Men, Women and the Power of Marketing

A recent debate that’s been raging online has caught my eye. It happens from time to time. It’s one of those Cluetrain moments that makes me appreciate the medium. I call attention to this one because I feel that there’s some learning that’s being overlooked. While the original debate has nothing to do with marketing in a digital world, the response (in a digital world) has everything to do with marketing and points to a trend we should be paying attention to.

A trusted source of sensationalistic news from England, the TimesOnline, featured an article titled “Where have all the men gone?” An objective title, for sure, the byline reads:

British women in their thirties want mates. They can’t find any. Why? Because most eligible males are selfish, mixed-up man-boys chasing no-strings sex, says our correspondent

With over 250 comments, the article succeeded in raising an issue. Around the same time, Kay Hymowitz publishes an article on CityJournal entitled “Child-Man in the Promised Land.” More succinct, but equally inciting, the byline reads:

Today’s single young men hang out in a hormonal limbo between adolescence and adulthood.

As expected, the article generated a wave of mail, response posts and a follow up posted on CityJournal recently entitled “Love in the Time of Darwinism.”

And just when we were starting to get somewhere, it gets rehashed in my hometown. I believe this is getting more play than it should because of the number of comments guaranteed through any men vs. women discussion.

For the sake of brevity, we’ll sum it up quick. Women turn down men during the 20s. Men turn down women during the 30s. Everyone’s bitter about something (money, kids, divorce, getting some, not getting some, feminism, post-feminism, Maxim, WOW, irresponsibility). Truly, this list goes on. Don’t believe me, read some of the comments.

But let’s move beyond that. My interest is not in this topic or who’s right.

My interest is in what we can learn from this.

We learn that we can change the world. There’s no shortage of marketing books that will teach you how to tap into the worldview of your consumers. There are few that will tell you that you can create that worldview.

With every message and each campaign, we are training customers. We are training them to either defend or decry the services we are promoting. We are supplying ammunition that they bring to their friends to persuade them to join. Humans are pack animals after all. We want to belong and define ourselves through alignment of products. Brands stand for something. They transcend incentives and rational product benefits. Often, what brands stand for are defined by the pack. Are you giving the pack a brand it can define or are you still setting the rules?

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