The Adidas story in Marketing Week caught my eye this morning and of course that was partly the intention.
It also got me thinking more deeply about the article (my elaboration likelihood was huge), I was puzzled at the use of language.
It’s well known that stories are powerful ways of communicating. Think Nordic sagas, religious parables and so on. The world of management refers to them as crucial ways to engage audiences and paint vivid visions. Great leaders tell good stories.
What however is a ‘relentless and aggressive’ story? What is inferred (cf Grice, Sperber and Wilson, Clark) by this choice of words? what does such language symbolise about the speaker?
If stories are meant to engage why on earth would you want to communicate in a relentless and aggressive way? Isn’t this the style of communication that is typical of despots and dictators rather than someone proposing the value of their products for customers to review and select? Is this an example of old fashioned marketing monologic rather dialogic communication (cf Ballantyne and Varey)?
What does this language indicate about the mind set of the speaker and the social norms of the business world they inhabit? Is aggression and relentlessness lauded as a way of behaving in that business and in that market sector?
Research I recently conducted on sales interactions revealed that the customers sense of value is associated with the respect and politeness that is given by the seller to the buyer. Relentlessness (a mistaken word for tenacity perhaps?) is viewed by customers as hectoring and intrusive, aggressiveness is deemed to be impolite and immature. This way of communicating is the sign of the junior and the inexperienced rather than the mature and wise.
What is the point of describing your work as relentless and aggressive? I can only presume that is how the buyer of advertising services offered by the pitching ad agency judges their suppliers? In other words the buyer believes ‘relentlessness and aggression’ are good attributes thus the ad agenciy’s pitch is based on fitting in with an assumed way of behaving that is deemed the right way to go about business. The language of of relentless aggression signifies the cutting edge of competitive attitude, it is militaristic in tone and indicative of a macho managerialist world view.
But…ironically isn’t it so anti-marketing ? A marketing campaign that isn’t marketing? Spooky!
Sure take your competitive situation seriously, sure fight it out to the best of your ability, sure keep at it when the going gets tough.
It may even be the case that a target customer for Adidas is an aspiring athlete who is deemed to be successful by relentlessness and aggression or sees themselves as relentless and aggressive. Smudging customer insight about attitudes and behaviours into a way of talking to your customer is probably a mistake however.
Talk of relentlessness and aggression in this way seems all about how YOU want to communicate with customer not communicating on issues that matter to them. Why assume a relentless and aggressive approach to story telling is an appropriate way to engage with customers and invite them to hand over money to buy your brand and its products?
Stop trying to give people the impression how hard and driven you are and start thinking about conveying the value of your products to your customers would be my suggestion.