We believe there are two key tests of meaningful marketing. The first is that it must be marketing that consumers choose to engage with. The second is that the marketing itself improves consumers’ lives. In this blog’s past several posts I believe I’ve covered the former pretty well; but I want to spend more time hitting the latter more often.
“Marketing itself improves consumers’ lives” is a pretty big test. It essentially says that the consumer can benefit from the brand without actually repaying it with a purchase. This can be a pretty big mental leap for marketers and their advertising agencies. An even bigger test, however, is when a brand uses marketing to improve consumers’ lives in such a way that it could decrease sales at the same time. Nutty, huh? Well, tell the Tylenol brand.
You have most likely noticed a flurry of marketing by Tylenol as part of its Feel Better campaign. It is appearing in TV, online, print, and outdoor. While the reach of the campaign has probably hit your eyeballs dozens of times, you probably engaged attention because of its fairly revolutionary messages. You see, Tylenol’s advertising is telling consumers how to avoid headaches – in other words, how to avoid needing to take Tylenol at all.
A few examples are in the photo above. Bus stop ad headlines include: “Pass breakfast. You may go straight to a headache” and “Skipping meals can cause headaches.” A trip to Tylenol.com leads to articles about other triggers of headaches, such as excessive noise, bright lights, and certain foods. Other Tylenol line extensions have followed the same path. Tylenol Cold formula advises that “Popsicles can soothe a sore throat.” Tylenol Arthritis Pain formula suggests that “Arthritic joints need strong muscles to protect them.”
I think Tylenol is in the lead of a new trend. Another brand that I’ve seen make progress on this line of meaning is Bank of America, which is featuring a campaign that teaches its customers how to avoid banking fees. Both brands realize that they are much better off by looking out for the customer first, and doing it in an obvious way that builds trust.
Long term (and all marketers should be in it for the long term), I believe this kind of investment in meaning will pay off. Tylenol knows that people will still have headaches or otherwise need pain relief, and since its active ingredient is exactly the same as the store brand but at a much higher price, this goodwill should translate to “loyalty beyond reason.” And Bank of America knows that it can make a lot more money by winning long-term, cross-sell business from its customers rather than screwing them on a $20 fee. Both brands are also using the programs to invite customers into a long-term relationship marketing program. By giving valuable information in this way, they will keep people coming back.
We may need to change our second meaningful marketing test to: “the marketing itself improves consumers’ lives - even at the expense of sales.“