Do Unto Others: The New Marketing Gospel

Thanksgiving is a good day to ponder the edict that permeated my days in divinity school and has influenced Western culture so much: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Old school marketing believed this wholeheartedly–in fact, it couldn’t have believed otherwise. If you wanted to reach hundreds of millions of Americans, you had to saturate the television airwaves with a single, catchy message–and repeat it until their skulls were ready to cave in. The same medicine and the same dosage for everyone.

But, with the rise of cable TV and the Internet, additional possibilities emerged. (See Seth Godin on permission marketing and this Fast Company article on political microtargeting.) The new marketing gospel is “Do unto others as they would like to be done to.”

We can segment audiences and speak to them individually, delivering relevant and timely information. Why present a watered-down, universally palatable (but just OK) message, when we can reach people exactly where they are and with what they need? It’s not about finding one elusive strategy that will speak to everyone. Nowadays, it’s about recognizing that nothing will speak to everyone–and that fact presents an opportunity. are you making use of it?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.