Sunday, February 7, 2010

Media and Marketing

In order to discuss the union of these two concepts, one must first define their differences. Because they are so intertwined in the post-modern world, many definitions simply consider them the same thing. At the very least, I believe they are different branches on the same tree, if not separate and distinct trees altogether. They both possess their own aspects of both science and art, while I think it is their art (and not their science) that creates the greatest divide.

Permit me to save a lengthy discussion of the etymology of the word "media," and just say, for our purposes that media is referring primarily to entertainment mass media such as television, movies, novels, and their digital kin. The content of such media is a creative (if not artistic) endeavor, which by its nature attracts a crowd. The easier such media content is for people to access, the bigger the following will be. Therefore, it is only natural that such media would ideally be free and widely accessible.

Marketing is about getting products and services into people's hands. Because it is, at its core, merely a transfer of information, it requires some form of media to have a mass effect. (As a side bar, it should be noted that the most effective form of marketing, word-of-mouth, does not inherently need any form of media at all—though visual aids help.) The art of marketing is not in convincing people they need the product, but in finding those people who do. Therefore, it is ideal that the products and services being offered are of the highest quality and directed at the individuals who understand that quality.

In the early days of radio, companies like Colgate-Pamolive realized that they could increase sales to their target audience by providing dramatic, serialized programming. These "soap operas" were designed to develop loyal listeners comprised mostly of the company's target audience (housewives, in this case). The company could then market new products or additional services to the audience in the form of mass advertising. Because companies advertised high quality products to individuals who understood that quality, those companies developed enough profits to expand the funding for the production of media.

As companies began to grow in size and new forms of media (like television) were invented, advertising became its own industry—and entertainment media exploded along with it. While the Motion Picture industry kept itself independently funded (until product placements) through ticket sales and the like, television (at least in the US) had always been a free service funded by advertising. The consequence of this was that the entertainment was primarily influenced by commercial interests.

Television, as it became mainstream, became the culture in America. Because of its accessibility, it became the most widespread source of information, and therefore one of the widest influences on people's thinking. As industrial innovation slowed, companies shifted from larger-scale manufacturing to smaller-scale consumer production. This drove them to enlist mass advertising, rather than learn how to market to customers directly. The rising demand for advertising space, in turn, threatened to over-saturate the market, driving demand for larger audiences. "Larger audiences" were not defined by the quality, but by the quantity of viewers.

Therefore, the advertising industry called for media programming which was directed at the lowest common-denominator. Psychologists, and other marketing "experts" were employed to make the process more efficient. The result of which was the realization that media could teach audiences to be emotionally susceptible. An individual with low emotional intelligence, was more likely to impulse-buy, buy on credit, and buy non-essential or luxury items.

If media, however, is set up as the driving force of the media-marketing continuum, then the results might be quite different. Markets fluctuate—that is just a fact of economics and people—but what people never need less of is good information. If media takes the lead, then the leading media would be that which possessed the best information or the most truth. The very best entertainment, valuable for the mind and spirit; the very best news and documentaries, definitely truthful; and the demand for the very best products as sponsors, once again.

How would media "take the lead"? Well, if the best media imparts the most truth, then simply by refusing to be dependent upon any entity whose purpose is not truth. This is a decision that requires emotional maturity. There is no reason that media cannot be provided for free, but the costs have to be covered by a source that has no control over what the media creators decide to do. Ideally, the media creators would own the marketing concerns (more on this later).

The interesting thing is that if media takes the lead, but maintains funding from marketing, its growth is restrained by the markets. There are many examples in the history of free enterprise to indicate that those who have a passion for their business will figure out how to adapt. Basically, this will give media creators the incentive to understand the marketing process and fix the problems, further informing their creation of compelling and wise media.

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