How the Old Testament can help out modern marketers

Today, religion seems to influence everything from politics to editorial content to media and marketing. So it came as no surprise to me, when I found elements of a religious practice I recently observed, the “laying of” (or putting on) of tefillin in the Jewish religion, in the practice of marketing.

Susan Cantor:Thinktopia

Tefillin are essentially two small black leather boxes, which contain parchment on which verses from the Old Testament are inscribed, connected by leather straps, so that they can be wrapped around one’s arm and one’s head. Its daily application is an ancient ritual meant to connect the practitioner -- mind, body and soul -- to prayers and to God. In multiple sources on this subject, it is stated that man engages in this practice so that “attention is directed to the head, heart and hand. It teaches [us] to dedicate ourselves to a higher power in all that we think, feel and do.”

So, why, you ask, has this event inspired me to write this article and how is it related to marketing? The association is very clear and very profound. In fact, marketing today is the practice of connecting the head to the heart to the hands, both literally and figuratively. As marketers, we dedicate ourselves daily to influence consumers in what they think, feel and do. In order to do so, we dissect the whole consumer and design a systematic process that allows us to understand what is in consumers’ heads, so that we can stir their hearts and ultimately get them to act with their hands. Or so we should.

The first step to marketing in this new world order is to explore consumer’s mindset, attitudes and behaviors. We use different techniques to discover what they’re thinking, what they need and how we can influence them. From this uncovering, we seek to craft sound and resonant strategy to drive marketplace success. In order to accomplish this, we dig deep and spend countless hours honing a strategic vision that can speak to our consumers in a relevant and compelling way. This is the all-important starting point because without this understanding of the consumer and the development of a sound brand strategy, we can’t engage consumers or get them to FEEL something about our companies, our brands and our products.

Of course, feelings and emotions are the outward expression of what’s in our heart. They are often unexplainable and rather unpredictable, and whether good or bad, emotions guide our decision-making, our actions and our outlook. In today’s world, marketers are all just trying to get consumers to feel something. Most marketing and advertising is wallpaper. We ignore it, or acknowledge it ever so briefly and move on. It’s commonly quoted that as much as 2/3rds of all advertising is ignored, and that number is possibly far greater online and in social media where people opt in and out with tremendous ease, according to multiple sources on the subject. Optimism, commitment and engagement only result when we create an emotional impact that is real, fresh and truthful. Brand love results from interaction that is authentic and meaningful.

Finally, infusing a brand with meaning should inspire execution that gets us to act. And the increasing incidence of smartphone adoption has led to most of the action happening right in the palm of our hands. A major milestone in the US was just reached, according to a new report from Nielsen, where just under half (49.7%) of American mobile subscribers are smartphone users. Just one year ago, that penetration stood at 36%. On a related note, Mark Zuckerberg recently buoyed his company’s underperforming stock by talking about his number one priority in 2012: Facebook’s mobile strategy. Quite literally, today engagement is irrefutably mobile and portable. Our hands are an extension of our mouth and our fingertips are our voice.

Just as an ancient ritual binds the head, heart and hands, so too does the practice of modern marketing today. It’s a brave new world but the practical ways to influence people haven’t changed a bit.

Susan Cantor, Principal and COO of Thinktopia, a New York-based global strategic brand innovation firm, has worked with major brands, including Levi’s, Wrigley, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, American Express, and PayPal. Before that, she was President and CEO of the New York office of Lowe Worldwide, representing firms including General Motors and Unilever. She lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters.

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