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What Is the Purpose of Marketing?

What is the purpose of marketing? Well, our own Neal Stamell laid out his thoughts in his previous blog post, which you can read here. I think Neal is correct, that much of marketing is an investment in the future. But, how do marketers convince people to buy their products when the need arises? This is where good marketing can separate itself, where ideas like brand recognition, brand equity, and brand image come into play. But perhaps most important is to be able to recall the brand and something about it. 

I once read a book, Made to Stick, that discussed six key elements of communication that make ideas memorable. The premise is that almost any idea has the potential to make an impact, but many ideas fail because they are not communicated in a way that stand out.

The six elements are:




Communicating simply is fairly straightforward. In his post, Neal discussed the insurance brand GEICO. Their brand promise, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance,” is a great example of a simple message that is ingrained in many of our heads. It is simple, self-explanatory, and also, with a specific length of time required and amount of savings to be gained, concrete.

While communicating in an unexpected manner is a seemingly simple concept, actually succeeding at it is more difficult. I’ve often seen this used in relation to climate change. One example that was particularly unexpected, and thus memorable, was an image of a significant portion of the Statue of Liberty being covered with water (see below). The image is a striking one; it shows the potential for a monument representing some of the core values of the US, to ultimately be covered by water due to climate change. This message is also concrete and credible – we can see with our own eyes the potential impacts of climate change, and there is scientific evidence that this could occur at some point in the future.

Having credible communications can be a differentiator among certain brands. For example, some food brands will label their products not just as “all natural,” but take an extra step to ensure that their products are shown as USDA Certified Organic, adding a layer of consumer confidence from an established, trustworthy organization. 

What makes something concrete? Well, if something is very clear, well explained and understood, that is an effective, concrete piece of communication. For example, Bounty, “the quicker-picker upper,” shows in its advertisements the effectiveness of its product in real time; viewers can see what it picks up in comparison to another, potential competitor. This gives potential consumers the opportunity to see it for themselves as opposed to imagining potential benefits of a product, even if those benefits have been described to them. 

Emotional communication is so effective because it plays upon our feelings and connects how we feel to something else. A good example of this is the various wildlife or animal cruelty ads that are shown on TV, as they allow us to sympathize with what we’re seeing on the screen and make it difficult to forget. In some cases, potentially, there is also another emotion at play in these ads that make them difficult to forget: annoyance. Seeing continual ads that often drag on for more than a minute can potentially frustrate viewers and, despite their best efforts, make the communication difficult to forget. Another brand that could be seen as falling under this category is Progressive Insurance. While the ads are not very sophisticated, their offbeat nature definitely sticks in one’s mind. 

Stories are always an effective way to make something more “sticky.” By our nature, human beings are storytellers. Movies, music, and even art are different types of stories. It is for this reason that many news articles and human-interest stories begin with a story (or have one interwoven throughout) to make a larger point. 

Communicating effectively is essential to brand success; with so much messaging that consumers are exposed to, it is imperative to stand out to be heard. By using a communications strategy that includes the SUCCESs method, brands will increase their chances of not only making an impact at the point of consumer contact, but also staying in consumers’ minds until the need for their product or service arises. 

Written by Matt Burr - Matt has experience in marketing and communications roles at a number of organizations.

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