What is “marketing” anyway? It’s efforts by a business or organization to influence the behavior of consumers.
Usually that behavior means buying the company’s products or services.
After years of observing marketing efforts and trying to market on behalf of my own companies and advise others, I’ve concluded that the most effect marketing presents a mirror to the targeted customer: they should see themselves -not as they are, but as they wish to be – as their aspirational selves.
Typical aspirational marketing is evident in the TV ad for Infiniti’s new coupe: a handsome, bearded young man driving the coupe on winding roads along the ocean. Not a word about features, benefits, price, availability or any other mundane purchasing issues – just tight shots of his slightly smiling face, the car – red, of course – and the winding roads devoid of any traffic.
To be a successful marketer you have to truly understand your customer and not what they may need, but what they want, what their desires are. Here’s a great example of aspirational marketing in the article The Twilight Zone of Home Staging
Certainly staging mirrors branding, the global trend toward marketing things less for what they are than for what they represent — usually a lifestyle. (See also: the Kardashians peddling ShoeDazzle.)
As Marjorie Gerber, author of Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses said:
… Advertisers have done this for years, setting their clothing or perfume ads in exciting or provocative venues; it was the ambience rather than the product that sold.
So, forget all that stuff about figuring out your customer’s needs and developing a product to sell to fill that need: figure out what your customers want and market your products to fulfill that aspiration – at least in consumer markets. Aspirational marketing might not work quite as well in B2B settings!
Addendum: my wife Louise pointed out to me that Trump is a consummate aspirational marketer! All those white, high school-educated lower and lower-middle class Trump supporters all wish they were as rich as Trump, wish that they too hadn’t paid any taxes in years, and yes, wish that they could grab women by their genitalia without their permission and get away with it! This explains Trump’s appeal to those who couldn’t be more unlike him. Just like all those celebrities we see endorsing products in ads. We couldn’t be more unlike them, but sure wish we were MORE like them – and maybe if we use those products they endorse we too will get the money and the girls (or boys), if not the fame!