Sunday, January 31, 2010

A little bita loan, a whole lotta love


Spent a fantastic Saturday night, frigid and blowing as only new york (well, ok maybe Canada too) can make 'em, in good company at a fundraiser with Kiva.org's new New York chapter. If you haven't checked out Kiva yet, do so...they are the most interesting thing going this side of the Atlantic...and the other side...too....
Person to person, intention to impact, concept to community, these guys actually know the world well enough to change it. Microfinance is as popular as faux leather leggings these days - but for good reason. The smallest loans are making the biggest of impacts on the lives of entrepreneurs everywhere - and their communities follow in their wake. Anyway, I felt they deserved recognition on these pages for attempting the impossible - putting third world development in the hands of...the third world. After all, compared to most charities and international causes, a microloan is imply gift with high expectations. Anyway, worth checking out.
Peace out (and I mean that)
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marketing: Are you Feelin' It?

I started in marketing because I needed some way to fund who I was, or who I thought I was. Back then it was something to bide my time until I ended up on Oprah. Something that made you dress up for work, write on whiteboards and watch your language. Something that meant charts and graphs and my address next to a customer ID along with all the different kinds of hair products I'd ever bought. Something that meant a lot of bad coffee, conference calls where you never said anything after announcing yourself, and words like 'investment' and "return" written all over your soul, and on the backs of peeled off soft drink labels. This is what I pictured when I first got my own direct line and I was determined to resist the slide shows of death. Of course I was partly right, but most of the way wrong.
Because marketing is all about little post-college, secretly-insecure, intellectually-impetuous brats like I was. Its also about working mothers with kids they love more than their jobs. And bridge-playing retirees from Arizona. You get the idea…
What I finally got after a little time doing it was that I wasnt to be warping myself to please marketing. Marketing should be warping itself to be me. To know me, to meet me in the middle, wake me up at night with new ideas and give me the products that helped me act myself out. Me and everyone else in the world working a 9 to 5 who really wanted more – from themselves, from their lives, from their spouses, from their time.

Now. Marketing has done a great job. I own jeans that cut off the circulation to my thighs that I fit into by eating food without MSG precisely when my blackberry tells me to eat it. Honey, Im a walking loyalty indicator. A living, breathing consumer behavior statistic that matches up perfectly with my value set, as well as the spending trends in my target demographic (x axis) cross referenced with my metro area(y axis). So if Im so predictable (and in general, I am) along with a large majority of the rest of the country, then why haven't marketers found a better way to influence my behavior around a what most of us humans actually do care about (which is more than you can say about hair color)…each other.
We've heard of corporate social responsibility and most of us own a red product- but what I'm missing here is the feeling of knowing and being connected directly to another person whose day or entire life is a little bit better because I decided to do business with this company. Take that GAP. For those of us who dont get out to volunteer much, this (and the spiced eggnog) is the familiar feeling that makes the christmas season so great. Once again, you can thank holiday season marketers for helping to encourage us to look at each other a differently during the month of December. With just a little more compassion. A little more benefit of the doubt. A little more, oh I dont know, just general good will. But it’s hard to have good will toward an improper noun. Where are the people here? And if you have so much of yours and my money to give them, why can’t I talk to them?

Excuse me Apple, but when I bought my red ipod I did not hear any songs written by AIDs survivors in Botswana. When I get my coffee I dont get a postcard from the free trade coffee farmers - I dont see them on my coffee cup -- nor do I see the animals in the rainforests who would be saved per year if Starbucks would make its cups recyclable! If marketers want to influence my decisions, start with me ("check”, says Apple), then someone who I might want to help. And if you really want my repeat business, brand loyalty and twitter references, then somehow make feel actually connected to them in a more tangible way. In the world of Web 2.10 and beyond, we must be able to connect people better than we used to. Even in countries with limited web access and completely different lives. Surely there must be something to put a face to the names of all the millions of people I’ve supposedly helped with my product and non-profit investments.
People care about people. And to care about people you have to know about them, and a little more than their statistics. I cant wait for the day when you can give a $30 microloan online (thank you Kiva.org), have the whole of it go directly and traceably to a microentrepreneur who updates me on her progress via facebook. Impossible you say? What if the operational costs were covered by a big brand’s marketing department in exchange for my loyalty and the internet access was hosted by a Microsoft CSR social media site. Na├»ve? Probably. But oh the possibilities!
I will say this (and get back to work). If there was a brand or product out there that allowed me to do just that, I would buy it, tell me friends about it, and wear it’s T-shirt under a sport coat with pearls. I realize Im not everyone. But almost everyone can relate to that good feeling of having meaning in someone else's life. A product can help you do that through its own basic function (think Johnson & Johnson), but a brand can help you do that beyond what their selling and more toward what you're buying. Now that the internet has stripped advertisers of their mass marketing monarchies by educating the consumer like never before on just products themselves, what exactly are you buying these days? Products or promises? I choose promises and I expect you, big brands of the world, to keep them. If you want to know how, just give me a call or a job. I reckon that we, the consumers of the world are willing. And the world is waiting.