Is Marketing A Sycophant Of Populism

Is Marketing A Sycophant Of Populism?


Most of the people who have been intrigued enough to click on this article are consumers of a plethora of marketing campaigns. Sports fans are just doing it, tech enthusiasts are thinking differently, fast food lovers are ‘lovin it’ and the motorists are learning German. Certain brands have communicated their value proposition to the public so effectively that their message has been engraved to an extent of synonymy with the product, product line or even the industry.

The question to be asked is did they make such an impact by massaging the general population’s inner beliefs? Well, Anheuser-Busch seems to think so. The Belgian giant has been marketing itself as the most American thing to ever happen to the alcohol industry. The emotions that the marketing campaign of Budweiser caters to propagate a sense of comfort to the general audience which any sceptic might label as playing safe. It won’t mind their grin though as they are the leading brand in the alcohol industry of the US and the world. Minting $8.27 billion of annual net income and owning the crown of the largest beer producer in the world, the offering of its Budweiser brand is to simply provide a beer loaded with patriotism which can fit into any American occasion that calls for the cap to come off.

On the other end of the spectrum lie the campaigns which experiment with and tweak the prevalent cloud of the mindset of the market. Some of them are examples where a push towards channelizing the ideology to be in accordance with the character of the brand backfired to an extent of retreat. Pepsi learnt it the hard way that condensing the belief of the public into a 3-minute marketing pitch can be catastrophic. An exercise that began as a promotion of peace, keeping in mind the current social sphere, faced a disrespectful demise. “At least $2 million, but probably more like $5 million, including Kendall’s fee,” the official statement said about the amount lost by Pepsi on the ad while the rumours stated it to be more than $50 million including the media payments.

Instances of misfiring marketing campaigns surely portray conformity as the best bet. As the prevalent professional advice goes ‘Tell people what they want to hear’. But would that serve the purpose? Would that do justice to marketing as an art of creative communication and persuasion to convince the customer to accept the product, its values and offerings?

The market today is more ruthless than it has ever been. Substitutes, new entrants, competitors, buyers and sellers all crammed into a single sphere of value generation to survive. Marketing takes care of the ‘standing out’ aspect of a company’s operations. The environment has been carved to its current shape by firms who made their period of presence in the market worthwhile for all the stakeholders.

When patriarchy reigned in the American society of the 1980s, Apple with the ‘homemaker’ marketing campaign promoted its device as an addition to the ease of humanity as a whole rather than the corporate male bread earners. Steve Job’s counterculture approach to communicating his ideas turned the market on its head which then paved the way for his company to rule it. Regis Mckenna, the marketer behind the idea made Apple appear smarter than others and miles ahead of the curve. Apple as a new player in a relatively unknown and untapped industry could’ve stuck to the prevalent thought process and tried to settle itself comfortably. But that wouldn’t have been how a future ‘most valuable company in the world’ would have acted. Contemporary marketing requires as much leadership in its activities as creativity and initiative.  No marketer should let his/her communication be bogged by the comfort of mediocrity and intimidation of risk. Although the risk should be managed, the chance of depreciation of one’s brand equity should never be inhibitive of the path forward.

The survival of the urge to stray far from the prevalent and question it through the product offering is necessary for the market to grow. The consumers as crucial stakeholders are an entity that will survive through the ages, yet their journey would be riddled with transient thoughts, wants, contexts and abilities. So it’s your responsibility as a Marketer to complement that transition during your interaction with the market.

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Abhishek Shridhar is a student of the Integrated Programme in Management at IIM Indore. He has been involved in the field of article writing for the past 2 years and was a part of the Media and PR team of i5 Entrepreneurship Summit 2017.
Abhishek Shridhar is a student of the Integrated Programme in Management at IIM Indore. He has been involved in the field of article writing for the past 2 years and was a part of the Media and PR team of i5 Entrepreneurship Summit 2017.
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