that nothing would ever be the same, that we were not as important as before anymore.
In a context where jobs are a permanent interrogation, social security, retirement, real estate, the power of Europe, if it will be cold, very cold, hot or very hot. In that scenario pictured by brands… what do they have to say? What are they up to? and what about their organizations? Do they study or do they work?
In this context it seems logical that we should look to reset, or at least review, the patterns that we took for granted up till now.
What has been the role of marketing and communication in the world of business so far? In a context of welfare and growth, the differentiation has been the workhorse of the companies, the brands and even ourselves. What helps us to be and feel different to the rest?
In this regard, from the marketing and communication business, we have prioritized an idealized image, perceptions instead of reality. We have prioritized the image against the identity. A perverse example of this trend was the excessive consumption of imitations. What was selling? A logo as key to a higher state. Well, that’s what was purchased. Where went explaining the quality of the product? the fine details, the care in the materials used for that product, the responsibility of doing things right.
Looking at the trends in these markets, we noticed a change. Luxury brands not showing off their logos to push elegance as a communication tool among a few. Industrial Projects Km0, a mix of craftsmanship, exclusivity and local development. Ecochic, a bag where all of this fits. And much more.
Another interesting example would be the wrongly called “white” brands, brands afte all, whoever it pisses off. What have we sold for years through big brands? Smoke, an idealized image, even irrelevant innovation. What happens when reality puts these ego-trends in a balance against rationality?
In all this time I’m tired of hearing that the price is the fundamental variable of purchase. It is true, but also a limited analysis. Personally I like to talk about the resurgence of rationality in any decision making process whether to buy or not. Whether to buy a brand over another. Facing this rationality we can find ourselves listening to the fathers and mothers of the brands, telling that consumers don’t know how to buy, that distribution is a pretender and that no one recognizes the efforts of the major brands for progress and improvement of the consumer. Okay.
Let us return to the metro, in that rattle between stations, we observe a person that, for the time and the way of dressing, looks like it is going to work. It’s early days but it is already tired. It’s Monday and it has the whole day ahead, all week to overcome, succeed, fall, sleep… At some point that day, that week, it will buy. It will make a thoughtful decision, on impulse, or worse, inadvertently. What can offer a brand to this person? What is the least and most important thing a brand can offer as a tribute for have been chosen?
Trust me, I will not disappoint you. I know it has been a tough day but do not worry, you’ve made the right decision. You did well. Consume me, use me and then rest.
This is the challenge we will face in near future, the trust. This will be the active ingredient to manage organizations and their various departments. What is the role of marketing facing this new paradigm? Does it make sense to continue talking about operational and corporate marketing?
I think we are in that wonderful moment in which the marketing of organizations has the opportunity to cross response to our needs for confidence, associated with values such as security, peace, future, sustainability and, of course, turn these into competitive advantage and growth engines.
In our company we aim to go beyond an operational or corporate marketing approach. The business will generate confidence or they will not exist at all.
Just like the consumer-oriented marketing leverages at the 4 P’s, this new way of understanding marketing (the eight C’s as they are known in Spain) is focused on the relationship with all stakeholders that conform an organization and the base of it is: quality (calidad, in Spanish), knowledge (conocimiento, in Spanish), consistency, credibility, creativity, consistency, commitment and confidence, as a summary of all of them.
QUALITY: “The reputation of an organization begins with the work well done”.
Speaking of quality is associated, inescapably, to sustainability criteria. It may be economical, attractive, different, strong, tasty, effective… But if it does not work under sustainability criteria, it will not be of high quality. It will not be well done. In any innovation department in any sector of any country they are thinking about these codes. There is no need for them to believe this soflama, that they can save the world doing their job. Maybe they just think in reducing costs, meet a given law to be able to export, build competitive advantage, anticipate in a shortage of raw materials. I do not care. I mind if it is more sustainable. If it helps making this world getting better.
CONSCIOUSNESS: “The dialogue between stakeholders should be based on mutual understanding”.
Talk of shared value creation in organizations requires us to know each other, to know our alikes. Otherwise what will create shared value?
In marketing departments is increasingly common to talk of stakeholders instead of “target”, segments, defined audiences. This change does not correspond to a new term´s trend but a transversal vision in designing marketing strategies. To know and to understand our stakeholders is the first step to put our company next to society. Because society is the sum of all the stakeholders.
