How to Infuse Meaning Into Your Marketing

Forward-thinking brand consultancy PSFK hosted its annual PSFK conference on Friday, featuring a lineup of impressive speakers (mostly from tech startups) speaking on the theme of “Innovation With Purpose.”

I had the pleasure of attending the day-long event and was struck in particular by a presentation from Bobby Jones, a young marketing professional who coauthored the book Good Is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn (with Afdhel Aziz).

The authors interviewed dozens of the most creative marketers in the world for the book, and Jones says they found that even among the top earners and producers in the field, “we’re seeing this crisis of meaningfulness in marketing.”

In an age where top influencers are often politically active and consumers are seeking out brands that are both transparent and charitable in their daily actions, some of marketing’s most creative minds feel, in contrast, that the work they’re creating isn’t especially important or meaningful.

(Image courtesy of Bobby Jones and Afdhel Aziz)

Jones shared a funny anecdote of a colleague who watched the movie Deep Impact—a story where the world’s most valuable people were shepherded into a catastrophe-proof mountain as a pair of meteors hurtled toward Earth, promising to destroy everything and everyone outside the mountain.

His colleague was sure, as a marketer, that he wouldn’t be vital enough to society to be invited into the mountain. “So,” Jones asked, “how do we [as marketers] do work that gets us into the mountain?”

Here’s the blueprint, in shorthand, Jones laid out for creating marketing that’s full of meaning:

  • “Know your purpose. As much as we talk bout the four Ps of marketing, increasingly the fifth P of marketing is going to be purpose. If you don’t have a clear sense of purpose, you don’t have a North Star.”
  • “Find your allies. Find the people that also care about what you care about—in your organization and people all around the world. You don’t have to be the savior or lone hero…you can work with other people to accomplish your goals and make a difference.”
  • “Think citizens, not consumers. This is something you’re seeing being vocalized everywhere. Consumers are saying, ‘I’m more than just the shoes I’m wearing. I care about people, I care about the environment.’ People are demanding to be engaged as citizens.”
  • “Lead with the cool. Even if you have the best intentions and the best idea for saving the world, if you want people to pay attention to it, you have to lead with the cool. You have to find ways to make it beautiful, make it cool, make it sexy.”
  • “Don’t advertise—solve problems. Brands that are not solving problems in our lives and world will be replaced by those that are. Brands have an opportunity to solve problems from the everyday to the epic.”
  • “People are the new media. People can no longer buy their way into the conversation [in places like social media]. You have to earn it. You do that by solving problems and doing things that really matter.”
  • “Back up the promise with the proof. We’re at a point where transparency is not only demanded, it’s essential. The way you create your products, the way you connect with your people….you have to back it up. If you don’t, people will call bull***t on you…The good news is that this accountability is going to make brands so much better and stronger.”

Jones ended his session on a positive note, proclaiming, “For those of you who give a damn about the world and making it better, there’s never been a better time to do what we’re doing than right now.

“Do work that makes you feel alive and feel like you’re doing something meaningful. My hope for all of us is that we somehow, some way, find our way into that mountain.”

Top: Bobby Jones (Image courtesy of PSFK)

JCK Magazine Editor