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Marketing: Who’s Got The Power

September 3, 2020

Often overlooked in marketing decisions (especially by smaller brands) is the aspect of who’s got the power.

Think about marketing messages from Allstate Insurance.  What it doesn’t say is pay us lots of money, for years and years and perhaps we’ll decide to give you some money back if we approve your claim.  Instead it says hey…”You’re In Good Hands With Allstate”.  It flips the power dynamic by saying to consumers you have the power to choose to do business with us, and if you do we’ll take care of you.

That’s a lot different than the implied marketing messages from BMW, vintage cigarette ads, and many luxury brands.  The suggestion from BMW is that getting behind the wheel of the “the ultimate driving machine” will bestow the cars power upon you. If you smoked Marlboro’s you’d be suave, debonair, and powerful like the Malboro Man.  And, the implied message of many luxury brands is to give you power over others.

And let’s not forget about the most famous of all television ads.  Apples 1984 which suggest that Apple users had the power to break the power of those in authority.  The implied message here is that Apple users were freedom seekers, rebel rousers, and people who “Think Different”.

Microsoft and Bell Telephone once wielded the rods of authority as a monopoly powers.  The message to both their users and partners was that “We know we hold the power cards, and you’ll do what we say.”  Admittedly there are many consumers that respond well to such power brokering as it lightens decision making and eliminates the responsibility for poor decisions.  If you have no choice, then when something goes wrong it can’t possibly be your fault.

The implied marketing messages from many famous colleges are definitely about power brokering. Send us some money to consider your application, just know we’re going to reject 97% of the applications we receive, if we accept you we’ll put you under so much stress that some of you will commit suicide, but at the end we’ll give you a diploma. Despite the messaging millions of students submit applications to these colleges rather than smaller less well known schools that market a message of support and care.

Today you get to choose what type of marketing you will respond to. Will you respond affirmatively to marketers seeking to gain power over you, or those seeking to empower you.

There are those that will continue in their thinking that marketing is only about SEO, social media, ads, analytics and spending but it’s far more.  The important work of the marketer is about making and keeping promises, creating messages that matter, speaking up, and choosing to lead.


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