Thursday, April 18, 2013

A New Era of Purpose

There are many reasons when visiting Durham, North Carolina, where I live, to take in Duke Homestead, a state historic site four and one-half miles north and east of downtown.

One series of nostalgic displays and dioramas documents how tobacco and all other products were marketed in this country from the mid-1600s to the mid-1960s.  As Bob Garfield and Doug Levy quip in their new book Can’t Buy Me Like, this era “took America from Plymouth Rock to the Vietnam War.”

It is what Dr. Philip Kotler and Hermawan Kartajaya called Marketing 1.0 in their 2010 white paper.  Most people who think they know a lot about marketing (but really don’t have a clue) remain stuck in that pre-1965 mind-set.  They mistake marketing for advertising which has rapidly reached extinction.

Into the 1960s as that era began to peter out, school kids in Raleigh were still being bused to Durham on field trips to take tours of the historic Lucky Strike Factory in Downtown.  Tobacco wasn’t the only addictive product to benefit from that era.  So was soda “pop” as we called it in Idaho where I grew up, as well as snack food.

The mid-1960s saw the emergence of a brief 45-year “consumer era” of marketing because emphasis switched from the product to the consumer.  This consciousness also also helped mark the beginning of the end for tobacco.  The Lucky Strike Factory in Durham closed in the late 1980s.

One of those kids from Raleigh who may have been on one of those field trips, eventually resurrected the old Durham factory in 2004.  By leveraging parts of a family fortune built on “product era” advertising along with historic tax credits and more than a hundred million dollars from local governments in surrounding infrastructure and facilities, he was able to turn it into a showcase for adaptive reuse.

That was the same year that Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, kick-starting a new era of marketing that Kotler and Kartajaya  call Marketing 3.0, or values-driven marketing and that Garfield and Levy call the “relationship era” based on “marketing with purpose,” a concept coined by Mark McKinney.

In my opinion, the “marketing-with-purpose era” will soon spell the end of other addiction-driven products laden with sugar, salt and fat because their purpose is as flawed as tobacco.  Some say their tactics of denial, obstruction and insensitivity to public health are based on the same playbook.

When I agreed to make Durham, North Carolina my adopted home in 1989 to practice what would be the last half of a 40-year career in community-destination marketing, only between 10% and 14% of residents in this state had become obese.

Eight years later, as tobacco advertising was further being banned on outdoor billboards, that percentage was nudging 19% and today it is over 29%.  Nationwide, one our of every three Americans is obese.

“Birthers” still claim the bans on tobacco are a conspiracy.  A more thoughtful objection to bans on products that fuel obesity such as sodas, argue in op-eds such as this one last month that government should not intervene because “true character growth can only occur when someone chooses freely.”

Others would argue based on ethical dilemmas as this op-ed by a former police officer does in questioning the use of traffic cameras to inhibit those who deliberately run red lights.

Good points but I am much more persuaded by an op-ed a few weeks ago by Dr. Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell.  In his 1859 essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill argued that - "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

It was calculated that in 2008, the medical costs associated with obesity were $147 billion a year alone.  These costs are born by each and every individual using the health system in America.  Someone’s right to chug as much soda as they can drink ends with the harm their actions bring to others.

My rights should not be dependent on how long it may take someone to develop character enough to cut back on soda and Cheetos or on how much they let their children imbibe.

In her new book Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, Mary Roach notes that “our earliest forbears evolved a taste for important but scarce nutrients: salt and high-energy fats and sugars.”

No longer scarce, businesses today are making billions of dollars marketing products made only of these nutrients and appealing to our primal instincts surrounding these tastes, and it shows in rates of obesity.

I suspect these companies are fully aware of the addictive properties of sugar as documented in Michael Moss’s new book.  Brain chemistry research has proven though that addiction is not due to a lack of character or willpower.

As chronicled in the new book Clean by David Sheff, addiction to substances is a far more serious threat to society than was dismissed in that recent op-ed as an opportunity to develop character and the companies pushing it are or should be fully aware by now.

These companies aren’t the only ones out of step.  Many see evidence that gun manufacturers are even more overt in using the stalling tactics that tobacco used for decades as does the outdoor billboard industry, an all-but-obsolete enabler of desecration marketing.

The authors of Can’t Buy Me Like quote Andy Kessler as calling the 2010 invention of the “Like” button by Facebook as “one of the most valuable innovations in technology over the last several decades.”

It is great marketing for Facebook, but as noted in USA Today this week, many businesses - particularly small businesses - need to take heed from Garfield and Levy who note that “…a brand needs a social voice but a brand is not defined by its social voice.”

In this new era of purpose-marketing, it is crucial that a business or organization or community understand its core purpose and be able to communicate its values and add value for its audiences.

In later posts, I’ll revisit “Marketing with Purpose.”  In the meantime I hope these resources will be of value to you.

Thanks to the powerful sugar and guns lobbies, it just may be that the consumers of products that foster addictions to primal substances such as sugar and fat will curb the conduct of companies more quickly than government will.

1 comment:

Zuzana said...

thank you for this lovely walk down the memory lane, I used to live in Durham for 8 years, when I worked at Duke.;)
greeting from Denmark and have a lovely weekend.;)