To some people the words "meaningful" and "marketing" just should not be found together. I prefer to think of this as an opportunity instead of an oxymoron. Rarely does a day go by without hearing someone discard ideas, thoughts, or proposals as worthless with a dismissive comment like "oh, that's just marketing".
Despite this flood of popular sentiment against the value of marketing, it is possible for marketing departments to do something meaningful. Take Google Fiber for example. Later this month, Google will go live with its fiber network in Kansas City. This initiative to bring super high speed internet connections to an entire community will have some engineering value, but really it is brilliant marketing. Meaningful Marketing in fact.
Here is where I set the bar on achieving meaning in marketing:
New Revenue: No way around it, Marketing must create new revenue. This is the same measure everyone else uses, so I thought I would put it first. Don't roll your eyes yet, the next two do propose less traditional measures of meaning. And after this item I am not going to include "building the brand", "supporting the key messaging" or any other marketing mumbo jumbo. In the case of Google Fiber, the 25% of the population in the Kansas City community that do not now use the Internet -- will clearly be a new revenue opportunity for Google.
Bi-Directional: Just like the Cluetrain Manifesto said over a decade ago. Marketing should be a conversation. A full page advertisement is a megaphone blasting away at customers - not bi-directional at all. The Google Fiber idea is bi-directional because Google will see what the customers decide to do with their connection. Even if they do nothing, that in itself is a communication to Google. Some people will say that a company like Google is not good at meaningful marketing because they have no phone number on their web site and no call center to call. I disagree. Google watches every communication customers send -- as they use Google's search engine -- and make daily improvements to the algorithm in response.
Intrinsic Value: Finally, and very few people do this today, marketing should have some intrinsic value of its own - and that is value to the customer. Marketers often think that even if their campaign does not drive revenue, it does support the brand, or generates goodwill. This is not of value to the customer. Google Fiber does have intrinsic value because a free fiber connection to the internet does benefit those that are connected.
I am on the hunt for other examples of Meaningful Marketing initiatives. Feel free to send them my way.