In case you haven’t heard, there’s a huge feud between Micheal J Fox and Rush Limbaugh. In a nutshell, MJ Fox is an entertainer and as such he engaged in some “dramatics” to make a sale. The sale he was making was in support of a candidate for congress. Micheal J Fox put on a show to woo voters and Rush Limbaugh called him on it.
(If you want to read a great synopsis of the story, The Random Abyss has done a great job of summarizing the whole melee into a nice, neat little package.)
While the Fox vs Limbaugh feud has focused a bright light upon the subject, the marketing profession has walked the fine line between “entertainment” and out right “sales” for decades.
Seth Godin wrote the book, All Marketers are Liars:The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World in response to the claims that the world today really needs a “new style” of marketing to succeed.
In his book, Godin contends that “there is almost no connection between what is actually there and what we believe.” According to Godin, customers today are motivated by not by objective needs, but rather they are solely motivated by irrational wants. He contends that building a marketing campaign based upon presenting factual information about a product is a losing strategy.
Yes, boys and girls…. according to Godin, telling the truth won’t get you anywhere with your marketing. Actually, that’s not true. Godin just touts that in order to convey your marketing message, you MUST wrap it in an entertaining story.
And he’s right… just droning on about your product’s benefits won’t get you anywhere in today’s YouTube/MySpace socially networked world. Then again, droning on and on about your product’s benefits never DID get you anywhere. Your message ALWAYS had to be wrapped in an entertaining package.
When I was working with a regional advertising agency, one of our agency’s client’s name was strikingly similar to the great white whale in Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick.” As a result, we created a series of commercials where Captain Ahab would come searching for his mamalian nemsis only to discover he had wandered into a tire store. The series won several Addies and created real name recognition for the formerly unknown company.
Year later, an insurance company executive was staying awake at night, worrying that some other industry players would discover the incredibly profitable niche they had developed. He decided that by developing name recognition, he could establish his company’s claim to the niche. The company hired The Kaplan Thaler Group to develop a name awareness campaign and the Aflac duck launched the company into the spotlight of public recognition.
Entertainment has always been the name of the marketing game.Â The problems come when the public feels used and abused at the end of the campaign, as they did when the Lonely Girl 15 debaucle came to light or when the discovered that Walmart was spoon feeding bloggers.Â We don’t hate marketing and advertising…. we hate being lied to.
That’s the key in the Micheal J Fox vs Rush Limbaugh feud.Â Had Aflac tried to tell us the duck really did talk, instead of giving credit to Gilbert Gottfried, we might not love the duck as much either.Â However, Aflac admits they’re entertaining us and telling us a story…. so we don’t brand them as liars and thieves.