Machiavelli used both concepts, to be feared and to be loved, as alternative strategies to succeed. Nearly 500 years later, Joseph Nye coined the term soft power to reflect the loved option. And today it’s a marketing strategy.
Soft power is a term coined by Joseph Nye in 2004. The origin of the word was the concern that Nye, former US Under-Secretary of Defense, had with ways in which nations could exert power other than by coercion through force. Soft power was seen as diplomacy aimed at attracting support, creating benevolent disposition, using the power of attraction, subtle persuasion, seduction. “In individuals, soft power rests on the skills of emotional intelligence, vision and communication; in nations it rests upon culture, values and policies.”
Soft power is now a market orientation concept: it is the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals. Heed Nye’s warning: “Soft power is a dance requiring partners.”
Given that we as a human brand, our company as a competitor, will hardly have hard power to succeed (formulas, new raw materials, better technical quality), we focus on our potential soft skills. Or maybe we could apply psychologist Peter Cooper’s statement: “a brand as being like an egg – a hard shell outside, and a soft yolk inside.” Let’s see some cases.
- Innocent drinks are one of the best embodiments of soft power in a brand: an amiable approach, sponsoring for instance “the big knit” by paying 35 p. to Help the Aged for every woolly hat knitted for its smoothies.
- Toyota chairman, forced to recall a staggering 8.5 million cars, apologized with “I myself, as well as Toyota, am not perfect.”
- South Korea has increased its popularity since the ’90s thanks to the Hallyu phenomenon, “the Korean Wave”: K-pop, intense use of YouTube, and efforts to become a centre of excellence in design.
- Barcelona competing with Rome or Paris as a tourist destination, through soft skills: people, weather, food, shopping…
So let’s think about Machiavelli advice; do you prefer to be feared or loved? Although we must acknowledge the whole quotation: “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” Let’s give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.