If marketers want to get serious about making a change in society they need to explore their brand’s “zone of lies”.
This is the middle space that sits between the two extremes of “win-win situations” and “total disaster”, according to marketing leadership expert, Thomas Barta. In this context the zone of lies describes activity being carried out by companies that, while legal, is morally dubious.
“There is the win-win where everyone is happy – the financial, social, ecological impact is very positive. Then you have the disaster zone where things go really badly wrong and the company is in the press. People will worry a lot about these two extremes,” Barta explained at Festival of Marketing earlier this month.
“In the zone of lies is where you will find the things that a company can actually change. If you really want to do this you’ve got to be truly brave.”
Exploring this zone of lies is the antidote to what Barta sees as the onslaught of “purpose porn” and the trend for brands dressing their marketing up to look like a purpose-driven campaign.
However, marketers still have work to do to ensure their purpose message lands, especially with the C-suite.
A key stumbling block, identified by Barta, is the ability to find a metric that the CEO cares about beyond cost and revenue. If a marketer’s idea is not seen as driving revenue, at least in the short-term, the danger is it could automatically be viewed as a cost.
Another issue marketers are battling is the perception of ‘purpose’ within the organisation.
“In a lot of companies, when it comes to purpose the CEO gives all the things that matter to a department called CSR [corporate social responsibility]. What are the attributes of a typical CSR department in a large corporation? No power and no budget,” Barta stated.
“They are covering up the sad reality that there is a department supposedly in charge of good and what they are doing is planting some green roofs. That is not how purpose works.”
Furthermore, he pointed to marketing being under serious pressure in the boardroom amid a wider struggle for relevance, which Barta argued has been driven by the way marketers define their own work.
“If you wanted to give someone the task to destroy the reputation of marketing by inventing just one new term, why not invent performance marketing, which basically says everything else we’re doing is not performing?” he stated.
Making marketing count
Marketers who propose a purpose-related agenda are starting off from a weakened position in the eyes of the board. There are, however, some tips for driving through purpose-driven ideas, which start with adopting a change-leader mindset and mobilising people for change.
“Great marketers mobilise teams. They mobilise bosses, they mobilise peers and they also mobilise themselves,” Barta stated. “Proper marketing means a 360-degree mobilising job.”
Central to this mobilising movement is being prepared to “walk the halls” to make a case for change and picking your battles wisely. Pushing a purpose agenda can feel like an uphill battle in some organisations and therefore it is crucial to be selective if you want your message to land effectively.
“You can be angry about a lot of things, you can be sad about a lot of things, but if you want to make change happen in any organisation you have to really pick your battle. The question is, what do you pick?” Barta asked.
If the battle a marketer chooses to take on is to grow profit and revenue for their firm that is fine, but he insists that marketers have the “strength of mind” not to dress their work up as something it is not by adding a veneer of purpose.
“If you’re OK keeping the company running then be brave enough to do this and not talk about purpose. That takes bravery,” Barta added. “However, if you do believe there is more that you can do in your firm then pick your battle and expect a long journey.”
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Phvntom, Inc. is a digital marketing company located in Boise, Idaho that creates websites, apps, and full-scale promotions/campaigns for other businesses. The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of its authors and were not written by Phvntom. This article was originally published by Marketing Week.