Marketing and the Mirror of Erised

Let me explain. The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is.” — Albus Dumbledore to Harry Potter

I am beginning a new journey in a new role as a marketing leader. As such, and fresh from a delightful coffee with @mpedson, I think we need to talk about marketing.

What Marketing Was

Traditionally, marketing has been fundamentally manipulative. Marketing was designed to make products (and brands) desirable by whatever means necessary or possible.

(If you are not a Harry Potter fan, then get reading. The few nights of sleep you’ll lose reading them are a very reasonable price to pay.)

In the first book we find poor orphaned but magical Harry around about the castle, where, in an old and unused room, he finds the Mirror of Erised, in which he sees his deeply yearned for and long gone parents. Ron, sees himself holding the big trophy. The mirror, as you well know, shows people their deepest desire (hence the name).

 

Traditional marketing tries to put its brand or product in your Erised reflection. It wants you to want it (with some apologies to Cheap Trick). It strives to make things an object of desire that you happily pay for.

What Marketing Can Be

Marketing 2.0 (or enlightened or social or what have you modern marketing) is a different thing altogether. The idea is to put you back in the mirror — you, slightly better. But the very best marketing, the marketing I aspire to, my Erised, shows an improved you in the mirror, along with a real, credible way to get there.

In plain(er) English, it’s like this: Every human wants the opportunity to aspire, to be something a little bigger, a little better. The goal is to build a company that helps people do that. Helps its employees, its customers, partners and the world think a little bigger, be a little better.

The new marketing is about building a bridge on the back of a slightly guilded self-Erised reflection, right to the place where the treasure is stored.

That’s the point of thought leadership, the point of content marketing. The point of Nike ads telling us to walk away from the notion of greatness as reserved for the chosen few, and give it back to each of us.

Marketing, as I try to practice it, is about helping us all to find our greatness.

The best is yet to come.

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