What is Marketing?
I get asked that a lot, and being this close to it, it becomes difficult to explain. Each time I’m asked and about to answer I am reminded of my mean nerdy high school chemistry teacher who always responded (and snorted at the same time), “Well, what ISN’T chemistry?” I remember rolling my eyes and resisting the urge to get suspended for an outburst at disgust and frustration with the woman, so I try never to utter such an annoying line when someone asks ME what my life’s work is all about. (No, I’m not going soft, she really WAS a mean nerd and it doesn’t put us on similar footing!)
I can’t tell you what marketing is because there is so much involved in it. It’s like saying what medicine is … I can only tell you one part of what I think marketing is.
Marketing is inspiring someone to do something.
This is a photo that was shared on Facebook by one of the companies I follow. I think it’s Judy Blume’s house in Key West Florida. It doesn’t matter who’s it is, or where it is. What matters is the emotion that it evokes. Without a word, without a KPI, without a call to action, it evokes an emotion.
Who doesn’t instantly respond to this? In a flash you’re taken to a moment of relaxation, tranquility, and longing for a moment to lie in the bed next to the open door to the tropics and your own private pool. It’s awesome. It is ever so perfectly “aspirational” in the blink of an eye. And it’s real.
The image, the lifestyle, the moment is attainable by most, either as a permanent setting or as a vacation get away. It is barely out of reach, and therefore able to be considered and contemplated, in its simplicity.
Now here’s the funny part. I used to live in a place almost exactly like this. It was a good five minutes of longing and planning a vacation that it dawned on me. When I lived in Mexico we had nearly this exact set up in our home. It didn’t feel like this picture though. This picture doesn’t show the 10 whining, yapping pooping puppies that were running loose throughout the tiled, echoing house. It doesn’t have sound so you don’t hear the screaming colicky infant. It doesn’t capture the bugs, or the beating sun without even the hint of a breeze, despite what appears to be the ripples in the pool which are more than likely merely the design of the tile lining the floor (one of which is causing a leak but for the life of you you cannot figure out where it’s coming from.) It doesn’t show the Great Dane digging in the pot with the palm tree because, well, he just loves to do that.
Marketing is a moment in time, that stops us and inspires us to dream, to think, to remember, and hopefully to act. It’s best when it can do that when we’re actually in the spot, to allow us to consider for a moment that we are living in that very setting, and that a frozen moment in our own lives can be envied by not only others, but by ourselves.
Marketing is a perspective on now.
This photo first made me want to go there. Then reminded me that I had been there and it was a very different reality. But in the end, it made me stop and look around. My reality now is pretty damn cool. My screaming infant is yelling into his video game console, and there’s still one roaming, barking “puppy” from that lot with us. A tropical bird is staring me down looking to steal a snack, and the gentle sound of rain is pattering on the back deck next to where I sit, and I can see it glistening off the shade trees.
Maybe we’ll go back to Key West for a vacation one day, or maybe even back to Mexico. So long as we can come home to our own version of a relaxing, enviable life.
So it worked. Marketing made me do something. It made me remember. In a moment when I craved tranquility and ease I remembered how well that worked for me before, and as I looked up at the crazy bird face who looked right at me and said “ribbit ribbit”, I laughed. I realized I kinda already have that moment.