COHERENCE: “Logic is a trust engine. The opposite is called Faith “.
How often have we been surprised to see organizations involved in environmental or social projects that of which we don’t understand their why. What does it has to do with its mission and vision as an organization, it’s business sector or it’s geographical area.
Following the crisis I have observed two very curious currents. On the one hand we have many of the larger companies in this country encouraging entrepreneurship, if it is about cool technology even better. Many of these companies are financial institutions that do not stop, to put it in some way, opening the tap of credit among SMEs.
On the other hand, we find many NGOs that are developing their work at an international level within development cooperation policies and because of the crisis in Spain they are looking like crazy to find local projects where they can signify themselves and access to a revenue that would otherwise go to other NGOs already lending their services locally.
When we buy a suit or a dress, and it does not end up looking good on us after a few times wearing it, we know that it will end up in the back of the closet. In the market of sustainability this is a luxury we can not afford.
CREDIBILITY: “Taking a challenge means doing everything to fulfill it.”
Closely linked to the above but focused on the data, is the goal. Speaking of philosophies, wills or intentions are good. But simply marking a line of action is not enough. We have to define objectives, metrics, indicators, that we are able to take on and accomplish. Let’s be realistic and objective. No one will ask us to save anything in two days, let us avoid being the first ones to doubt our own goals.
If we want to involve our stakeholders in our challenges, they have to be credible. Nobody will join a lost cause… a second time.
CREATIVITY: “We have in front of us a world to rediscover and businesses to do”.
When we talk about sustainability or CSR we always associate something limiting, slowing or simply preventing development. False, false, false. The world will be sustainable or not, for us at least. This means that everything will have to be rethought. We talk about innovation, we talk about creativity.
Yes, companies, our companies, are too focused on the daily work. Thousands of companies fighting for a piece of cake, always smaller and drier. Meanwhile, we have a juicy big cake, full of flavors and textures, ready to be eaten. They are working on it already out there. There is all this buzz about leadership but it seems very difficult to me to be a leader in anything if you always do the same.
CONSISTENCY: “Helping to build a better world takes time.”
In all the time I have been working in this field, consistency, I think is the most important of all, perhaps because it is showing the alignment of the remaining.
It is impossible to do anything relevant, useful and solid without spending time on it. There is an american saying, from the north, that says “It’s all a matter of time and money. And if there is no time, more money then”. Well, that last part is mistaken.
I firmly believe that consistency is the cornerstone to achieve that confidence we crave. I think consistency is what builds genuine brands. I think that genuine brands in a fast, virtual, hyperconnected, uncertain world are a safe value. I do not believe in a genuine brand that does not stand next to society.
COMMITMENT: “Not without my president.”
Playing the world saver can be very notorious. Then you’re surely be noticed out in the street. Every time I give my business information to security guards they laugh. They are surprised, amazed, they like it. I´m sure that more often than not they have talked at the bar with their pals about those ladies and gentlemen who want to save the world by doing marketing.
Behind this game it is very likely that you are taking two, three, four, a thousand decisions that maybe, just maybe can send your company, your project or your job directly to the trash.
Converting sustainability in something transversal is not an easy task or one that should be accomplished by a single man. It involves many departments, management of time and resources.
Any organization that decides to undertake this path must trust in the support of their top representatives. Otherwise everything will be more complicated and unfortunately fragile.
Conclusion – CONFIDENCE: “From guarantee to confidence.”
Each of the 7C’s managed properly will help us build a sustainable relationship, in the broadest sense of the word, where CONFIDENCE, represents the last of the 8 C’s (as they are known in Spanish).
It is not enough to guarantee us some processes, some changes, some results. Trust is that wonderful feeling you get when you let yourself fall back and know that there is someone catch you.
That is something we all love. And that, in these times is something we all need.
To this way of understanding the marketing business we called it Reputational Marketing back in the days. Now I’ll call it Marketing, period.
José Illana is founder and CEO at Quiero salvar el mundo haciendo marketing, marketing consultancy specialized in creating sustainable, ethical and profitable dialogues between organizations and their stakeholders. [Learn more about José Illana]