Empathy and bad marketing breath

The search for the perfect message that resonates with consumers and sells products never ends.

It’s a process marketers toil through. Grasping their target audience. Knowing them intimately. Seeking their pain points. Triggering their pleasures.

This is classic advertising. However, it’s wrought with consequences. Case in point is this Listerine spot from the 1950s.

The “Mad Men” who put this together followed all the textbook steps in creating it. They tapped into the sexist world of that era and created a message that not only sold a product, but also pushed an agenda.

The ad worked then. Listerine became a household name. But the brand isn’t loved today. In fact, after viewing how this brand thought, what it believed and how it spoke, you will probably want to reach for Scope to clear up the bad taste in your mouth

Bad branding.

Listerine dealt with their “now” back then, but never attended to their “down the road.”

While the rank-and-file marketer conjures up messaging and ideas to satisfy the needs of the moment, the greatest brands peer through time. They consider the implication of their words, their actions and their meanings in a more timeless mindset.

There are no marketing crystal balls. The ability to perceive shifts in cultural conscience and shape campaigns to meet those changes are among a brand’s greatest challenges. It is quite possibly a brand’s most important mission. This requires more than a quick mind and the ability to bang out catchy phrases. A level of empathy is required here that absolutely must be applied.

Great brands understand this. It’s why this spot will play forever.

The next time you write copy, whether it’s to describe your website’s search function for beautiful homes, a listing detail, a video, a blog, an email or a note you send to a client, weigh every word against time. And think, How will this define me, support me, and explain me and everything I stand for in years to come? 

That’s what great brand people do.