Messi vs. Cristiano: best poll ever

Persuasion vs. manipulation has been a hot topic in marketing for years. Persuasion is understood as a process that uses written or spoken words to change a person’s attitude or behaviour toward some event, idea, object or other person(s). Manipulation is understood as skilfully managing or influencing people, especially in an unfair manner. Between the two concepts lies a thin red line, which authors like Martin Lindstrom have used to produce bestsellers like Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds.

Our team at ESADE works with a different idea – market orientation – which involves organisations that make changes in products or services for particular purposes, both commercial and social. In essence, the idea is to serve the motto of George R.R. Martin: “When you know what a man wants you know who he is, and how to move him.” Let’s manipulate our solution to make it more attractive.

Hubbub is an organisation with no definitions or mottos: they just like good challenges. When they saw that traditional wellness programmes weren’t working, they challenged themselves to create a better solution. So they manipulated a bid to reduce litter on the streets of London: residents were encouraged to throw their cigarette butts into a special kind of bin – a fascinating and cleverly manipulated bin. Cigarette smokers outside Embankment station can use the new cigarette butt boxes to cast their vote on who they think is the world’s best football player: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

This is a fun theory approach used in social marketing. More examples: the Peppermint Pointillist displays, also in central London. In this case, Hubbub had to solve a sticky issue: the average piece of chewing gum costs 3p to buy and £1.50 to remove. So a solution was
manipulated: stick your gum on a ‘x’ to reveal an image or fact.

I love these guys: manipulating objects for social good.

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Better to be feared than loved

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.

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Big players, big marketing

Is social marketing for real? We often get this question during Q&A after our sessions at ESADE, in both the BBA and Executive Education programmes. Social marketing sounds appealing – especially to managers – but is it for real?

Let’s take a look at some big players recently mentioned by Knowledge@Wharton:

-          Amy Chen wanted to put PepsiCo on the cutting edge of figuring out new business models that generate revenue while also having a social impact. She developed a plan for a social business incubator and was given one hour to pitch it to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. Thus was born Food for Good, an initiative whose mission is “to make healthy food physically and financially accessible for low-income families through sustainable, business-driven solutions”. It’s a fascinating social approach. In marketing terms, as Amy noted, “The task of selling oatmeal to someone is a lot harder than getting them to eat a bag of Doritos.”

-          On March 16, Howard Schultz launched Starbucks’s “Race Together” campaign: the company’s baristas were asked to write the words “Race Together” on customers’ cups as a way to stimulate conversations on race issues. The final result: customers were skeptical, thinking there was an ulterior motive. But, as Prof. Kenneth Shropshire said, “Starbucks is the kind of enterprise that can really have an impact in the long run.” Schultz has no intention of giving up, and will keep trying to stimulate conversations and empathy.

-          Under new CEO Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s recently announced that its US locations would stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics, in an effort to provide safe and healthy food. Difficulties are expected; McDonald’s is still expected to be the fastest and the cheapest. But Steve Easterbrook thinks of himself as an “internal activist”, eager to change the way his company is perceived through a strategic move that has been described as smart marketing that is also beneficial to customers’ health.

As leaders and internal activists, these three CEOs are surfing the markets, thinking ahead to understand what the market wants, and not being cocky by going into a wave that could crush them. Big players, big marketing, real impact.

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Care as the best marketing strategy

We are launching a new section on this blog: the Student Series. After five years of teaching subjects on the social effects of marketing, we thought it was vital to offer different students a space to share their thoughts on the topic.

Sonia Glushkovsky is a student in the International Bachelor of Business Administration (iBBA) programme at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto, Canada, specialising in Marketing and Operations Management. She is currently studying at the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, as part of an exchange programme.

Gary Vaynerchuk once noted, ‘The best marketing strategy ever? Care.’ The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb ‘to care’ as ‘Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something’. Therefore, businesses need to be interested in ‘something’, but what? Profit?  Themselves? The answer is society, an important stakeholder for any caring business anywhere in the world.

 Of course, that ‘care’ needs to be authentic and genuine, and not simply a hollow message communicated in a marketing campaign. To achieve a win-win situation, efforts must focus on areas that are aligned with the corporate strategy. A company’s internal corporate culture (values) and daily business operations shape its image and can alter profits dramatically. Many companies have corporate social responsibility programmes and focus on ethical issues such as environmental stewardship, providing safe and equal working conditions, and supporting local charities and communities. Even Henry Ford once said, ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’

 Not only does caring make you feel like a good citizen, it boosts your company’s image, reputation, and brand in the eyes of both your customers and the public at large. Partnering with local charities that support your values is a prime example. The intangible and tangible benefits to be gained from social marketing are unlimited, from empowering your employees in order to increase productivity and loyalty to generating free publicity in the media.

 Many companies use social marketing to differentiate themselves in the market. Coca-Cola, for instance, has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund’s campaign to protect polar bears. For animal lovers and conscientious soft-drink consumers around the world, the polar bear effort is a decisive factor when choosing between Coke and Pepsi. 

