Marketing messages

Because I have too much spare time, I’m taking a couple of MBA courses this year.  One of them is marketing.  I went into this with no expectations whatsoever – didn’t really know what the content would be, how it would be taught, or anything other than it’s a core course for the program.  And it’s fascinating. One of the ideas that I found particularly resonant was the argument that really good marketing makes selling obsolete.  If you have identified a need, developed the right product, priced it and promoted it properly, it will sell itself.  (Example: Apple’s new gadgets which are sold out within about twenty minutes of release. If you think Steve Jobs is the devil, choose a different example.)

This goes to the heart of why I don’t think criminalizing abortion is the way for pro-lifers to spend their time, money and influence.  Yes, it might well reduce the number of abortions that happen in Canada (or it might increase the number of Canadians who drive to the nearest US state that allows abortion on demand, or the number of doctors doing stealth abortions.  Probably a combination of all three.)  But why not eliminate the need for legislation, the way good marketing of products obviates heavy-handed sales?

I’m convinced that if we could have an honest discussion about what abortion is, how a fetus develops, the short and long term effects on women who abort their pregnancies, even if they think it’s a positive choice or an exercise of freedom, or how sexual politics have changed to the detriment of almost everyone in an abortion-on-demand culture, we wouldn’t need laws – the vast majority of decent people would no more consider abortion to be a solution to an unplanned pregnancy than they would consider murdering their spouse to be the solution to a marriage hitting a bad patch.  Let’s work on the message – the substance but also the packaging and the distribution method.  If it helps the pro-life cause to sell itself, it will have been worth it.

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Andrea adds: Don’t forget cutting government funding for abortion and abortion-promoting groups.

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Andrea adds again: Was at an interesting talk last night and conversation turned to how to market the pro-life message. The difference between marketing in the world (Coke versus Pepsi, for example) is that this type of marketing capitalizes on self-interest. So too does the pro-abortion mindset. Where pro-lifers are marketing an “other-focussed” view–also a long term one. And so I wonder whether Rebecca’s course addresses those factors at all. Marketing the pro-life message comes down to a civilizational shift.

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Back to Rebecca: To Andrea’s point: actually this sort of did come up in the discussion, as when the prof was (introductory seminar) outlining what marketing was (and what it’s not – which is simply advertising.) Briefly, there are short term marketing tactics, which involve attempts to boost sales, usually of a specific product, through flash and gimmickry.  And then there’s a long term approach where you want to change how people think and live for years down the road.

Governments and lobby groups do this a lot – think recycling ad campaigns, public health campaigns involving cancer prevention and detection – but so did Apple, which foresaw and helped bring about a world in which computer were everywhere and in everything, and Microsoft, which saw a chance to give people far more control over the inner workings of these machines.

The point of much political, cultural and religious discussion is ultimately people’s choices and behaviours.  So looking at pro-life (and, as commenters have pointed out, the culture of promiscuity) messages as part of that discussion is interesting.  But what I really found intriguing was this idea that if your strategy consists of loudly and obviously exhorting people to do something at the final stage of the decision-making process, whether it’s waving placards in front of a clinic or having giant balloons outside a car dealership trying to get people in the doors, you’re missing the bigger and better window of opportunity – to shape people’s perceptions and beliefs so that they don’t consider going into the clinic, or the Ford dealership, because they believe deep down that abortions are wrong and harmful, or imports are more efficient and safer.

I’m not saying there is no place for other strategies in trying to change how Canadians perceive abortion.  But one thing business does extremely well is figure out how to get the most bang for their buck.

If the marketing industry has concluded that the best way to sell something is to understand your market and tailor your message so the product sells itself, maybe we should give it a shot in the abortion discussion.

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