5 Reasons to Move Past Mere Marketing

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As our laughter at what Phil Dunphy just said settles down into a chuckle, the screen goes black momentarily and then the commercial begins.

Warm, soothing music. Lovely people lounging on a beige couch in a sunshine-drenched white room laughing in silent slow motion about something.

At this point, we’re not sure if this is a financial institution commercial or a Cialis commercial. We haven’t seen side-by-side tubs yet, so we’re banking on it being a financial institution commercial (see what I did there?). Our suspicions are confirmed when we hear someone telling us, in their very best TV commercial voice, that Such-and-Such Bank has low rates and great service.

Pan back to smiling people. Superimpose logo. Fade to black.

Bing’s online dictionary tells us that marketing is defined as the business activity of presenting products or services in such a way as to make them desirable. I know, I know, some of you prefer more highbrow sources for your definitions. Just for you, I’ll include Merriam-Webster’s definition, which, in (not) shocking news, you’ll find is strikingly similar to Bing’s. The fine folks at Merriam-Webster tell us that marketing is the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.

Essentially, that’s what I’d call mere marketing. It’s marketing that’s divorced from any human or meaningful context. It’s just…marketing stuff.

Financial institutions are notorious for mere marketing, but they by no means have a corner on the market. Those of us in marketing have to ask ourselves: Do we really want our marketing efforts to just blend into the media milieu? Sure, it may be easier to play it safe, but still.

There are at least a few reasons we need to move past mere marketing:

1. Mere marketing tends to be largely focused on products and/or services.

The problem with this is at least two-fold: (1) It presupposes that products and services are the primary reason people do business where they do, and (2) it tends to exclude the very real human and emotional elements of people connecting with an organization’s identity.

2. Mere marketing can dehumanize a brand.

We can know in our heads and believe in our hearts that the reason we’re marketing a particular thing is because it’s potentially helpful to our patrons, but us knowing that doesn’t necessarily mean that our marketing efforts will reflect that people-centric philosophy. More often than not, if we sell the product without putting it within its human context, folks will start to believe that your main goal is, well, selling them something rather than helping them meet a very human need.

Quick aside: Just having humans in a commercial is not synonymous with humanizing a brand.

3. Mere marketing often isolates products and services from an organization’s culture and identity.

For example, in the banking and finance world, most of us say we don’t want to cater to rate shoppers, because we know what an exercise in futility that is. There’s always going to be someone with lower rates. What we need to do is use marketing as a vehicle to communicate more about our organization’s brand, culture, and identity. It’s that sort of thing that can form an actual emotional bond with the folks we serve.

4. Mere marketing actually trains people to shop in ways that are counterproductive.

Think about it. To stay with our example, if you’re incessantly marketing to your rates, won’t that encourage people to start comparing yours to everyone else’s? And how often is yours really that much better than everyone else’s? We’re almost unwittingly teaching people that rates (or checking accounts, or whatever) are the primary thing that makes us or any other financial institution different, and if folks buy into that, you can be assured they’re going to jump ship when they see a better rate elsewhere. I’m not saying we don’t ever market our rates; I’m just saying that can’t be it.

5. Mere marketing is often really, really boring.

Think about the last rate-based commercial you saw.

Hard to remember, isn’t it?

So here’s the thing. Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying marketing is dead. Heck, I’m the exec over marketing here at Mazuma, and we’ve invested a ton of time and energy in our upcoming marketing strategy and rebrand (if I gave you more details, I’d have to kill you). What I am saying is that we need to regularly revisit our marketing paradigm so that our work can evolve into something far more than mere marketing.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on CUInsight.

10 Traits of Ego-Driven Leaders

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We all struggle with ego — every single one of us. Ego-driven leadership is one of the most toxic elements that can be introduced to a team or organization. How can you tell if your leadership is ego-driven?

1. Ego-driven leaders often measure their success by how much others notice their success. It becomes more about being the center of attention than it does about actually being successful in and of itself.

2. Ego-driven leaders often feel better about themselves when others around them don’t achieve or earn as much as they do.

3. Ego-driven leaders tend to undermine others so that they can appear to themselves and others to be smarter, better, etc.

4. Ego-driven leaders tend to drive others away over time. It’s incredibly taxing working for an ego-driven leader, because…

5. Ego-driven leaders tend to destroy trust and attempt to control others through whatever means necessary. This is exhausting for those who work with these leaders.

6. Ego-driven leaders are always looking for more praise, always looking for the next spotlight.

7. Status supplants service as the true, underlying motivator of the ego-driven leader.

8. Ego-driven leaders tend to be easily offended, even if their own behavior toward others is far more egregious. They’re quick to call others defensive, and quick to point out what they perceive to be faulty attitudes in others.

9. Ego-driven leaders tend to have a burning desire to be right. Every. Single. Time. Or so it seems to those around them.

10. Ego-driven leaders very rarely admit their faults without somehow rationalizing or blaming others.

So what do you think? Did I miss any?

8 Questions About Our Servant Leadership

socrates-07Those who know me know I’m a huge fan of Socrates, and specifically the Socratic method. I think much learning and growth can happen within the context of (1) asking questions of ourselves and others, (2) thinking through questions and their underlying assumptions, and (3) searching for honest answers to those questions.

So with that in mind, here are some I’ve been thinking through for myself. Perhaps they’ll be helpful to you as well.

1. Do I actually, truly listen to others in such a way that I’m serving them throughout our interactions?

2. Do I not only understand the thoughts and feelings of others, but also genuinely care more about their thoughts and feelings than I do my own?

3. Do I actively foster the mental and emotional health and wellbeing of those around me?

4. Do I seek to help people heal from past hurts, especially if I intentionally or unintentionally caused them?

5. Am I quick to accept responsibility — full responsibility — for things I’ve done rather than attempting to wiggle out of it?

6. Do I embrace self-reflection and self-awareness as essential and meaningful disciplines of a leader?

7. Do I view my role within my team and organization as one of a serving steward?

8. Would others list humility as one of my defining characteristics?

Got any you’re working through? Leave them in the comments below so others can benefit from them too!