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Marketing Democracy

In marketing circles folks talk about transparency, collaboration, invitation, engagement... reaching consumers where they live with ideas so powerfully persuasive that we consumers are compelled to buy them. This requires more that just listening to us in focus groups. We’ve forced marketers to collaborate with us to create not just products but also the way they present those products on the shelf and in the messages they send us.

Unless they creatively engage us, they can no longer get around the barriers we throw in the path of intrusive, old school messages. But some marketers—those with the biggest dreams, the longest vision, and the highest purpose—aim to do more. They’re out to make a difference in society, to use marketing to make the world better.

For a taste of this lofty talk and the programs that back it up, check out this video of the 2010 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. It’s way too long and ponderously slow, too preachy, painfully self-congratulatory, and, yes, I’m cynical about all their platitudinous, change-the-world, feel-good posturing. But what’s a marketer to do?

They get paid to sell us products and we’re not listening the way we used to. We’re just too busy playing with all the mind-blowing technology they’ve given us. We now sit facing plates full of options wondering what to scrape into the garbage disposal or wrap up for left-overs. And there’s no shortage of people trying to serve us more. Pity the poor marketer who has to have us choose her brand of deodorant over someone else’s.

Even if her deodorant has exactly what I’m missing from the one I’m using, there’s no getting that fact past my remote mute, spam filter, pop-up blocker, and into my TiVo. That’s when I’m not watching commercial-free Roku, playing Wii, listening to upgraded Pandora, or just surfing.

Maybe I’ve been to her deodorant’s website, even subscribed to a feed or newsletter, joined her Facebook fans, or started following her on twitter. But since then I’ve opted out of all of it.

Ever since we’ve been able to choose our entertainment, communication, news and information from an ever-growing selection of providers, we’ve chosen those that annoy us the least and help us the most. In short, we demand, Please please me, advertising.

The inevitable result of all this liberation appears like a vision to me all of a sudden. I see the Republic of Coke vs. the United Consumers of Pepsi. Coke and Pepsi derive their powers from the consent of consumers voting with product purchase for local representatives that trot off to their respective corporate capitals and legislate company policy that drives new-product development, pricing, distribution—all of it!

The more conservative RC will throw its weight behind the country’s conservative political party to do battle with the liberal UCP. And as the Cannes kingpins promise, each party will pump its profits into the causes their consumers tell them to feed. No more token, goodwill-gathering gestures. Instead serious, better-world-building bucks will get what we want done.

I don’t know if I’m ready for this inevitable innovation, though, especially when I contemplate the shape and intensity of the next Cola Wars.

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This Right Brain Workout appeared for the first time on IdeaConnection.

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