It's OK to be real (in marketing)

by Marijke Vissers - July 03, 2015


A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon Emily McDowell’s ‘Empathy Cards’, emotionally direct greeting cards for people suffering from cancer or a chronic illness, or going through another hardship. They’re designed to help friends and family connect with their loved ones instead of making them feel lonely and isolated. And what’s the reason for their popularity? Their realness.

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But what does this have to do with marketing? Well, everything! It’s becoming increasingly difficult to connect with your customers every day. They’re tired of hearing the same old sugarcoated messages decorated with cherries on top. According to Y&R’s Sandy Thompson the only way to get their attention is to forget perfection. Dismiss your unicorns, shut down the rainbow factory and get down to business. Perfection is boring. Things get more interesting the less perfect they are.

How can you get things to be more interesting? We’ve already introduced you to Brand Tensity, the seemingly contradictory characteristics that make a brand or person uniquely attractive. That’s why we connected the magic first moments of a young child with something rather painful as vaccinations for GSK.

That’s all well and good, but how can you apply this to brands? Sandy Thompson has a few pointers:

  • Discover your brand vulnerabilities and embrace them;

  • You don’t have to re-invent yourself but evolve! Change is not only acceptable, but interesting;

  • Surprise and delight, not confirm and contain;

  • Embrace future possibilities and forget past certainties;

  • Let your customers engage with your brand. Generate conversation by creating something to talk about and give them the power to make their own decisions instead of selling them a vague and impersonal idea;

  • Embrace inexperience, step out of your comfort zone;

  • Put your sacred cows on the table, only then will you understand the real role they play in solving or hindering the brand’s problem.


How are you going to embrace perfucktion and live tensity?


Marijke Vissers

Content and social marketeer

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