Monday, May 23, 2011

Marketing Lessons Learned From the End of the World

The world didn’t end this weekend as predicted by some, and I’m sure the majority of us are pleased about that. Like most things in life, whether good or bad, right or wrong, there is always a lesson for us to learn.

When it comes to promoting the ‘Rapture’, there was a considerable investment in time and, in the case of last week’s widely speculated event, some costly full page advertisements in national US newspapers. The doomsday merchants were certainly committed; after all, what did they have to lose in putting everything they had into this last minute promotion as if there was no tomorrow?

The cynic in me is left wondering though; did the leaders in this foolhardy venture and emotional exploitation hold back some financial reserves just in case? What made this campaign a success in the respect of the media attention and social conversation, is it fed upon peoples pre-conceived ideas, morbid curiosity and inherent fears.

The lesson we have to take from this, as marketers, is the global reach a story like this can have. When designing our own campaigns these basic human emotions that make a promotion integral to our immediate existence must be considered. All too often we try to introduce new ideas that require a whole new perspective or mind-set and wonder why they get so little traction. Think of the conference presentations that you have been to that got the greatest applause and most positive feedback; that presenter undoubtedly told the audience something they already knew. Thoughts leaders who break new ground and present new thinking are often met with a degree of suspicion and seen as a threat - not always a great strategy when trying to gain the favour of the masses.

There were a large number of people who fundamentally believed that this story of Rapture and the end of the world had some basis in reality. Inherently we all fear that the earth has finality to its existence, even basic science tells us that its demise is ultimately inevitable. Even we cynics wanted to know who was saying this and why, just in case we had missed some important information that supported the back story like a rogue meteorite or a cataclysmic failure in the earth’s crust. The message succeeded in getting our attention - isn’t that what good marketing is all about?

For my money and emotional investment I would rather back those who feed our hopes and dreams rather than prey on peoples fear. When designing your campaign or promotion think first about the day after the end of the world and what you will be remembered for when you represent yourself, your brand, and the investment of those who trust you most.

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