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Pastoral Marketing

Marketers love it when the lines between feelings, perceptions, needs, wants, and reality are all fuzzy.

Conventional marketing strategies address “perceived” rather than “real” need. “Perception is reality,” so marketers sell their wares to people’s perceptions—reality be damned. If I as a marketer can sell you the next beauty aid that will make you feel pretty or the next hot car that makes you feel as though others will think you are rich or powerful, I have succeeded. Never mind that my lip gloss isn’t going to cure your homeliness and all the leather interior in Corinth can’t fix the reality of your negative balance sheet. Buy, Baby, buy! And we will.

Making matters worse, we Americans think we feel better when we have upended Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I may NEED safety, but promise me cool technology that will self-actualize me (at half price), and we’re there, Baby!

America is steadily becoming a place where only non-profit organizations and doctors are straight-forwardly addressing needs.

  • Parents too often salve feelings rather than help children navigate the tough juxtaposition of their real talents and efforts with the real world they will inevitably enter.
  • Even churches. During our tough times, we want our churches and preachers to be about truth, too, but until we face that excruciating moment in our lives we’ll line the pockets of preachers who ever-so-cheerfully help us be our best selves (and then we’ll complain that their rich).

Marketers, even religious marketers, appeal to our lowest common denominator—read this slowly–our perceptions of our feelings about what we think we need to feel better.

Reality be damned.

The marketplace needs a little Pastoral Marketing: marketing that occasionally looks at the human condition and offers something that does more than promise, but actually offers a solution to a real need. This business is incredibly tricky. For a busindrunk-in-dark-place.jpgess to look past what the consumer thinks they need to what they really need, it has to search its own soul in the process. We probably know what this fellow will buy and how to appeal to him. But how do we engage him to buy what he really needs?)

And that’s just one hurdle. The next big hurdle is knowing that whatever it is you offer may only engage a small percentage of the target audience because most solutions to real needs mean that human consumers must take some action themselves. Real solutions to real problems don’t come to passive recipients. We will usually have to do something ourselves to experience progress.

  • I can give you a book, but it’s of no use to you until you read it.
  • I can give you a ticket to an anti-death penalty concert, but you would have to attend it to hear the message.
  • I can give you a seat at an immigration forum, but I can’t drive you there and I can’t open your mind.
  • I can give you the food, but I can’t make you feed a homeless person.
  • I can give you a fish, but unless you allow me to teach you to how to fish, can you improve your life?

What I think should be celebrated are the companies that take the risk;

  • who put in motion a program, promotion, service, or offer that looks at people “pastorally”;
  • who look under the surface of the consumer and their obvious wants to address their real needs;
  • who aren’t content to grab the low hanging fruit of consumer feelings but who look inside and remind themselves that all of mankind is partly held together by what hurts.

Let’s celebrate the imaginative and caring business people who find creative ways to give something of consequence to the consumer or to humanity at large—that will really make a difference, not just change a feeling.

Business is not heartless. Marketers care about the soul. Not all advertising is BS. Those of us who promote and sell for a living aren’t inherently evil.

BUT, business could, with just a little effort, transform their promotions, services, and offerings into more than the transfer of “stuff” from a distribution center to our closets and garages. To borrow from Radio Shack: Don’t jmoney-in-hat.jpgust sell stuff, change people. Don’t just make an “impression,” make a difference.

I may be wrong here, but I think the reason for-profit business doesn’t go this extra pastoral step much less the extra mile isn’t steeped in anything sinister or even cynicism (though I’m sure there’s plenty to go around). I think it’s mostly caused by old business systems and archaic assumptions. Most businesses have a heart; most have charitable foundations or are at least willing to write a check to a non-profit with their hand out.
So what’s missing?

  • A mindset that keeps the for-profit side of the business at arm’s length from the heart of its leaders and employees.
  • An assumption that the costs of social responsibility eat into profits.
  • Communications between the charitable arm and the for-profit arm of the business aren’t developed to work together.These behaviors compartmentalize “charity” and “profit” into separate corners. Most businesses even formalize these compartments, creating a charitable foundation that the company funds. Then it’s up to the foundation to set up its own organization (including marketing) to raise additional funds and awareness and to disperse from its coffers.

    Perhaps this systemization is intended to protect the profit-making endeavors of the company.One part of the company focuses on bringing in the bacon; the other part takes crumbs that fall off the table (that we can “afford”) to serve the under-served. Then upper management chiefs sell this goodwill to the employee-Indians: “Look what a caring company we are and you are a part of! Oh, and, we have opportunities for you to volunteer. And, by the way, thank you for the United Way contribution we draw from your paycheck each week.”
    I’m really not beating up on this time-honored American way of doing business/charity. It is way better than nothing; way better than plain old greed.
    But imagine:

    • What if the marketing people from the for-profit side of the company (who are likely the most creative people in the company) were paired with the charitable side of the company to develop programs together?
    • What if company by-laws demanded that a portion of revenues (you heard me right, revenues) be distributed to the poor—and distribution was required, oh, weekly or monthly?
    • What if a requirement of employment was community service and the number of hours went up with tenure?
    • What if the charitable actions committee reported not to Human Resources, but to Sales or Marketing?

    on-the-move.jpgPersonally, I can imagine incredibly creative and, yes, profitable new ways of doing business. And much less need for so many non-profits. And maybe even prisons. And before you start coughing, “it can’t work,” or, “our investors would never stand for it,” think about it first. Have you done that? Really?
    But I have digressed, diving into the issues about supporting charities, which is only a portion of Pastoral Marketing—or this blog for that matter. Marketing, as I’m defining it, is first and foremost incorporating a heart for people into the way we transact business—and using that heart to do more than pull on heartstrings to capture sales.

    I’m a capitalist, not a socialist.But,

  • I believe it is possible to address people’s real needs in promotions, services, and offers that simultaneously assists the self-interest of Brand.
  • I believe that the best ways to raise the capital for social responsibility is in the for-profit sector.
  • I believe that the same people who can make those powerful commercials that make us cry over family and success and friendship are capable of going one more step to translate that 60-second emotion into actions that do more than promise a meaningful outcome.come-on-people.jpg
  • I believe that hundreds of thousands of Americans want to work for companies that are unashamedly looking out for people (and pets and the environment for that matter) rather than simply trying to get their money.
  • I believe that the rise of social entrepreneurialism is proving that new models of doing business will prove to traditional capitalists that there is a new way to do business that is at once helpful and profitable.
  • I believe that for every 3 or 4 greedy CEOs, corporations or entertainers who horde their millions, there’s at least one Bono, Bill Cosby, or Bill Gates, who aggressively use their resources to make the community of the world a better place with their actions while they go about making a good living, too…and that this ratio could improve.
  • I believe that non-profits could spend less time making “asks” of big corporations and spend more time sharing their expertise in creating innovative consumer-level programs that add consequential value to people’s lives.

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