In light of the Arab Spring and the rise of India and China, and propelled by social technologies, the concept of ‘soft power’ (the phrase was coined by Joseph Nye in his 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power; defined as “the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction”) is ever more relevant. Or, in marketing terms, Push is out, Pull is in. If an idea, aspiration, product, goal, ideology, culture, narrative, or national identity is attractive to its constituents, it minimizes the need for constant reinforcement and regulation – whether that is advertising, promotions, and other persuasive efforts, or bureaucracy, command-and-control, and coercion. Pull is powerful (as John Hagel illustrates in his riveting book The Power of Pull). It has a lot of Pull (pun intended) because one doesn’t have to push. It saves energy that can be invested otherwise, for example, in whatever “it” is that creates Pull. No surprise then that individuals, organizations, societies, and entire nations wish they could rely on it more.
I had the great pleasure of speaking at The Great Indian B2B Marketing Summit in Bangalore yesterday, organized by Jessie Paul, the former CMO of Indian outsourcing juggernaut Wipro, author of the book “No Money Marketing,” and founder of Paul Writer, a marketing consultancy cum hub that runs an influential online CMO Roundtable and other formidable programs to facilitate the exchange amongst the Indian marketing community. The program was quite an eclectic mix of topics, ranging from social media and digital marketing trends, to market development, to marketing leadership, to personal branding.
Silver Fish Hand Catch! As the social web’s echo chamber is gushing about Wieden+Kennedy (W+K)’s masterful Old Spice campaign (actor and former football star Isaiah Mustafa wowing viewers with his smooth-talking delivery in video replies to hundreds of online queries or comments tweeted to him by web users), first spoofs are manifesting its pop-cultural credentials, and the meta-story is increasingly becoming the story ("how did they do it?"), both practical and philosophical questions arise. The jury is still out on the campaign’s commercial impact (various news sites and blogs are reporting that sales have fallen by 7%, which various other news sites and blogs dispute). I’m more interested in the campaign as a cultural phenomenon and its lasting implications: Is it a one-off nifty idea or are we witnessing the emergence of something bigger than that, a whole new paradigm for marketers and content producers, as Mashable claims?
As we’re inundated with hero shots of the iPad every day, on every billboard and the back of every magazine cover, it appears to be a good time to rethink the relationship between advertising and product, between marketing and innovation. It’s not that Apple doesn’t spend any money on advertising – no, it was pouring a whopping $500 million into its launch campaign for the iPad. But what is different is that Apple’s marketing doesn’t have to be clever or utterly creative. In fact, it is stunningly not so. No major social media campaign needed to be sparked, no user-generated content contest needed to be held. And while the ongoing tongue-in-cheek anti-Microsoft ads are undeniably cute, they are not really an advertising revelation. Gone are the days of the bold “1984” campaigns. Today, Apple has earned enough attention to forgo any ostentatious marketing, in fact, so much that a cleverly orchestrated campaign would distract from the brand rather than boosting it. The company simply displays its products – that’s all it takes. Apple’s products are viral without any viral marketing.