Universal Appeals in Marketing
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Is There Such a Thing as “Universal Appeal”?

I was recently in a conversation regarding global marketing strategy and the concept of “universal appeal” came up. The argument is that there are certain ideas, values, etc., that translate across global cultures, and can therefore be used in marketing campaigns. But I’m not so sure…

Dutch Professor Geert Hofstede, who has done extensive and widely-accepted research on global cultural difference and similarities, has concluded that each national culture (and in some cases there must be further segmenting, like with the U.S., which is so diverse) falls at a given point on six dimensions:

  • Power Distance (the disparity between those with and those without power)
  • Individualism vs Collectivism
  • Masculinity vs Femininity (which is really better explained as Assertiveness vs Modesty)
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (tolerance for ambiguity)
  • Long-Term vs Short-Term Orientation (focused on the present or the future)
  • Indulgence vs Restraint

Considering those dimensions, I find the concept of universal appeals would be tough to prove. Take superior quality, for example. At face value, it could be assumed that everyone would prefer products and services with superior quality. So, superior quality could be considered an universal appeal.

BUT… what is “superior quality”?

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Work-Life Balance - photo by Barney Moss https://www.flickr.com/photos/barneymoss/18285023895
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The New Normal – Work/Life Balance Paradigm Shift

I’ve talked before about “actual” and “ideal” selves, and my theory about how often a person’s “virtual” self tends to align more with their ideal self rather than the actual one… but where does that leave our “work” and “home” selves? How do they align?

It’s time to talk about an oft-dreaded corporate buzzword, folks: WORK-LIFE BALANCE.

For those of you living under a rock (or perhaps those for whom it is an actual THING rather than an idea), work-life balance is the concept that there must be a balance between time and energy devoted to work and the time and energy devoted to everything else that a person deems to be important. Finding this balance can significantly reduce stress and increase enjoyment and satisfaction with work and with the rest of your life. This balance could be equated to Freud’s Ego that acts as the middle ground for our work (SuperEgo) and life (ID) paradoxes, but I digress.

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Social is Seriously Serious Business

I received an IM from a friend a couple days ago that got me thinking. He was asking for my advice because his friend’s 15-year-old son wants to start a social media marketing business. I asked my friend to send me this young man’s business plan, so that I could review and make recommendations. The response: “Um, he doesn’t have a business plan.”

WHAT?

Don’t get me wrong – there are teens who are capable of being businesspeople. Take Brooke Martin, for example, who created icpooch when she was just 12. This kind of magic can and does happen. But I can just see how this kiddo’s plan evolved… I want extra money > I like social networks > Local businesses use social networks > I could post for these businesses and charge them for it > I’ll start a social media marketing business! So easy, right? WRONG.

Clearly the first step would be to develop a business plan. But what that plan entails can really vary depending on the business. Creating and managing a business’ social media marketing could mean so many different things. A few examples? OK… a Facebook page, LinkedIn groups, a LinkedIn corporate page, a Twitter profile, a Google+ page, Tumblr, Reddit, Yelp. What about content driven social? Oh, how about… Pinterest, Instagram, a YouTube channel, Meerkat and/or Periscope and/or Vine, blogs. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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Can’t Buy Me Love! Wait, Yes You Can. But DON’T.

Have you ever been following someone on Twitter or Instagram (who is NOT a celebrity) and noticed a huge spike in their number of followers from one day to the next?  I have.  It’s weird. Does such an increase make me, the follower, think that what you have to say suddenly got more interesting or credible?  Nope.  Do I suddenly find you to be more important?  Nope.  Especially when a quick check of who the influx of followers are provides all the evidence I need to see that most (if not all) of this newly found flock are fake accounts rather than real people.

Here’s a look at the follower numbers for an account that buys followers periodically.  You can clearly see the days that purchases were made and days that Twitter does massive fake account deletions.

Followers for Twitter account that purchases followers

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Let’s Get Visual! Let Me See Your Content Talk!

There’s a reason that popularity of social sites like Instagram and Pinterest have skyrocketed recently.  It is the same reason that you used to be drawn to the stories in the newspaper that had images associated with them (hey! remember when you actually held a newspaper in your hand and read it?).  By design, we’re visual beings.  We’re built to see a wide spectrum of colors, depth and texture.

But the reason we’re drawn to imagery goes beyond that – when we view imagery, we each see something unique and we connect emotionally to the visual by creating our meaning for it.  Visuals make more lasting impressions because we process them differently than we do text.  According to a recent LinkedIn blog post, when we process imagery we are using 75% of our sensory neurons.  Imagery has become the new headline.  In this new fast-paced world where we’re dealing with a barrage of messages and continuous noise via every social channel, imagery is what we (marketers) need to use to capture the attention of our audience.

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