Sound Off 6: Effin Gorilla

I’ve just returned from judging the final round of the Effie Awards. The competition is different than most design and advertising shows because in addition to concept and visuals, 30% of the final score considers effectiveness.

Some of the more provocative campaigns winning Effies promoted corporate social responsibility, alternative fuels and social consciousness. In addition to the great “creative”, I was impressed by the amount of money spent on marketing these campaigns.... in many cases over $20,000,000. It is no small feat to promote an idea to the masses — even a good one. Critics will point to self-serving motives that prompt such spending. However the results of critical public discourse, proliferation of biofuels and revised federal policies — due to these marketing expenditures — arguably have an ROI for us all.

There were also campaigns — really great ones — for luxury items and shoes. But in a competitive marketplace they have to fabricate value and meaning. It’s not unusual to mine the human condition to sell wares. Jewelry = Love. Body Spray = Pursuit of Hedonism. Soda = Longer Nights Out. Even though some of these literally made my eyes gush or brought out a hurrah for the little man, I scored them lower in the “idea” category. The marketing dilemmas are artificial. How important is it that we motivate a person to spend $270 on a shirt? And how are we motivating them — by making them feel more authentic than their other well-off neighbors?

I don’t believe our profession or businesses are amoral. On this blog we’ve promoted the idea of value-based consumption. The other side of the coin is value-based marketing, and ultimately value-based business. Aveda’s purchasing guidelines ask 13 questions of their employees. The first is “Do we need it?” It’s a simple and provocative question. It sat quietly in the back of my mind as we reviewed case after case of heavy hitting marketing campaigns. Then it became an 800-pound gorilla in the room. And I didn’t ignore it.

“Sound Off” is an op/ed post by editors of the Tricycle blog. The opinions may or may not reflect those of the Company.
R Michael Hendrix is co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Tricycle, Inc.

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