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From peer-to-peer to client-to-client

From peer-to-peer to client-to-client

Rachel Botsman (co-author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption) predicted the development of a new economic model based on peer-to-peer sharing: “It involves the re-emergence of community. […] This works because people can trust each other.” From here on, all the debates revolve around the ideology, the values, and the social-change aims of the companies, managers, developers and entrepreneurs involved in this shared economy. Four years ago, Time identified collaborative consumption as one of the 10 ideas that will change the world.

Let’s hear from the experts – those as committed as the pigs in the fable “The Chicken and the Pig”. A few days ago, Jeroen Merchiers, a fascinating executive committed to Airbnb, participated in an intimate roundtable discussion at ESADE. Jeroen fielded numerous questions regarding the fascinating value of collaborative consumption: consumption and ownership reduction, sharing instead of buying, the millennial generation’s pursuit of experiences rather than properties, a sustainable model, and so on.

But Jeroen underscored two main issues, the key factors for success in this new economic model:

  • Social media play a key role in decision-making.
  • The supplier-client relationship is evolving and disappearing. The model being developed takes the market orientation to an extreme: all parties are clients, guests and visitors. Jeroen’s company manages relationships between external parties, all of whom are clients. It’s therefore important to create value for everyone involved. The clients who pay are clients. The guests who offer me rooms are clients. With this absolute application of the win-win-win concept, the principle of “winner takes all” is fulfilled for everyone involved.

So we’ve moved from “peer-to-peer” to “everybody is a client”, or, as Kotler said ten years ago, from transactional to collaborative marketing.

 

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Breast is best: marketing vs. marketing

 

“Marketing is all we see,” grumbled Keith Jarrett a few years ago in a masterly way. But marketing is also a technology employed by those who wish to achieve sales, exchanges or social goods, or all three at once, as defined by George G. Brenkert.

Breastfeeding has enjoyed all of these wishes. There’s no doubt that breast is best: breast milk is the gold standard for infant nutrition. It reduces rates of infectious diseases, sudden infant death syndrome, various chronic and non-infectious illnesses, and post-neonatal infant death. Nursing mothers also obtain considerable postpartum and long-term health benefits. American experts estimate that at least $4 billion could be saved each year in overall healthcare and indirect costs if at least 75% of mothers start breastfeeding and 50% breastfeed for at least 6 months. How could anyone beat such a great set of competitive advantages?

The baby formula industry did, through marketing. The first baby formula television commercial aired in 1989, targeting consumers directly. Brands give hospitals free or discounted products and encourage health workers to recommend their products. Product innovations include anti-gas bottles and nipples of every shape and size – some even with tattoos of Mickey Mouse. Supermarkets use data-mining techniques to send motherhood-related marketing materials to teenagers before their parents even know they are pregnant. Samples, coupons and membership in discount formula clubs are offered to the expectant mother as soon as she walks into a maternity store. The final effect of all this in Spain: 76% of new mothers are breastfeeding when they leave the hospital, but only 44% continue to do so after three months (compared with 90% and 63% in Austria). In marketing terms, that’s a great result. So let’s come back to marketing.

What does the social marketing process look like? Government supports research focused on the health benefits of breastfeeding. An official “baby-friendly” brand is developed to signal that a hospital supports breastfeeding through real policies: babies can remain in the room with their mothers, skin-to-skin contact between newborns and mothers is encouraged, etc. Aggressive advocacy positioning is toned down to avoid turning off some mothers. Claims of “you must and you will” are avoided; instead, mothers are supported with the message of “do as much as you can”. Campaigns target all kinds of stakeholders: family, friends, healthcare providers, etc. Breastfeeding is positioned as being better for all involved, less expensive, but requiring tons of stamina, time and indefatigable conviction.

“Marketing is all we see” – no doubt!

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Amending Drucker

While NGOs are struggling for revenue in Spain – where, before the economic crisis, 82% of their income came from the state – I’ve been re-reading an article by Drucker entitled “What Business Can Learn from Nonprofits”, which in 1989 caused a commotion among readers of the Harvard Business Review.

While I’ve been re-reading Drucker’s assertion that NGOs are leaders in the most crucial area of management — the motivation and productivity of knowledge workers — I’ve also been working on the final post-mortem report on the subjects taught at ESADE with the service learning methodology. And I have found that, in their responses to a satisfaction survey, 80 international students described the experience of applying management in NGOs (Arrels Foundation for homeless care and Josep Carreras Foundation for bone marrow donations) in terms such as the following: “Really one of my best courses throughout my entire higher education; “It’s been a long time since a subject motivated me this much”; “A unique experience for someone who wants to go into business: dealing with clients, the importance of stakeholders, the importance of results, and social impact”.

These are future millennial managers who dream of careers at McKinsey, Procter & Gamble or Apple. But this was a real project, with sales and results, applied to NGOs, where they experienced a true adrenaline rush.

