“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.” The first lines of Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on the point and meaning of India at the birth of the world’s greatest democracy, August 14th 1947.
The word monologue has acquired a rather pejorative meaning in the world of marketing.
Monologue, where the brand addresses an audience and puts forward its point of view (as happens in traditional one to many advertising), is seen to be out of step with the idea that markets are conversations and depend on a dialogue of equals between brands and customers.
More than that, brand monologues are assumed to narcissistic, self referential, and disrespectful of empowered consumers that don’t have to or want to take that kind of shit from anyone least of all businesses.
Well I want to make a stand for brand monologues – right here and right now. Indeed I am going to insist that great dialogues start with a passionate monologue.
It is a mistake to think of the monologue as boorish and self congratulatory, at best it is precisely the opposite.
The greatest speeches of our time and throughout history are of course monologues – inspirational and passionate statements about the speaker’s beliefs, and clear exhortations to action on the part of the listener.
Speeches so powerful and motivating that they are often know by their most famous passage – “we will fight them on the beaches”, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, “ask not what you country can do for you”, “the wind of change”, “an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
These oratorical masterpieces are all monologues. They are monologues that began a million conversations and changed our very history.
I am not suggesting for a moment that brand communications can be equated with the words of the greatest statesmen and women. But merely to make the point that great monologue, from wherever it comes, is a catalyst for conversations that are all the richer for it.
Monologues provoke, inspire, move, motivate and set agendas. They are the essential beginnings for something else.
So I don’t want to see fewer brand monologues as the age of conversation progresses; I want to see more and better brand monologues.
You see every brand has an obligation to communicate why they exist, what it is they believe and what role they seek to play in our lives. That few do is an indictment of the quality of marketing in those organisations and the lack of willingness or talent to make these things clear to us.
Too many marketers in clients and agencies are prepared to accept ‘commodity market conditions’ and ‘low interest categories’ as excuses for inaction rather than a warning sign that something must be done, and done fast.
The job of marketing is to elevate a brand to the point where consumers are passionate about it and the business escapes the eternal downward force of the commodity market place. Not to piss around inventing new promotions, creating hilarious advertisements or leaping head first into social media the brand and agency has not the first clue about.
A categorical statement of the point of a business, brand or communication delivered from that organisation to the consumer – a monologue in other words – is not just to be welcomed rather than shunned as an anachronistic relict of a brandscape long gone. It is essential.
If a brand is prepared to do that then I am prepared to engage with it and enter into a dialogue about our futures together. If not (and I refer to the mobile phone network debate we had recently) then I’m not prepared to enter into any kind of conversation with them.
All dialogue and no monologue makes Jack an extremely dull brand.