Once upon a time, in the grand heyday of advertising, marketing, and communications, all you had to do was find your slogan, develop your logo, and repeat the message as often as possible. Smoking makes you cool.
And then two things happened: First, too many marketers spent too much time lying and undermined their own credibility. Second, the rise of the internet gave consumers the ability to do their own research. The more research the markets did, the less credibility the marketers had.
Let’s not blame the marketers, though. They’re just the middle men between the goods and the audience. For as long as marketers are told that their livelihood depends on their ability to sell deep-fried twinkies as a whole-grain, healthy snack they are going to try to do exactly that. The market knows this is silly. The marketers know this is silly. But the twinkie-makers of the world aren’t willing to do the work to make what they are align with what they claim.
Twinkies make an easy target that everyone can laugh at. However, this is the Government we’re talking about, it isn’t like we’re trying to sell anything. We call our Marketing departments Public Relations or Communications. They are selling culture change, open doors, silo-busting, collaboration, diversity, innovation, mission, ethics, job satisfaction… From what I’ve seen, everyone knows the message, from “open door policy” to “diversity drives innovation.” But if we’ve got the message memorized, why does so little change? It’s because the words don’t align with the policies, standard operating procedures, performance plans, and unspoken expectations. We’re saying its true without doing the work to align reality to the posters and brochures.
Eventually, we’re all going to have to sit down with this question: what do you do when you’re all spun out?
Personally, I don’t know what the new spin is going to be. My best communication and marketing advice is this: Align what you are with what you want to claim. Be it before you message it. Once you are what you say you are, then worry about your marketing plan. Credibility, authenticity, honesty… In my experience, they’ll take you a lot further than a clever slogan.