Adjective Marketing Isn’t Going To Fix Our Problems

Sometimes it all just feels broken.

I work in advertising—and have for more than twenty years—and I trash direct mail, ignore ads, delete emails and the best $4.00 I spend on entertainment each month is on the ad-free version of Hulu. My son and I high five on every ad break we avoid.

I also share Nike spots, watch the Apple product rollouts and click on tons of ads online that look interesting. But I still don’t like the way they talk to me most of the time.

There’s a universal marketing voice: a third person, omniscient, legally-vetted, sanitized, competitive speak that has developed. It’s dull and lifeless. Sure, you could find me dozens of inspiring brand anthems that run during the Super Bowl. I love those, too. I just don’t like the way we talk to people the other 364 days of the year.

I used to get in trouble to the tone of voice I would take with my Mom. I think brands today are about to get in trouble for the tone of voice they take with their audience. Most don’t even think about their audience, they just think about their competition.

Most of the innovations in marketing in the past 10 years have been about channels or approaches or what I call adjective marketing: shopper marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, content marketing and the like.

I’d like to add a new one to the lexicon – Personal Marketing. As in, how about we talk to one another like real human beings, the way you talk to a friend or a colleague? That tone of voice that is authentic and real and alive.

That tone of voice is what builds audiences whether you are a YouTube star or a billion dollar brand. We are looking for people to talk to us like people. To tell us interesting and useful stories. To respect us enough to take the right tone.

It’s hard to do, but the brands who do that hard work are the ones who are going to win big in the years ahead.

But winning big is not all that’s at stake here.

There’s the culture to consider. As our culture becomes more and more dominated by big corporate players, we run the risk of everything becoming dominated by the professional marketing voice; a voice we don’t trust and who doesn’t seem to have us or our best interest in mind; a voice that seems more concerned with the condition of it’s earnings that the quality of the culture it creates.

We can do better. It all starts with a willingness, and an authentic voice – like yours.