by Masingita Mazibuko. I am a self-confessed child of ’90s hip-hop, and often visited by music that I loved in my youth. Most recently, it’s been Heavy D’s ‘Nuttin but love’1 on continuous play in my mind. But I don’t draw your attention to honour Heavy D’s music; rather, it’s that this ditty was an anthem to heroism.

And, much as I hate to admit it, the awful truth of today’s marketing environment is that brands are no longer heroes. Instead, the customer reigns and dictates what brands should be.

Masingita MazibukoListen, share and let go

Even more awful is that we, the marketers, sometimes can’t even see this. We often become so enamoured by our brands that we chart their journeys and, in doing so, inadvertently create a gulf between the brand and the consumer. How do we prevent this from happening?

The answer is to go back to basics — listen, share and let go.

  • Listening as an art form

Journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing, Brenda Ueland, said ‘listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force’. However, listening is a skill that has to a large degree been lost by today’s society.

It is also a skill that marketers need to hone to ensure relevant and insightful engagement with our consumers, despite the cacophony of brand messages that engulf them. The underlying principle of marketing today is that brands need to seek permission from consumers to enter their world, as opposed to bombarding them.

If we don’t deliver relevant and insightful engagement, the consumer will tune out the brand. A colleague asked an audience to name the billboards they have encountered in Johannesburg. No-one in that audience could name a single one — ‘tune out’ in practice.

  • What is yours is mine

The consumer should be the inspiration behind everything that marketers do. To quote Heavy D, ‘What’s yours is mine’.

Here is the reality: we are merely custodians of brands. Ultimately, the brand’s success or failure is determined by consumers, and so we have to actively and relentlessly seek to forge relationships that not only satisfy their desires but ignite and inspire their passions.

  • Let it go

Yes, it’s the name of the theme from Disney’s ‘Frozen’, that story of ultimate sibling bonding. Inherent in Disney’s story is a willingness to risk what we think is ours to help and satisfy another’s desires.

Consumers are increasingly the heroes of the conversations that we ignite. Acknowledging this, creating the relevant platforms on which they can stand, and letting go will see our brands become bigger than we could have ever conceived.

Note1: I got nothing but love for you, baby {Uh-huh}
I got nothing but love for you, honey {Yeah, whatever}
I got nothing but love for you, baby {What you got?}
I got nothing but love for you, honey {Yeah, whatever} (What’s yours is mine)
I got nothing but love for you, baby {Uh-huh} (What’s mine is mine)

Masingita Mazibuko is a marketing director at Unilever. The views expressed within this monthly “Africa Style” column are, however, entirely her own.

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