Life is too short to sell things you don't believe in - secret of powerful marketing campaigns

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Believe in what you sell and others will too. I often say this:

Life’s too short to sell things you don’t believe in.

Turns out to be a controversial and life-changing statement.  I have known people resign from their very successful jobs after hearing me speak out those simple words on a conference platform.   Just about everyone believes it is true, judging by the show of hands at events I speak at,

Yes, life is far too short to waste doing things that don't matter, that don't make a difference, that really add little value to humankind.

People say things like:

"Just couldn't do it anymore."  "Realised I didn't believe in what I was doing".  "I knew what I was selling people was not the best (for them)."

Why do I know that life is too short?

Because in my first life I trained as a physician, looking after people dying of cancer at home, people very close to death.  It taught me that:

Every day matters

Life is only lived once

Working in advertising can be a tough assignment, selling your own ability to sell just about anything to anyone, regardless of how useful or useless the product is.

Slick campaigns attract attention and boost sales, but selling as a career is hardly a mission in life unless you are convinced of the value of what you are promoting.

It makes a difference when those designing and running campaigns passionately believe in the product or service they are promoting.  It affects the whole team, provides a higher sense of purpose, and influences the quality of messages they develop.

The marketing message

All marketing messages are built around the same theme:  making a better world.  You cannot sell a product or service without a Promise of a better life.  The Purpose of your business is a moral one: deliver on your promise - every time.  Profit is your reward as you do so.

•    Mary Kay Inc  "Enrich women's lives"
•    Ford Inc “Striving to make the world a better place”
•    Merck & Co. Inc  "Business is preserving and improving human life"
•    British Petroleum recently announced a brand-name change to "Beyond Petroleum," signalling a leadership role in moving civilization out of the fossil-fuel era.
•    American Red Cross: “To Improve the Quality of Human Life”
•    Wal-Mart Stores Inc: “We exist to give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people”
•    Walt Disney Co: “We make people happy”.
•    MacDonalds: “ We offer the fast-food customer food prepared in the same high quality manner worldwide, tasty and reasonably priced, delivered in a consistent low-key décor and friendly atmosphere”  - the corporation is now under pressure to make an alteration to: “healthy food”

Your marketing message must be connected to your sense of mission – and that raises another problem:  most people in larger organisations are unable to explain in simple, powerful terms what their personal mission inside the corporation is all about, let alone explain how the organisation makes the world a better place.  Not surprising then that we are seeing a crisis of motivation at work.

Here is the Mission Test:

“Having written a 90 second pitch, the next step is to write a 10 second one”  Peter Knight – author The Highly Effective Marketing Plan

Can you explain to a ten year old child in two minutes why what you do each day is so important?  Try it.  You’ll know if you’ve succeeded because the answer is usually the same:  “Cool! I’d like to do that when I grow up!”

You don’t need many words if the mission is strong.  Here are some examples of the kinds of responses that any employee should be able to generate spontaneously:

GSK – we saves lives and help cure disease
BBC – we help inform the world
Tesco – we provide low cost, quality food
Gillette – we provide a close, safe shave

Even advertising slogans do it

“You can do your homework (as an advertiser) from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas.  It takes a big idea to attract the attention of customers and get them to buy your product”.  David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather

Just like mission statements, advertising slogans promise a better life

•    Be all you can be - US Army
•    All you have to do is drive one - Suzuki
•    It keeps on going and going and going - Energizer
•    Give me a break - Kitkat
•    Better answers – Compaq
•    Seeing beyond – CIBC
•    Good to the last drop – Maxwell House
•    Built tough – Ford
•    Think different – Apple Macintosh
•    For hair so healthy it shines – Panthene
•    More power, more life – Duracell
•    Drive safely – Volvo
•    Coke is it – Coca Cola

Since every successful marketing proposition is based on building a better world, every new campaign can be tested according to:

How powerful is the overall “build a better world” promise?
How many different promises are there?

* Adapted from Building a Better Business book by Patrick Dixon, who has advised many of the world's largest corporations on better ways to connect with customer passions, better marketing, more powerful campaigns.


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Thanks for promoting with Facebook LIKE or Tweet. Really interested to hear your views. Post below.

Miles Kinsey
September 11, 2013 - 00:03

Nice information you shared. Keep it up

Jorge A Blacutt O
August 21, 2011 - 17:53
future marketing

I just prepare a Delphi with professors in Bolivian Catholic University at the depatment of business administration in Less developed contries on future marketing at companies.

Mark Catchlove
July 11, 2011 - 07:14
Herman Miller

Great article. At Herman Miller we 'create places for people to work, learn, heal and live'.
I think that's pretty good from a global furniture manuafcturer

Join the Debate! What are your own views?