“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”
Relax, no one is going to off anyone. When William Shakespeare wrote this line in Henry VI, back in 1591, he was merely stating that the best way to create chaos and disorder was to get rid of the lawyers (who would uphold law and order in society). But in 2016, in marketing, lawyers have become a big obstacle for connecting with audiences. Or, rather, the concern for what the lawyers will say. The lawyers themselves are rarely involved.
We have come to a juncture in time, where many brands are terrified of doing anything wrong. So terrified, in fact, that they end up doing nothing right. Instead, we see an influx of dull drivel, simply because everyone involved is so worried about what their boss thinks, what their boss’ boss thinks and what the lawyers think, that they forget to think for themselves.
I call it “corporate fear syndrome” or CFS. It happens a lot in multinational corporations. The type of companies that will never push boundaries, simply because they inhibit an organisational and systemic fear of upsetting anyone. So they end up boring everyone. The logic goes,”if no one saw it”, then at least we didn’t do anything to harm the brand. Well, not so fast! Is it harmful to a brand to be regressive? Or even reactionary? Is it harmful to a brand to not stand for anything? Of course it is. As the old adage goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything”. And that is especially true in marketing. Choosing the path of blandness may be comfortable, but it gives nothing in return. It’s like peeing your pants to keep warm – it feels good at first, but leaves you shivering soon after. (We’ve talked about bravery before in a previous article; “The Benefit of Having Balls”.)
So how can brand marketers avoid CFS, and create great communication while still keeping their jobs? How can they reach their sales targets and brand tracking goals? In fact, how can brand marketers not only avoid everything they worry about, but create a stronger and safer position within their organisations? The only way is by talking to the customer in a more interesting and surprising way. Pushing technology, or establishing a stand-out creative platform, or having an adaptive strategy in social media and PR that makes people take an interest and connect, or anything else that is different from the competitors and relatable to the human beings we are talking to.
I can guarantee that without doing anything, nothing will change. Your consumers are feeling disenfranchised and overwhelmed by all the communication out there. Help them make choices. Choose your target audience carefully, and place your bet on creativity. You may not know exactly what the outcome will be (that’s kind of implied in creativity), but the real truth is that the lawyers won’t care, and your boss will love you for placing a bet. He/she will recognise a path to success that takes a stand, dares to be different and is substantiated by real consumer insights. But to do that, you first have to listen and understand. Then you can act. If you are ready, we’d be happy to help you along the way.
If you are showing signs of CFS, don’t call your doctor, and especially not your lawyer. Instead, please send an urgent email to firstname.lastname@example.org
[Main photo is a crop from Metallica’s …And Justice for All album]
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Managing Director of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticAgency
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