Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Greed, or fear?

You know the famous quote from the character played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 movie Wall Street that 'Greed is good' ... and the follow-on quote in the successor movie of 2010 that 'Someone reminded me I once said "Greed is good". Now it seems it's legal...'

Robert Peston makes a similar claim in the final chapter of Who runs Britain? that 'It may not be pretty but, on the whole, greed is good.'

It's an appeal to greed, dressed up in the language of features and benefits, that underpins most of the marketing industry. The thesis goes that, as a marketer, I need to work out what will appeal to my prospects' wants so that they desire my offering enough to part with money for it. Of course, we don't present their wants as anything other than legitimate - even necessary - because to imply that wants fuel greed is a negative judgment, and no one gets anywhere by insulting customers or talking quite so baldly.

However, there's an equally powerful motivator, that of fear. It's less frequently talked about, but it's the flip side of the deodorant ad that subtly promises I'll get the girls swooning over me if I spray this brand ... Alongside the implicit promise to resolve greed (and sex!) is the fear that I'll not get the girls if I don't use this brand to smell this way!

I'm interested in the growing fear around the Internet world, particularly in the world of social media and online networking tools. Not only are we seeing a limited rise of celebrity voices questioning whether Facebook and the like are good or "dangerous," but there's an increasing flurry of articles questioning whether social media is 'eroding our privacy' and offering some how-to responses.

Rather than marketing on the basis of benefits (greed) or on the basis of fear, I prefer that powerful insight from Drucker that marketing is, in fact, all about listening to what the market wants and then innovating a solution in response to it.

Expect canny operators who are listening to what people want to respond to the greed/fear around the under-served themes of privacy and trust. Increasingly, as the world seems to get less stable, it seems that these are things people want and solutions like Starfish are making a response.
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