Don't Advertise, Solve a Problem!

I don’t generally love reading business books, to be honest. I know that sounds odd coming from someone who has written a few myself. I just find most of them to be rather obvious, and they often leave me feeling like the topic could have easily been a blog post instead of a novel. There are of course several exceptions that I have read and could list out, but those are exceptions.

And I’m reading one of those exceptions right now...Good Is The New Cool: Market Like You Give A Damn.

In full disclosure, I know one of the authors, Afdhel Aziz, and I recently did a speaking engagement with him. But that doesn’t cloud my judgment for what I consider to be a really good business that will get you thinking differently about marketing your brand. Which is the point, after all, of any book in my opinion.

One of my favorite tenants of the book is “don’t advertise, solve a problem.” Brilliant...and I’m totally in.

Marketing shouldn’t be about pushing products and selling functional features. Functional benefits are a cost of entry for any category. It’s what you do to add value to people’s lives that makes a difference, and it’s what separates products from brands. I speak to this all the time in my NYU class, Managing Products and Building Brands.

By solving a problem, the brand does in fact rise above the product features it offers. By solving a problem, the brand creates a firm place in society as an active member of the community. By solving a problem, the brand goes beyond the functional and into the emotional...making a connection with its customers far beyond what the product could do itself.

Afdhel points to many examples. Warby Parker for one...providing much needed reading glasses to those in need. Citi-bikes for another...providing a sustainable way to commute to work. Facebook for another...providing internet access to the most remote regions of the world.

These brands aren’t pushing their products but instead they are solving problems. It’s a fresh way to think about marketing and the role a brand, any brand, plays in our culture. For me, it’s a paradigm shift in how we should think about how we spend our marketing budgets. And Good Is The New Cool is a paradigm shift for me in how I think about business books.

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