Advertising Isn’t Just For Customers

Advertising-Is-not-just-for-customers

People must be motivated by a deeper Cause.… I believe that people don’t come to work to earn money for themselves and the company. They come to work because the product does something worthwhile, and this is what gets people inspired.

—Bill George, former CEO Medtronic1

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With increasing competitive pressures from existing businesses and industry disruptors, corporations have turned to place greater emphasis on satisfying their employees to maintain or gain a competitive edge.

This has resulted in everything from Google-esque compensation packages to creating—or more often attempting to create—cultures and business practices based around unique core values, all in an effort to engage and retain employees with more than a paycheck.

One area that has largely been ignored in attracting and inspiring employees is corporate advertising. Most see advertising as only for customers and core values as only for employees. But, the reality is that advertising and core values should do double duty for customers and employees. If your advertising does not rouse your employees, then it’s likely not doing as good a job as it should with your customers; if the core values you want your employees to live can’t be translated into something relevant for your customers, you run the risk of creating a fractured organization with a vision that creates a fundamental disconnect between employees and customers.

On the importance of corporate advertising to employees, David Ogilvy writes, “Corporate advertising can improve the morale of your employees; who wants to work for an outfit that nobody has ever heard of? It can make it easier to recruit better people, at all levels.”2

The best corporate advertising, however, goes beyond just improving morale to truly inspiring employees.

When Steve Jobs was looking for a campaign to relaunch Apple, he wanted to, in his words, “prove that Apple is still alive … and that it still stands for something special.”3

And, Jobs wasn’t looking for a campaign solely focused on consumers: it was also for Apple’s employees. Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson writes:

“This wasn’t about processor speed or memory,” Jobs recalled. “It was about creativity.” It was directed not only at potential customers, but also at Apple’s own employees: “We at Apple had forgotten who we were. One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are. That was the genesis of that campaign.”4

“That campaign” was the “Think Different” Campaign. How could you not want to work for a company like that?

Yet, despite the multitude of companies professing to care about and invest in employees, most corporate advertising falls far short of even attempting to inspire them. Ogilvy’s admonition of corporate advertising is as accurate today as it was when he wrote it in 1983: “The copy in corporate advertising is distinguished by a self-serving, flatulent pomposity which defies reading, and agencies waste endless hours concocting slogans of incredible fatuity.”5

Next time you plan corporate advertising, don’t just consider customers and potential customers. Instead, also consider: Is it enough to inspire your employees to be willing to devote at least a third of their lives to your Cause?

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  1.  Inspire!: What Great Leaders Do, Lance Secretan, 2004.
  2. Ogilvy On Advertising, David Ogilvy, 1983.
  3. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson, 2011.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ogilvy.
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