Imagination versus Pragmatism

Dubai was all about the dream without the reality, and landed itself with a huge debt. (courtesy of Bobesh)

There are two school of thoughts in marketing. The first belongs to the world of imagination while the second is centred on pragmatism. Do these spheres of marketing always have to sit on opposite poles?

Let us look at this in some detail.

Everybody knows about the big idea in advertising. Creative agencies stretch their canvasses of imagination - and occasionally their client's budgets - to offer an out of this world portrayal of the world tinged with fairy dust. The sky is the limit in their portrayals of how consumers can elevate themselves to the status of slick, smart and sexy simply by buying their much touted products. BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Machine" is an example of this.

In the world of imagination, marketing's chief role is to capitalise on the possibilities of purchase. By using powerful visual and verbal cues, advertisements are able to tease one's right brain, touching the heart and stirring the emotions. Brands are seen as an extension of one's personality and an emblem of one's own unique sense of identity.

The flipside in marketing is the grittier and more realistic world of pragmatism. Purveyors of this discipline emphasise price, utility and value over that of fantasy and make-belief. To get customers to agree to a purchase decision, labels like "Everyday Low Price", "Price Guarantee", and "Lasts Longer than the Rest" are used.

Bottom-line marketing as I like to call it can be highly profitable. Just look at how Walmart has grown to become the world's largest retailer by coupling huge inventories with economical pricing. The rise of house brands and private labels have also shown how significant pragmatics can be in the world of marketing.

As marketers which school of thought should we lean towards? Do we seek to adopt aspirational desire as our mantra, using visuals and words that captivate customers? Or should we seek to appeal to one's left-brained sensibility, capitalising on the current overriding concerns of how one can stretch one's dollar?

I believe that the answer lies in fulfilling both aspects.

Great marketing efforts not only tug at the heartstrings but seek to satisfy one's analytic side. While proclaiming how a product, service or experience may transform one's life, it may be useful to also look realistically at the dollars and cents vis-a-vis your targeted customer group.

The romance and passion of a sensational campaign needs to be matched with delivering superior service and efficiency at a price point that your customer will swallow. Even the rich and wealthy are drawn towards discounts and promotions every now and then!

The next time you design a marketing strategy for your product or service, think holistically about how the imaginative and the pragmatic aspects could sit together. Collectively, they will yield a far better outcome than just focusing on one alone.

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