Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Advancing Companies. Marketing the Business

Too legit/

Too legit/

Too legit too quit.

--MC Hammer

What makes a business 'legit'?

This is a question that a company's marketing must answer at the speed of everyday. It is also a question that motivates many social science pursuits. The company and the scientist can better answer the questions they need to answer -- such as, what makes a behavior or a product legitimate? -- if they can gain some sense of how people's minds account for the environment around us. An ability to see the world from the point of view of others can improve the bottom-line. Whether we're talking about a company's successful marketing campaign, or an accurate compilation of facts by the scientist: knowing not just what people do, but why they do what they do, from their points of view, can often be the difference between accurately gauging an environment (success!) and failing to see it for what it is or what it could be. A business decides its own legitimacy only in concert with an environment it doesn't and can't entirely own. Understanding the 'unownable' minds around us is crucial.

Once we understand the other's point of view is important, and that we can't simply just own the other's point of view, how should we relate to it? The marketer must still understand the world well enough to motivate it. How best to do that?

Take a look at the quote at the bottom of this post. It is written by Jurgen Habermas, one of the 'philosophers-of-our-time,' a German scholar, social theorist, and empirical sociologist. His point: to motivate another ultimately depends on the creation of shared truth. In motivating the human being, it is risky, undependable, and a sign of weakness to have to rely on tricks to get what you want. Stability comes instead from motivating "rationally" -- from sharing a common set of interests with your subject. It is a lesson the best communicators instinctively know; the rest of us could do well to learn it. For marketing is now, without a doubt, like it or not, a central experience of the individual and a foundational cornerstone of the successful organization.

In sum, this post is about truth: marketers are in the business of creating it. One way is to impose a truth upon a people -- a marketing blitz. A less expensive way is to find shared truths with a people, a public, a community -- a consumer base -- and communicate very specifically and directly about how the company fulfills the truth in question. It is in this way the marketer can shape the most effective communication campaigns.

Here is how Habermas puts it:

If belief in legitimacy is conceived as an empirical phenomenon without an immanent relation to truth, the grounds upon which it is explicitly based have only psychological significance. Whether such grounds can sufficiently stabilize a given belief in legitimacy depends on the institutionalized prejudices and observable behavioral dispositions of the group in question. If, on the other hand, every effective belief in legitimacy is assumed to have an immanent relation to truth, the grounds on which it is explicitly based contain a rational validity claim that can be tested and criticized independently of the psychological effect of these grounds. In the first case, only the motivational function of the justificatory grounds can be the object of investigation. In the second, their motivational function cannot be considered independently of their logical status, that is, of their criticizable claim to motivate rationally. (Legitimation Crisis, 1973, 97)

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