Drucker noted 25 years ago that “when I ask executives why they volunteer, too many say “because there isn’t enough challenge in my job”. Drucker, forgive me: let’s amend this headline. Today, I propose an article entitled “What Business Can Buy from Nonprofits: Passion and Employee Commitment”. Such a model would lead to more income for NGOs, thanks to the solid value proposition; greater societal impact in the terms defined in the NGOs’ mission statements; and companies that gain from being able to providing greater challenges.

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Change thyself

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” This Leo Tolstoy quote was used in a recent McKinsey Quarterly article suggestively titled “Change leader, change thyself”.

Management scholars are forever researching companies that are changing the world or leading change towards a better world. Porter’s shared value strategies, JWT’s circular economy, Kotler’s marketing 3.0, Fordham University’s positive marketing…

On this topic, Prof. Mònica Casabayó and I have shared many experiences, cases and concerns. We have very different viewpoints, as is fitting for a plural school like ESADE. But in our research we have studied whether managers are generating change simply because they wish to change themselves. Business professionals are the same people who buy things, who have a family and a home, and who are concerned about the degeneration of our model and about unsustainability.

All this is covered in the new book Soul Marketing. We have asked various professionals who collaborate with ESADE to tell us about cases of business leaders who are changing the world by first changing themselves. They’re doing this by appealing to their stakeholders and creating value for them. Danone, Ecoembes, Roll’eat and Casa Camper are just some of the cases in which we have seen this sort of change.

Drops fill the ocean. We hope that the book presentation on 4th December, hosted by the ESADE Alumni Marketing Club, will generate minor impacts that help to bring about many individual minor changes.

 

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Learning marketing through service

“What a fascinating time I’ve just had in the classroom: one of the best professional, educational and personal experiences of my career.” When you hear this from a visiting executive who was formerly VP of Marketing at one of the largest FMCG multinationals in the US, you know something interesting happened in that classroom: the first session of the new Social Marketing subject of the ESADE BBA, which uses the Service Learning methodology.

ESADE has developed a programme that uses the Service Learning methodology in several BBA subjects. In case you are unfamiliar with this methodology, it can be summed up as pure experiential marketing. Service learning is a powerful educational experience where interests mesh with information, values and beliefs are formed, and action results.

The students get a lot out of this experience. Let’s summarise: they explore careers; build their resumes; gain valuable work experience; learn new skills; learn things that will benefit them for the rest of their lives; improve their self-esteem; develop a sense of personal satisfaction, initiative, independent reasoning and independent learning; enhance skills learned from experience (observing, asking questions, applying knowledge); develop social responsibility and concern for the welfare of others; as well as a list of benefits analysed in depth by Genie Black.

What’s more, we will help to increase the blood reserves at Catalonia’s blood bank, assist with the Arrels Foundation’s collection of blankets and winter trousers for the homeless, strengthen the knowledge and prospects of the DID-Áctica project for young people with minor disabilities, and participate in a bone marrow donor registration drive with the Josep Carreras Foundation.

The students will do marketing – lots of very good marketing. Although the main objective for the students is reflective observation – watching, listening, recording, discussing and elaborating on the experience – we will also achieve real marketing results. Marketing that has a direct impact on society.

The donation week will be at ESADE Sant Cugat the week of 21st November. Don’t miss out!

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A bunch of slacktivism, neknominations and ice buckets

The Ice Bucket Challenge has generated, in addition to more than ten million dollars in funding in the US and nearly 10 million uploads to YouTube, accolades such as that pronounced by Wharton, describing it as a phenomenal marketing campaign.

The project, which was launched when Pete Frates challenged his friends, has given rise to various readings, regarding social network marketing, social marketing and third sector management. It has also generated the usual ethical criticism of the limits to NGO fundraising: the participants don’t learn anything about the cause, they participate for essentially selfish reasons dressed up as altruism, and they do it to look good for their friends. It’s just slacktivism, a feel-good way to support a cause whose only positive effects are on the participants themselves. Welcome to the world of real people.

The Ice Bucket Challenge reminds us how to create value based on insights into people. People like simplicity (all they need is a mobile phone and a friend to film them). They use social media to amplify their narcissism. They want to do good if it makes them feel good, if it’s cool. People are motivated by and participate in activities like milking and neknomination. We climb on board the latest meme so long as it can be personalized, so long as it doesn’t require us to sacrifice our own identity, but rather lets us project it instead. Fun, easy, popular.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is not a sustainable fundraising strategy for the third sector: no organization can survive on sporadic viral online campaigns. However, the market-oriented approach is sustainable: creating value for people, offering activities that create value for them, accepting the mediocrity of human nature, so long as whatever we do is in keeping with our organization’s vision and values.

There are three approaches to the Ice Bucket Challenge: criticize people for disguising their narcissism as altruism, design promotions willing to “take the money wherever it comes from”, or learn about insights into people to increase the value our cause can create. Which one do you choose?

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