Friday, October 07, 2005

Can Marketing Lift an Entire Nation
from the Doldrums?

We all know that we direct marketers are masters at changing customer behavior. But the challenge reported in USA Today rises to a new level. Reveries summarizes the story for us ... do you think marketing can change the attitude of an entire nation and reverse its dismal jobless rate? Is it possible that large populations can drive themselves into a funk and be talked out of the funk with advertising?

The jobless rate is ten percent, growth is less than one percent, and Germany's "sagging pride ... and collective sense of gloom have reached critical levels" ... but it's nothing that a perky ad campaign campaign can't fix -- or so hopes Bertlesmann "and 23 other companies," reports David Crossland in USA Today. Bertlesmann, the publishing giant, and its cohorts "have kicked off a four-month, $36 million campaign to lift German spirits ... Using the slogan, 'You Are Germany,' the national pep talk began ... with an emotional two-minute TV ad featuring Katarina Witt and the theme song from the movie "Forrest Gump."

The idea, according to organizer Bernd Bauer, is to foment a "mood of optimism ... We alone can't change the country, but we may be able to initiate change, which then needs to be taken up by ordinary people, companies and organizations," he says. Richard Schuetze, a business consultant says something else: "It's a rather desperate attempt to generate enthusiasm," he says. Benno Simmering, a student pretty much agrees: "I'm not sure what it's going to achieve ... The only way you're going to change Germany's image of itself is to get serious about economic reforms," he comments.


At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Erin Caldwell said...

Yes, I think marketing can have an impact on a large scale, such as changing the attitude of an entire nation. I do, however, acknowledge that a shift - in joblessness, per say - certainly wouldn't happen overnight. I think advertising has a lot of power in influencing the perceptions and attitudes of society.

Really, any message that is presented well, consistently and repetitively can have an impact.

For a campaign of this type to be effective, the individual messages would have to be highly personal and moving. I think the "You are Germany" ad set to the "Forrest Gump" theme is on the right track. Music can be extremely useful in reaching people deeply and really allowing the message to resonate within an individual. There are few things that can move like music: use it well.

To be most effective, though, a positive message campaign should be accompanied by appropriate reforms to allow change. I don't think it would work as well to have one without the other. What good would it do to be sending out these feel-good messages to motivate people, when the environment makes it virtually impossible for them to actually act as they are motivated? Conversely, you could make reforms that - on paper - solve all of a society's social and economic problems, but the people may still be stuck in the rut of the old ways and need encouragement to move forward with the opportunities now available. Hence, the idea that these two really do need each other to promote wide-spread change.


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