Marketing executives often look to books written by military strategists when it comes to describing how to win in the marketplace. All of these war metaphors have taught us to launch campaigns, position our brands and gain territories in consumer’s mind. The whole marketing paradigm is based on an “either-or” mentality.
In these cautionary times, fuelled by a weakened global economy, political uncertainty and technological complexity, dividing the world into friends and foes seems natural. As budgets “right-size” and new product launches decrease, taking sides and saying that you will do this “OR” that may feel safer. But it is actually a more dangerous time to pursue this strategy.
In an era of growing consumer expectations, scrutiny, and skepticism of “green-washing”, joining up marketing and sustainability makes sense so that the overall strategy can be more efficiently communicated and developed, claims Unilever’s CMO, Keith Weed. Adding such dimensions to marketing requires a new way of “joined-up thinking”; where all communications, whether marketing or editorially based, are driven by the same motivations of cultural understanding and transparency.
If we examine which ideas managed to attract the many not the few, we will see that it was the ideas that managed to unite instead of divide. It was the ideas that refused to be trapped by the tyranny of the “OR” and submitted themselves to the genius of “AND”. The world’s greatest brands are built on those premises. In a reflective moment Steve Jobs, after the launch of the iPad, mentioned Apple's DNA. He said: "Technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields the results that makes our hearts sing."
The celebration of those “odd weddings” is essential, despite the difficult environment in which we are operating, or rather, because of it. A stagnant economy won't grow again with a chorus of naysayers in the background. It's time to lean into the storm and show how and why our ideas – and our ability to execute them – matter more than ever. It will take some ingenuity and fortitude to create and maintain an “AND” culture when nearly every headline tells us to hunker down. Today, more than ever, in a fragmented world where everyone is seeking signposts, we need big central ideas that serve as bridges that connect the many not the few.
It is time not to divide and conquer but to unite and prosper.