Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Creating Contentment

While standing behind a lady waiting to check in at the doctors office, I kidded her about the time it was taking.

“I hate Durham,” she volunteered.  I moved here a year ago and I came here to change my address.  I’m moving.

Without telling her I had once been in the business of helping visitors, including more than 85% of newcomers who come here as visitors first, I apologized that she had ended up making a decision that was not best for her.

I finished our exchange by mentioning that her sentiment was shared by 1-in-50 Durham residents compared to the nearly 20-to-1 Durham residents who have just the opposite impression of living here.

She was visibly stunned as we all are when we find ourselves feeling so strongly about something that we assume is a broadly held notion.  It isn’t just the Tea Party political movement that labors so.

Even when less strongly held negative feelings are included, more than 9-in-10 Durham residents are pleased with it as a place to live.  Ideally though, we would have helped the 5% who aren’t make a better decision for themselves.

Advertising is just one element of community marketing but as a form of “yelling” it is the most blunt, and as such, fundamentally differs from marketing overall in a critical way.

Advertising was invented as a means to create discontent.  Marketing is a way to help people make decisions that are best for themselves, even when it does not go your way as a marketer.  Especially when it doesn’t go your way.

That’s why marketing is supposed to be a conversation as opposed to advertising, which as someone once said is like “that guy” at a party who goes on and on about himself not letting anyone else get a word in edgewise.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why people who are that way in conversation tend to think of marketing only in terms of big ad campaigns which fail to influence or create interest and result in a negative return on investment.

Adverting is dead by its own hand.  Inundated on average now by 10,000 ads a day, consumers have finally just tuned out.

The first ad in America was run in 1704.  Dr. Freddie Parker at NCCU here in Durham has conducted studies of ads used to recapture slave runaways in North Carolina between 1775 and 1840.

Advertising became institutionalized in the decades after the Civil War.  Near the turn of the century modern advertising was shaped to create discontent in order to push the use of products such as soap, deodorant and mouth wash.

By the early 1900s, psychologists were being hired by ad agencies to create messages of discontent.

In their new book to be released next month entitled, Smart Money Smart Kids, talk-radio financial guru Dave Ramsey and his daughter Rachel Cruze write about how hard it is to teach contentment and to teach kids how to see through advertising designed to create discontent.

By 1984, adverting began to decline in effectiveness until now, it is effectively worthless if not a negative.

Unfortunately, many marketers have difficulty with the notion of conversations with consumers or the idea that the objective is to help them find contentment.

Scientific studies show that at the heart of meditation’s effectiveness is contentment in the here and now.  Even in my former field of community marketing to generate visitor-centric economic and cultural development, studies have shown that the biggest boost from a vacation is planning it.

Only very relaxing vacations such as those I take with my grandsons and daughter to a lake in the northern Rockies each summer boost happiness after the return.  Travel overall these days is more likely to result in anxiety.

It may vary for individuals, but proof still that marketing should be most about helping people.

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