As I’ve discussed before, in both Communications and Marketing the basis for the relationship you are trying to develop between your client or product/service and its target audience is trust. The most successful brands, products, companies and services are trusted by the people who, buy, use, consume them. This credibility was built over time, with companies acting in the best interests of its customers.
Sometimes, there is a perceived conflict between doing what’s right for “the business” and doing what’s right for the consumer/customer.
The challenge results from the people in a position to determine what is right for the customer being generally biased in favour of their product or brand. They also have corporate goals and agendas that take preeminence, like making money; pleasing shareholders; following a personal career path, they can’t necessarily empathize with their consumer. They are often distanced from their end users. Sometimes, they forget to even consider their user franchise when making decisions.
The Susan Komen funding cut to Planned Parenthood is, unfortunately, is the best recent example of not having adequate knowledge of your user franchise, or, in this case, of making decisions without acknowledging that they are a critical part of the equation.
There should be no conflict!
I am here to clearly state rule number 1 is: What is good for the customer is good for the product/brand. Because if you don’t do what’s right for the customer (remember it’s their product too – that’s what Brand loyalty is) it will certainly come back and bite you in the fleshy part of your hindquarters.
The fundamental truth is, that without someone to use or buy the brand, you haven’t got a chance in “h” “e” double-two-sticks of succeeding.
The ability to understand and represent the end user, as a marketer and/or communicator, is a key and intrinsic part of our job.
It is really disturbing to see other examples of unscrupulous manipulation and even exploitation by companies and organizations.
In this case, the example is the fashion industry. Mia Freeman & Vanessa Raphaley point out how magazines are deceiving us and adding fuel to the already problematic female body-consciousness by “stretching” the models in ads so that they appear taller and slimmer. Taller and slimmer than they already are, that is — way taller and slimmer than the average woman.
So why is this happening? Who approved the layout and said, “That looks fabulous. It really shows the clothes off to great advantage.” What about the ultimate wearer? So what if not one person who tries them on will ever look like that? So what if we are not being truthful in representing our product?
I read that Sara Ziff has started an organization for model’s rights. I believe it is a fabulous initiative. I think it will help, but not cure some the of the inappropriate behaviour and malfeasance that goes on in fashion.
Because as long as a real person, even if she is just 15 years old and is 5 inches taller than the average female (which probably makes her 10 inches taller than I am, vertically challenged as I am) has worn an outfit, I believe there is a chance I can get it in a size to fit me. As soon as I begin to think that not even a real person can wear those clothes, then that’s the time I stop looking at them and buy something else.
Because we all have a responsibility to do what’s right. Products are created to meet needs. Communicators and marketers have the job of matching up the product, and it’s features and benefits, with the target consumers who have these particular needs. To find the tools that best reach the potential user to educate and inform them about this fabulous product they need.
I’m advocating that we be scrupulous.
If the product doesn’t meet a particular need, for heaven’s sake, let’s not say it does. Let’s be truthful. We can show things off to their advantage without misrepresenting them. There is nothing wrong with presenting a problem in the best possible light. That’s what some of us get paid the big bucks for.
But there is a line. And we need to respect it. It is our responsibility.
Let’s have the confidence to do what’s right.
Because doing what is right is good for business.