A Bridge


In its widest possible sense, we must consider our marketing work as a process of understanding and satisfying human desires. Today I want to describe this process through the (abused?) metaphor of the bridge.

Because after all, what is it that we do? In prosaic terms: we try to give the audience what they want, so that they buy our product.

So we have the brand on one side, and the user on the other. The first of the two shores has the desire to connect with the other, while the second has neither the need nor the desire: we are a bridge, and our job is performed properly if we allow the passage from one side to the other in the most natural, painless way as possible. The more the transition between the two sides is seamless, the better we are doing our job.

The river separating the two sides is made up of all the limitations that make the audience NOT use the service or buy the product. These limitations are virtually endless, as numerous as the springs and triggers and levers that guide the human mind. They can be the price, discount, perceived value etc.; the life span of the product (of course I buy bread once a day and a car once a decade); both direct and indirect competition (Henry Ford was a strongly influential indirect competitor in the market of horseshoe manufacturers); the psychological factors, as exclusivity (only the cool ones have it, I must have it too) or the herd-factor (they all have it, I must have it too); elements much more subtle and fleeting than these, hard to define for us because they are more part of psychology or sociology than marketing*. The number of these factors tends to infinity because our decisions are based on a psyche whose inputs are also tending towards infinity. I do not think “infinity” is the right term per se, that’s why I want to use “tend to”: maybe I’ll talk about it some other time.

*(And yeah, let’s say it, most “marketers” think they can claim themselves one with no real need of studying any such complex subjects at all. Knowing the history and implications of Nike’s Swoosh or quoting “less is more” every once in a while just does the trick doesn’t it.)

The process of facilitating the passage can be tackled in three different ways: pushing the brand towards the user; pushing the user towards the brand; facilitating the route between the two banks. The practical implications are all that experience and creativity suggest, but abstraction brings it all down to these three. I’m talking meta- here, so I won’t dig any deeper.

The point to keep in mind is: both banks benefit from the good functioning of the bridge. That is, the crossing must also bring benefits to the “user” bank, not only the “brand” bank. If we forget this fundamental point, we will become one of those old brands that have been successful in the 80s and are slowly decaying, walking dead continuing to insist with a one-way advertising, and fail to understand that traffic on the bridge must flow in both directions.

So in all respects we are not, we must not be at the service of the client or the brand: we must serve the bridge, facilitate both ways, honing its mechanisms: in short, make life better for all those who want or have to cross to the other side.

Soundtrack: Anthropocene by Delusion Squared