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The Violent Origins of Marketing Communications

Have you ever wondered why marketing analogies are so violent? When you listen to marketers talk (by marketers I mean the whole lot of us, marketing, advertising and public relations) it sounds more like military personal talking about war.

  • We launch campaigns. (Yes I know it’s trendy to hate on campaigns right now).
  • We target customers and capture markets.
  • We brand and ignite things while we spread viruses.
  • We talk about crushing our competition, the destructive nature of disruption and the death of industries.
  • And finally, we execute.

Why are we so violent? Some say it’s human nature, some blame it on a history of a male dominated industry (but I know lots of women in this industry that can war analogy with the best of them).

As an undergrad of Communications, I was (and still am) fascinated with communication theory. In one of my classes we read American University professor Christopher Simpson’s Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960.

It turns out that the field of Communications started as government  funded university research programs. The goal of these programs was to catch up to (and exceed) the Nazi’s in areas of persuasion, psychological warfare, mass media and public communications research (later called public relations).

So why do all of our analogies sound like military jargon? Well, because they are.

It’s important to point out that much of the medical and technological advances that make our lives better also came out military, war time funded research.

But things have changed and traditional marketing communications is being rejected. People don’t want to be persuaded. People are tired of being targeted, captured and branded.

As communicators we should know better than anyone (thanks to our past) that if we want to change our behavior we need to change our language. We need to talk about (and mean it) building and creating and co-creating. Let’s empower and engage. Let’s start using positive, expansive language not negative, reductive language.

Besides positive language is so much more persuasive (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/its-the-message-stupid-news-and-politics-a-case-study/ New Comm Biz » It’s the Message Stupid! News and Politics. [A Case Study]

    [...] The Violent Origins of Marketing Communications (newcommbiz.com) [...]

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com/counter-insurgency-marketing/ New Comm Biz » Counter-Insurgency Marketing

    [...] know I said we should abandon military analogies in marketing but I was wrong. There are just too many cool examples. Here’s one we’ve been [...]

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