When people tell me they're doing something for marketing purposes, I often ask what that means; the funny thing is that they often can't answer that question clearly. This is through no fault of their own. During my time as a CMO for global companies and now as the founder and CEO of B2B marketing agency, The Ricciardi Group, I've discovered that marketing is more or less a generic term applied to a huge sector of business.
Generally speaking, marketing is about reaching a particular audience with a compelling message that will drive them to take some sort of action. The tactics vary from email marketing and social media engagement to large-scale events and publicity campaigns. In other words, there is no one way to go about it. However, what I can definitively say is that there are a few common mistakes that companies often make when it comes to marketing, particularly early stage companies that are looking for rapid growth.
1. Targeting the wrong audience
Finding your target audience is the most critical part of any marketing initiative. This can go sideways in many ways. For example, if your customer base is purely local, using a national pay-per-click campaign would waste countless dollars from your marketing budget. If your customer base is young adults from Generation Z, running a marketing campaign on a social media platform that skews older (such as Facebook) would miss them completely. The trick here is to drill down your target into specific demographic groups, then identify the best way to communicate with them.
-Whose need am I fulfilling with my product or service? Age, gender, education, location, income level, job, and other factors come into play.
-Who do I want to be using my product or service?
-Who is my competition targeting? And should I compete with them or go after an untapped market?
"If your customer base is young adults from Generation Z, running a marketing campaign on a social media platform that skews older (such as Facebook) would miss them completely"
Those answers should be able to get you rough groups of customers. Once you have those, you can begin to drill down even more specifically through customer data, which can be gathered in many ways: in-person observations of competitors, examining social media followers, use of website analytics, and more. All of this effort funnels into the goal of having every marketing message connect with a potential customer, so make sure you discover your right audience.
"Generally speaking, marketing is about reaching a particular audience with a compelling message that will drive them to take some sort of action."
2. Using the wrong tone
Identifying your target audience is a significant first step, but after that, the message you use will make or break your marketing campaign. While you’ll need to tweak things based on the specifics of the demographic, one thing that is consistent across nearly all channels and groups is the need for a tone to be “empathetic” and relevant. By that, I mean you want potential customers to feel like you understand their needs and concerns rather than you’re just trying to sell them a product.
In 2016, Adobe launched its Make a Masterpiece campaign in which four world-renowned digital artists recreated lost paintings by Frida Kahlo, Friedrich Schinkel, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Caravaggio using nothing but Adobe Stock photos. The campaign was a creative way to celebrate history and culture, as well as an attempt to change the negative perception of stock imagery in art. Adobe also made it interactive by providing online tutorials.
Marisa Ricciardi, Founder and CEO of the Ricciardi Group
By showcasing the power of its product with stunning recreations of iconic art, Adobe appealed to its audience, many of which are designers and creatives, on multiple levels. It drew them in with a story about paying homage to the world’s great artists while inviting them to make their own masterpieces. This is how marketing should be done—not just by promoting a product, but by being attuned to your customers.
"Finding your target audience is the most critical part of any marketing initiative...the trick here is to drill down your target into specific demographic groups, then identify the best way to communicate with them."
3. Being robotic instead of human
In today’s world of automated everything (thank you AI), what we gain in efficiency we often lose in effectiveness. The marketer who understands when to apply technology and when to engage creative ingenuity will always win—because in the end, we are marketing to humans not robots. People now want to feel connected and understood, not sold to based on one person’s opinion.
A good example of how to infuse “humanness” is what’s happening on the visual side of marketing and advertising. Businesses that have historically used original production or stock photography (through companies like Adobe), are mixing in images with high-quality authentic photos to provide a sense of realism. Catch&Release, a company that curates and licenses authentic images from across the entire Internet, works with some of the world’s largest brands to serve up real life visuals, from video to photos. Their recent Herbal Essences campaign for Mother’s Day featured pregnant women from around the world overcoming “challenges” often associated with pregnancy.
In essence, effective marketing in today’s environment will mean leading with human connection while technology enables the tasks to happen more efficiently behind the scenes.
4. Information bombing
We all suffer from information overload these days. Much of this is due to the proliferation of marketing channels as a result of the internet and mobile age. Furthermore, basically anyone with a smartphone can voice their opinion about everything from the best restaurant to the most worthy political candidate.
Marketing at its best is about precise messaging to specific audiences. However, some companies go with the kitchen-sink approach, throwing every possible bit of information out there. The result can create an overwhelmed customer that lacks focus. Instead, less is more. A clear, concise message and a clean presentation ensure that nothing is lost and the viewer isn't scared off.
The master of this is Apple, whose simple philosophy towards marketing has powered them since the early 1980s. By now, their campaigns are iconic—a perfect example of that is how the iPod silhouette campaign became synonymous with the early 2000s. Now, years later, they have done it again with their “Behind the Mac” campaign. The core message is simple and clean: using a Mac, people from all over the world are making wonderful things, and you can too. Not everyone can be Apple, but every company, whether B2B or B2C, can learn from the strategy of utilizing streamlined and striking imagery combined with simple value proposition-based messaging.
"People now want to feel connected and understood, not sold to based on one person’s opinion"
There's a common thread through the advice above, and it's something that I often say to clients: treat your customers as you’d want to be treated...like a human. Beyond that, keep it real. In a sense, the terms B2B and B2C may soon be a thing of the past. Instead we may be best served to think of it as Human to Human (H2H) marketing.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."