How to use the ‘5 opposing forces’ of better marketing

What is life—or marketing—without a little contrast?

What is life—or marketing—without a little contrast?

When I was a marketing lad, a very wise friend and mentor shared something with me that I never forgot…

“Remember, a person’s greatest strength is also very often that person’s greatest weakness.”

Huh? That seemed very philosophical and deep to me at the time (I was pretty naïve), and my youthful but curious brain craved some clarification, and preferably hard examples. My friend provided one.

Someone may be very empathetic, she explained, with emotions that are keenly in sync with others. That’s a marvelous trait, because that person is likely supportive, a true friend and a good listener. But it is also a recipe for someone who gets too pulled to others’ ups and downs, and is too sensitive when he or she needs to be strong and guiding.

OK, now I got it.

I’ve thought a lot about her words over the years. And I saw her idea of strength vs. weakness, and its effects, play out many times in myself and the people around me. The concept often rings true.

Marketing is no different. Our business is packed tight with seemingly opposing forces. Here are five, in particular, that I have found in my work and experience. Perhaps you have, too.

  1. Rationalization vs. emotion – Studies show that when it comes to making a buying decision, emotions are king; the intellect, its subject. You make the emotional decision to buy something first… then the rational side of you revs up to justify spending the cash. So any marketing you do must address your customer’s emotions—even in B2B. Give the rational argument, too, but don’t forget how people feel about what you’re selling.
  2. Time vs. money – When it comes to buying, no one is going to give you any money until they give you their time first. They’re going to scour your site, read online reviews, watch your videos, and pour over your pdfs. Respect their time, and use it well, by giving them quality content to take in.
  3. Visual vs. sound – Yes, we are most assuredly in a visual age, but you also see everyone walking around with ear buds in, too. Sound also matters. Copy counts. Whether your brand is innovative, fun, luxurious, or whatever… your words, music and sounds should fit with your visuals like a tightly sung harmony. It’s the combination that completes your brand’s expression.
  4. Groups vs. individuals – It’s easy to get caught in the “our demographic” trap of your customers. While it’s good to be informed by the general look, attitudes, and movements of the crowd you’re trying to please, never forget you’re also talking to individuals who are buying from you. When you think in terms of marketing to a single person, it changes how you approach the task, for the better.
  5. Perception vs. reality – Going out to the world with your brand promise all shiny and pretty is awesome—until you don’t deliver on it. In marketing, we are in the business of creating perception, but the world has gotten quite cynical in watching its institutions fail them again and again. Soon, faith is lost, and that’s really tough to get back. There will be times your brand fails people. Just be sure to address it with everything you’ve got.

Whenever we’re marketing a product or service for our clients, we always look at its strengths and differentiators, of course… the sunny side. But we’re also not afraid to know about the dirty laundry. Understanding both the ups and downs of a brand helps us craft messages that are more real and meaningful. Thinking big, in “opposing forces,” has helped us—and my guess is, it will help you in how you think about your marketing.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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