Look Like Who You Want to Be

by David Heitman

Marketing is always about envisioning a better future.

It is growth-oriented. Goals and objectives are constantly in view. It’s about better results tomorrow than are being experienced today. It’s about the future more than the past.

Sure, you may refer to past successes or your stellar track record; but the assumption—unlike the disclaimer you hear on investment company ads—is that past performance is predictive of future results.

For the most part, when you are marketing your product, service, organization or policy, you are ultimately asking people to envision a better future—one that depends on embracing your idea.

That’s why weight loss programs always show a BEFORE and AFTER picture. It helps you envision a better self. Without even thinking about it, we mentally Photoshop our own heads onto those new, sleek, ripped-abbed, cellulite-free bodies in the AFTER picture, and voila! the future will clearly be better than the past.

This means that marketers are all a bunch of raving optimists, ‘cause hey, there’s no point marketing something unless a bigger, better, brighter future is out there to be grasped.

What this means when crafting a brand is that it should be developed to reflect not so much who you are today but rather who you will be tomorrow.

If you’re a start-up, it may be necessary to position your company as major player. People shouldn’t be saying, “Oh, who are these new guys in the industry?” Rather, when they see your website or advertising, they should be kicking themselves asking, “How in the world did we miss these guys? Add ‘em to the short list.”

If you’re an established market player losing market share to a few upstarts, then craft your brand to reflect who you’ll be in the more nimble, fluid, competitive future.

Marketing is also future-oriented as an ROI proposition. As Jodee, our VP of Creative Services said in a meeting recently, “For a client, writing a check to an ad agency feels like buying a very expensive lottery ticket.” Retaining a firm like ours, hiring in-house marketing talent; making a big media buy, or reserving a pricey booth at a trade show—these are all heavily leveraged bets that you’ll make more than you spend.

So what does a smart, visionary, optimistic marketing bet look like?

1) It builds on the authentic DNA of your organization—the thing you are passionate about, will uphold at all costs, and that you’re better at than anyone on the planet. Things to which you’ll always be true, now and forever.

2) It promises a shared better future for you and your customers—a win-win partnership where you and your customer build a better world together.

3) It anticipates the inevitability of change and your company’s/product’s/policy’s ability to adapt to that inevitable change. You’ll be as relevant tomorrow as you are today because you look and feel nimble, adaptive and creative enough to survive cataclysmic change.

It’s all about being future-focused. Pessimists need not apply.