Dan otis — danotis.net

Why the truth matters now more than ever

How do we market in a world where a once-captive audience are now truth-empowered users?

Once upon a time marketers and brands were able to tell the story they chose. They had a captive audience on every channel. Then —POOF— the internet came and equalized the exchange of information. The democratization of access. As a result truth now proceeds and permeates everything and everyone.

As a people once sold to, manipulated, cajoled, and force fed everything from the trivial to the significant, we are now empowered with access and information; we demand the black and white, true authenticity. We demand no bullshit. And somehow, one way or another, we will know it if you try.

We as the storytellers, innovators, and publishers of content, information and ideas are left with one approach if we expect a meaningful connection — honesty.

First, some quick context

Not too long ago we —the people— learned about new products from the pitch man. Claims were made, and we listened. We learned about new music from radio stations and their DJs who were largely incentivized by the record labels. We learned about restaurants via the yellow pages. If we really wanted to do research, I suppose we went to the library and used that weird microfilm machine? Simply, the world had two groups; the powerful minority with bullhorns, and the subjected majority with ears.

Then: Access to anything, everything, always

We know what happened — the fastest and broadest distribution of information, in all of its forms, the world has ever seen. Digital devices in nearly all homes and hands in the USA, and rapidly nearing the majority of individuals globally. It is estimated that by the year 2020 four billion human beings, or 58% of the worlds population will have access to the internet. Access to anything, everything, always. We are no longer limited to being part of the audience. We are now the directors. We review products, learn from our friends, get the behind-the-scenes of everything, we share new music, and entertainment peer to peer, and we learn what is really true about the corporations and organizations we support. We can educate ourselves, and our children about subjects far reaching and with the best content and data the world can offer. And a people —long subjected— can overthrow a suppressive, and corrupt government starting with no more than outrage, courage, and 140 characters.

Manipulation and lies do not have a long standing role in a world where truth permeates.

So now what?

It’s my belief that marketing in a new world of digital natives, has nothing at all to do with anything new in fact. In fact in fact, it has everything to do with fundamental truths about us, about people, about you and I.

We want to matter, we want purpose, we we want to belong to something greater then us as individuals, we want to maintain some kind of value system, we want to stand for something. And we’re absolutely positively drawn to others that do.

Of course a digital guy would go on about how a good user experience is the solution. But what does a good user experience have anything to do with standing for something? User experience refers to the experience a user gets from engaging with something. This starts long before an application, a website, or even the product itself. It starts with why you do what you do,a position you‘re claiming, and an equation the listener is calculating on the validity of that position as communicated through your product and services.In other, and more human words, it starts, and ends, with the truth.

At BKWLD (a digital agency I founded in 2001) we have a few simple ideas that are guiding our work with our clients to help keep us all honest:

  1. What do you stand for?
    This sounds like a mission. And it is. But we want it to actually mean something. None of this “Our mission is to deliver an excellent product through excellent customer service excellently” bullshit. No. There is a reason, a detail, something that is driving your team. Find it, and tell me plainly.
  2. What do you do?
    This is what #1 looks like in action. This is your product or your service. And it must align with and reinforce what you say you stand for.
  3. Why should I care?
    Possibly the most important question when marketing to millennials. What is the impact of your product or service, why does it matter, who are the real people who had real problems that you solved, and how are they anything like me or my problems. This question takes far more research —and ultimately intimacy— with your customers/consumers/clients than it looks on the surface. There is something —some reason— that drives your current consumer to return to you. Find out what that is, and share it with other people like them.

The result

The fruit of rigorously answering these questions, and then living by the answers identifies and multiplies users who know what they want, and know why they want it. And in a world where information is the currency, people who know why they want to be affiliated with you and your cause should be the goal of every growth strategy.