The Gatekeepers of Persuasion
Is access to marketing is why traditional activists usually lose?
I have a question for you,
“Why do corporations usually win and activists usually lose?”
I found myself asking this question during the intense period of advertising by Enbridge for their Northern Gateway pipeline project in British Columbia, Canada.
Answer: marketing. But I knew it couldn’t be that straightforward. What is it about marketing that grassroots activists are either not doing or doing wrong?
Successful marketing at its core is simply successful persuasion. Persuasion that your way is the best way.
So my next question was,
“Why are activists generally not successful in persuasion on a mass scale like corporations are?”
Answer: corporations sell products, activists sell ideas.
Now this doesn’t mean, activists are bad persuaders. A movement usually starts with one person or a small group who, through the powers of persuasion, convince more people to join their cause. That’s marketing 101. Activists can be great persuaders, to people who are already open to hearing their message.
The speed bump comes when activists want to scale-up, quickly to a mass market, alongside the whichever product they’re protesting.
When a corporation has something they want to sell they set their marketing team to work to distill their product down into easily digestible content that can be consumed, understood, and shared rapidly via their audience. Building awareness of their product happens relatively simply and instantly.
When a grassroots activist or group has an idea they want to sell they spend their evenings and weekends talking to people, attending meetings, printing flyers, and organizing protests. Building awareness of their idea happens inefficiently and slowly.
Both the corporation and the activists have one goal: to convince the majority that their way is the right way. But more often than not the idea loses because the can’t convince enough people fast enough.
You need profit buy marketers and ideas don’t make profit, products do.
So, in a world dominated by marketing, how are good ideas supposed to thrive if there is no way to monetize them?
Protecting the environment being an immediate example.