Editor’s Note: This 5-page, in-depth article is one the best to come from Ad Age (at least in my opinion) in awhile, specifically because it addresses the paradigm shift – a change in core values – that’s necessary for companies not just to compete, but become GREAT.  As the drivers of marketing, public relations and advertising in our organizations, let’s make it part of our mission in 2012 to push our organizations look deeper, become a little more human,  and present an “essential self” that  can be better heard, understood and loved by consumers in 2012…

Forget Product Positioning, This is the Dawn of the Relationship Era

New Year’s resolution: Stop living in the past.

Just jettison some old habits, such as trying to manipulate prospects. Stop viewing purchasers as conquests. They are members of a community, prepared to adore (or the opposite) not just your stuff but the inner you. Your essence is transmitted continually via your relationships with consumers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, neighbors and the Earth itself.

The Human Element is greater than positioning, unique selling propositions and segmentation.

Welcome to the Relationship Era. Say goodbye to positioning, preemption and unique selling position. This is about turning everything you understood about marketing upside down so that you can land right side up. This is about tapping into the Human Element.

Begin with a simple experiment. Type “I love Apple” into your Google search bar. You will get 3.27 million hits. If you type “I love Starbucks,” 2.7 million hits. Zappos: 1.19 million.

“I love Citibank” gets you 21,100. AT&T Wireless: 7,890. Exxon: 4,730. Dow Chemical: 3. Out of 7 billion human beings, three! Just to put that into context, type “I love Satan” and you get 293,000 hits. Now consider that in the past 12 months, Citibank, AT&T Wireless, Exxon Mobil and Dow have spent $2 billion on advertising. How’s that working out for them?

The methodology here may not be especially rigorous, but the results dramatize two immutable facts of contemporary marketing life:

1. Millions of people will, of their own volition, announce to the world their affection for a brand. Not for a person, an artwork or a dessert but for a product or service. Congratulations. People care deeply about you.

2. Whether you like it or not, your brand is inextricably entwined in such relationships. If you were to type in “I hate Exxon,” you’d get 2.16 million hits–not counting the “I hate Exxon Mobil” Facebook page. Though people are listening less to your messages, it doesn’t stop them from thinking and talking about you. And each of those expressions of like, dislike, ardor or disgust has an exponent that reflects the outward ripples of social interaction.

In short, as you have realized but most likely not come to grips with, you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan. On the contrary, they are about your brand’s essential self–which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.

This has ceased to be an option. History has made that decision for you.

Read the entire article at Ad Age.

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