In the recent film “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a group of women who escape the clutches of the evil villain scrawl these words on their prison cell wall: “We are not things!” (To say that the villain objectified these women is, well, a massive understatement — but we’ll leave that discussion for the film critics.)
Although the day-to-day operation of your office might not be as wildly explosive, adventurous, or post-apocalyptic as a Mad Max movie (at least we hope it’s not), the film offers a solid lesson in marketing: your business “prospects” are not things. They are not numbers on a page or the marketing terms we use when we speak about them. (MQL, SQL, Mid-Funnel, Top-of-Funnel)
And that’s not just a thump-your-chest slogan to put on an inspirational poster. If you approach people with that mentality, it will show. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, the truth will come out. People will pick up on your attitude.
But there’s good news: the opposite is true as well. If you approach people as human beings, and if you craft your marketing from the heart — as a sincere reaction to those human-to-human exchanges — your marketing will see better results.
And it might even grow into something bigger than you ever imagined — something that actually changes lives for the better.
Rediscovering What Makes Us Human
Seeing customers as “us” instead of “them” — as human beings who, at their core, are people who have dreams and crave inspiration — can change everything. Suddenly you’re not thinking in terms of B2B or B2C, but rather H2H (Human to Human).
And in case you need more proof that these are not clever platitudes, there have been entire books written about this principle. Some of the top ad agencies in the history of advertising have not only “kept this in mind,” they have built their entire company around this revelation.
Saatchi & Saatchi is a perfect example. Their CEO Kevin Roberts captured lightning in a bottle when he realized that this principle was the future of marketing — that companies should create what he called a “love affair” between brands and people; and this is primarily done by connecting with the humanity in customers and not treating them like things or numbers.
Roberts refined and developed this idea, and then — with mounds of data backing him up — published his landmark books “Lovemarks” and “Loveworks.”
In “Loveworks,” he defines his vision this way:
How can we create the kind of appeal that makes people feel inspired or laugh or cry? First, we must realize that brands don’t just get it by asking. They start by giving love, demonstrating that they love the people who buy them. The sea change comes when brands stop thinking about their customers as “them” and start thinking about “us.” When marketers make this change, they start rewarding their customers every day with brand experiences that have special resonance in three key areas: mystery, sensuality, and intimacy. (Roberts, 17)
Let’s take a look at one of the companies featured in “Loveworks” that modeled this kind of powerful human-to-human marketing.
Mystery: Guiness Inspires Heroes in Africa
Roberts defines “Mystery” as any brand that uses:
- “Great Stories”
- “Past, Present, and Future”
- “Tapping Into Dreams”
- “Myths and Icons”
One of the brands that “Loveworks” featured in this category was Guinness (p. 27) — particularly their ad campaign for men in Africa. It began in 1998 in Nigeria. During this time, Nigeria’s economy was in shambles. The average income was very low, men struggled to provide for their families, and few African men were cultural icons.
Guinness went to Nigeria and saw all of this. They saw the pain and wounded pride in the eyes of men. But they also saw men who struggled valiantly against the odds, and though they weren’t superheroes or celebrities, these men had greatness in them.
And Guinness saw that. So what did they do? They created something positive that would inspire the discouraged men of Nigeria. They expressed two primary thoughts in their ad campaigns: there is inherent greatness in Africa, and in African men; but Africa, and it’s men, need to believe in their greatness.
Part of this strategy was creating Michael Powers, Africa’s inspiring version of James Bond — exalted with Hollywood-quality mini-action films for commercials — a man who, besides being the spokesperson for Guinness in Africa, would become a national symbol and would embody African greatness.
It was hugely successful. However, the now-legendary ad campaign reached its pinnacle when it moved from a fictional character to a real person: a humble African man named Udeme.
Despite the difficult economic circumstances of his country, Udeme earned a pilot’s license — something that was very challenging to get. Not only that, but he got his own plane. And then he used his plane to fly much-needed supplies to remote areas. He was saving lives.
Suddenly Africa had a real hero — a man who inspired millions of people. It didn’t hurt that the commercial that told his story was Oscar-worthy in its production quality and script. One of the most memorable shots shows Udeme returning to his village after a long day of flying. He sits to rest in a bar with a Guinness in his hand, and then he motions to the sky and says, “Let the beer see the sky, but not for too long.”
The commercial became one of Nigeria’s all-time favorites. It became more than a commercial, in fact. It became a part of their culture. “Udeme” became the unofficial nickname for Guinness; it was what men called it when they ordered a drink. And the first part of Udeme’s famous line in the commercial, “Let the beer see the sky,” became a household phrase that people in every corner of the culture said when they performed a toast.
Men in Africa testified that these commercials — these powerful, vivid stories — changed the way they saw themselves and the nation.
They were encouraged.
Bottom-line? Get to the Heart of the Matter
Guinness would never have created such a life-changing (cultural-changing, even) ad campaign if they had not first gone to the country, to the place where their customers were, and, with an open heart, observed these people living their lives. They accurately perceived the emotional life of an entire culture, and then they created an ad campaign that spoke the language of their emotional reality.
Whether you market SaaS, widgets, wearables, or anything under the sun. You need to stop thinking in terms of B2B or B2C and begin looking for the Human 2 Human element in your marketing.
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