The Future of Marketing: The hero's journey of Red Bull, Nike & Apple

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The Future of Marketing: The hero's journey of Red Bull, Nike & Apple

Where to start when designing a Digital Marketing Plan for the Future 

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts." - William Shakespeare

Have you ever wondered if marketing actually works?


Have you been under the impression that equally skillful marketing gurus are giving conflicting advice?

Since resources are not infinite, we must concentrate our efforts on strategies that have solid foundations but can also be adjusted for the changing tides.  For long-term success, we need to prepare the terrain to prevail. In that sense,  I've put together a series of eight articles that act as a guide to equip us for the marketing of the future. The first article kicks-off by illustrating how world-class marketing starts as a search to understand who we truly are, what we stand for and simultaneously, petitions us to be aware that we are part of a grander stage. This series will highlight eight concepts, which will decipher the best practices to bring products to market, it will also illustrate the skill sets that are needed, and concurrently, it will unveil the characters that should be invited on this journey.

1) Marketing is about values (1 of 8 articles)

Before we deep dive into what's the future of marketing, we must understand its core principles, in essence, what will not change. We must not get caught up with rapidly aging facts or fads. By understanding the core of marketing, we can decipher what's passing and what's not; and use those two facts to our advantage. The underlying principle of marketing is that marketing is about values. I came across this insight by studying companies that did not necessarily introduce groundbreaking technology, and one could argue that they produce commodities, yet we don't see their products as such. I studied the marketing of Nike, Red Bull, GoPro, Virgin and Apple (Apple being the exception to the commodity reference).  

What does the marketing of all these companies have in common? Their marketing is first and foremost about who they are and what they stand for. The leaders who work in these companies make products they want to use, and subsequently, their products pay tribute to the people they admire. Their products, in consequence, are a manifestation of what they believe in. Apple is the chosen emissary of the individuals who challenge the status quo, who think different, who change things and are crazy enough to believe they can change the world. Nike is an ambassador to athletes; they pay tribute to those who "just do it" and believe that if you have a body, you are an athlete. Virgin stands for the underdog. The founder of Virgin, Richard Branson  " found his winning formula in the clashing values of the 60's: profit versus people; money versus morality; the corporation versus the consumer; big (business) versus small (human) " (source).

Similar to these companies are Red Bull and GoPro. Both companies produce a commodity, but what they stand for is something greater than themselves. Red Bull sets the stage to extreme sports athletes dramatically raising the sports category in itself and GoPro did the same starting with surfers. Today they pay tribute to sports categories that they own, and in the case of GoPro's marketing, they do not even highlight the camera but show the experience the athlete is living through the GoPro lens.

Why is this approach working?

According to trained anthropologist and one of the most famous marketing thought leaders, Simon Sinek, this has to do with biology, not psychology.  Sinek explains that we should separate our marketing messages between what the neocortex brain computes and what the limbic brain processes.  He argues that the neocortex is responsible for language, rational and analytical thinking. The limbic brain is responsible for feelings such as trust and loyalty. When we base our marketing message in terms of what the product delivers (i.e. features, benefits, facts, and figures), we are connecting with the neocortex brain and not the limbic brain which is responsible for behavior and decision-making. What Apple, Nike and other successful companies do is communicate "why" they do what they do. They stand for what they believe in, and people who share those beliefs are naturally drawn, buyers later use facts and figures to justify their decision.

These shared beliefs create a feeling of belonging which ultimately creates oxytocin. Oxytocin is regarded as a "Collaboration chemical, the primeval force in our brains that compels us to join forces, that confirms we are naturally meant to work together" (Article). Oxytocin on a biological level is responsible for what moves us together or pushes us apart, "it's what creates the feeling of friendship, love or deep trust” (Article).

So wait -- Did we suddenly get soft and fluffy? Are we going to tell our CMO to hug it out in our next marketing meeting? The answer is no, or at least not until we can link these strategies to actual profits, cash or what we call south of the border "dinero."

There is a study that links this oxytocin theory with profits for companies who followed these strategies. Jim Stengel, former Global CMO of Procter & Gamble, renown marketing strategist and consultant, conducted one of the most extensive and insightful marketing studies. He studied over 50,000 companies during a period of 10 years (2001-2011) and came up with an index which he named "The Stengel 50". An investment in this index composed of 50 companies would have been 400% more profitable than if you had invested in the S&P 500 those same years. (Source) This is what I mean when I say "dinero." Wait, what? So what were his criteria? In a nutshell, he bet on brands that served a "higher purpose". Stegel "uncovered that the most successful brands were built on an ideal of improving lives in some way, irrespective of size and category" (Source). In his study, he discovered that businesses who centered their strategy on ideals, had growth rates that tripled those of their competitors in that same category.  Stengel and his team found "that ideals are both a source of inspiration externally among customers, as well as a compass for internal decision making. So whether it’s Red Bull which seeks to Uplift Mind and Body or Pampers which is all about Caring for Happy Healthy Development of Babies, an ideal influences all facets of the business from HR and Marketing to R&D and Finance. (Source).” In other words, your values are ultimately the primary drivers of what you focus on, your actions and how you communicate. Your marketing message, style and swag should be an expression of what your company is and what it stands for.

The next article in this series is about "The Marketing TEAM of the future" Click here to continue reading 

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Juan A. Cisneros W.

Author Juan A. Cisneros W.

Co-Founder | Proactive, results driven entrepreneur, obsessed with learning and doing what it takes to grow a business.