What does marketing really mean?

Marketing is often misunderstood. Yes, this is what all marketers say. But I have been in this game long enough to know it is true.

An advertising billboard, a logo, a Facebook post, email newsletters or a promotional flyer can be perceived by business owners and consumers alike to be something called ‘marketing’.

In one sense they are correct, they are marketing ‘tactics’. But alone, these activities achieve very little – a token little nibble at a very big piece of pie.

In reality, marketing is much more mysterious. It is scientific and not scientific. It is based on data, facts and logic and at the same time it is based on feel, psychology and emotion.

Emotion plays the most important role. How does this ‘business’ make you feel? What does it mean to you? How do you respond to it on a human level?

Brand marketing is all of this – emotional, rational and sometimes quite irrational.

Brand success is directly attributed to an ability to connect with consumers on an emotional level. The biggest consumer brands in the world – Apple, Nikè, BMW, Coca-Cola and McDonalds all connect with people based on their emotional benefits.

And they know their consumers – their target consumers, better than we know ourselves.

The emotional benefits for each of these brands relate to ‘how does it make me look’, ‘how does it make me feel’, ‘how does it help to create a sense of myself’?

Rational benefits relate to the technical criteria you might use to select a product – the colour, size, speed, warranty, shape, country of origin, maker or creator.

There are very few businesses in the world, which have achieved strong brand positioning in their respective markets based on their rational benefits.

And even when a brand does become known for their functionality, the rational benefits become so romanticised the rational and emotional attributes of the brand mean one and the same.

A prominent example is Google. A highly functional tool, bringing the enormity of knowledge, information and resources located on the world wide web to each user.

Google has created a product so tied to logic and usefulness, it is now the world’s most valuable brand.

This value stems from the inherent trust people have in the brand to deliver to them what they need.

Despite the essential functionality and reliability Google has built into its search and subsidiary products, even Google is mindful of the emotional connectivity people have to the brand.

Google’s Vice President of Material Theming, Matias Duarte identified their brand anchors as the logo and search bar.

Yet they put more or as much emphasis on the approachability, accessibility, friendliness and simplicity of Google to establish it as a brand people can’t live without.

Duarte’s job and the job of his Material Theming team is for Google to keep adapting to its audience and to continually excite its users.

The Google Doodle is a great example of this.

In the wine game, Domaine de la Romanee Conti is the most obvious brand to achieve this.

An ultra-premium wine based on scarcity, terroir, clone selection, history and heritage.

It has clear rational attributes, which happens to create something seemingly very irrational. Indeed magical. It’s a wine brand known to change people’s lives.

And because it has a checklist of characteristics to define its position in the market, nearly every other wine business in the world tries to emulate the same rational characteristics – a copycat formula applied again and again.

Wine producers get hung up on trying to tick off their single site, clonal material, oak regime and minimal intervention credentials, in the perceived need to replicate the ancient estates of France or Italy.

What wine businesses fail to realise is the majority of consumers buy wines for enjoyment, not for critical analysis.

Enjoyment is an emotional response.

This is a call to all makers and creators to begin thinking about the emotional reasons people should invest in you.

Forget your own passion, dedication and your own lifelong dreams. Think about what other people might say and feel about what you do, or in fact, what you want them to say and feel about your brand.

A handbag from Coach, Hermés, Gucci or Prada might all be made with Italian leather, much like handbags from Guess, Nine West or Pierre Cardin, but if you own one of these bags, what it says about you personally can be very different things.

The reason someone might buy a Lexus instead of a Toyota vehicle of the same size, engine capacity, body type and manufacturer, is because it says something about them, and how they emotionally identify with brand Lexus over brand Toyota.

Surprise, delight and entertain your audience and you’ll build a loyal customer base who only ever want to share the love they have for your brand with others.

Connecting with your consumer means investing more time in learning more about who they are – what motivates them, what excites them and what holds their attention?

Invest in this and your brand marketing becomes so much easier to achieve.