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Be A Servant Marketer

To Connect With Baby Boomers, Be A Servant Marketer

By Jim Gilmartin –

Contemporary theories of marketing are increasingly defined in the context of collaborative relationships between a marketer and customers that operate on behalf of meeting needs of the latter. But honoring this idea is often problematic because a continuing focus on sales quotas pressure marketing and sales staff to concentrate more on making deals than on helping people meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations.

What’s necessary is the redefinition of rules and terms to which marketers and management have long become accustomed. To begin, you need to understand the challenges involved in synchronizing your company values, marketing, operating policies and practices and the impact of company culture on the life stage values of Baby Boomers.

One of the terms also begging redefinition is marketing. Today, enlightened marketers consider marketing “a conversation.” However, too often marketers frame the contents of a monologue rather than the outlines of a conversation. That is how it was in marketing — when the marketer had virtually full control over the message and the medium. To benefit optimally from a company brand, a company needs to assume the role of conversant instead of message master.

To have a strong presence with Baby Boomers, a brand must stand for something that is meaningful to them aside from its functional attributes. It must symbolize values and beliefs that resonate with the Boomer’s own values and beliefs. In telling its story, a company needs to project their values, but a thin line exists between brand messages that reflect an organization’s social conscience and messages that are merely expressions of braggadocio.

Maslovian resonance (aspiring to self-actualization) considers life as being processed à la B-cognition (for being-cognition) by self-actualizing people. “However, we spend most of our lives processing the world through D-cognition (for deficiency-cognition,)” said psychologist Abraham Maslow.

Typically, traditional marketing takes its cues from the D-cognition domain. For that reason marketers often see themselves as “curing” Baby Boomers’ deficiencies. This presents unfamiliar challenges. How do you approach Baby Boomers who have no sense of deficiency (in a Maslovian sense) in their lives? The answer is creating a company culture that reflect the company and its products/services as gateways for being (meaningful) experiences that support achieving Baby Boomer life aspirations.

This Maslovian orientation can give a company a formidable competitive distinction that is likely immune to erosion by competitors. However, reaching that state depends on a profound understanding of the differences between marketing based on Baby Boomers’ deficiencies and marketing based on the Boomer’s beingness. 

So what’s a marketer to do? One approach is to understand and build your campaigns upon the principles of “Servant Marketing” (always putting the customer’s needs first). The idea of Servant Marketing is a concept derived from the term “Servant Leader” first coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader. It focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. It is also similar to Customer-focused marketing defined by Dr. Peter Fader, author of Customer Centricity, as offering customers a consistently great and relevant experience across all touch points.

While traditional marketing generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power over the consumer by those at the “top of the pyramid” (or message masters), Servant Marketing is different. The Servant Marketer shares power, puts the needs of customers first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Becoming a Servant Marketer requires fashioning your messages to reflect as many of the following approaches as appropriate:

  • Reflect your product or service as a gateway to meaningful (life) experiences and aspiration fulfillment
  • Connect your brand with core Underlying Motivating Values, i.e., the need for individuality and connectedness to others (relationships), purpose, adaptation and preservation of well-being that are the fountainhead of all behavior
  • Echo images/copy used reflecting who Baby Boomers want to be, not who they are
  • Reinforce your product or service as being in touch with your Baby Boomer customer’s values and motivators and that you want relationships them
  • Reflect your product or service as providing/supporting a sense of purpose to a Baby Boomer’s life
  • Reflect your product or service as offering control and meeting desires for a simpler and balanced life
  • Reflect your product or service as offering novel experiences to help maintain a sense of vitality
  • Reflect your product or service as offering opportunities for learning, pleasure, personal growth and improved skills
  • Reflect your product or service as offering productive pursuits and self-expression to achieve a vibrant physical and mental self

For additional insights, please check out our What We’ve Learned page.

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