What if…We Had No Labels?

Last month I started this series of What If…?  In last month’s blog, I talked about what if you are in an active shooter situation.  In that blog, I talked about how businesses need to have more than just a marketing plan, but an emergency plan. It doesn’t matter if you are a one person shop or have several hundred employees, you need to have a plan for all situations.  

In this month’s blog, I am talking about what if we had no labels?  I am not just talking about labels on products, although that would make marketing very challenging, but I am talking about labels we put on people, too.  

We have labels for everything, straight, gay, bi, transsexual, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, President, Vice President, salesperson, cook…the list goes on.  Why do we have labels?  I mean really, does it make us different as a person?  No, I do nor think so.  We are who we are.  Labels do not define us.  Some of our traits, that we label, are in-grained in us.  Some traits, we learn as we grow and evolve as a person.  These traits (“labels”) are what make us, us.  Yet, right now, today, I have never experienced so much resentment towards people solely because of their “label.”  Yes, I agree we are all different and differing opinions, but that has always been the case.  Yet right now in history, we are hating and attacking people because of their “label.”  

Are we perpetuating these labels to keep things divisive?  Let me give you an example…when you apply for a loan at a bank, depending on the loan the bank will ask you to provide ethnicity questions.  The Federal Government requires these.  One is free to either provide those answers, or decline them.  If declined, then the banker has to answer them based on their observations.  They do this to make sure banks are not discriminating against one race over another.  Now, back years ago when you could only apply for a loan, in person, people were discriminated against because of the color of their skin, or religion, or marital status.  But in today’s world most loan applications are taken online, or over the phone.  The underwriter is sometimes in another state and they certainly do not have any direct contact with the client.  So, why is it so important to know their ethnicity?  Are we promoting diversity by asking those questions? To me, in today’s world, this should not be an issue anymore. The issue is requiring the banker do his observation from the phone conversation, or a visual observation.

We purchase things because of a certain label.  Is one person better if they wear Kenneth Cole, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, or JC Penney, WalMart, or Old Navy?  On the other hand, if they drive a Bentley, Mercedes, Buick, or Kia?  Sure the make and quality on some products is far superior to those of lesser brands, but does that make you a better person?  I have known many people who barely can rub to nickels together, yet they have the best clothes and drive the nicest cars.  Why?  So they can impress people?  Again why?  Then I have known some very wealthy people and they shop at WalMart, Goodwill, drive a 10-year old vehicle and give to charity. What would your impression of these two different people be if you met them on the streets?  Because of labels, you would think the poor person was wealthy and the wealthy person was poor based on their “labels,” what they wear and what they drive.  You would be way off, wouldn’t you?

Labeling is the essence of marketing, is it not?  Dare I mention the biggest controversy right now the Nike ad?  People pay hundreds of dollars for their shoes and apparel for the label.  Nike, in turn, pays celebrities and athletes millions to promote their wares.  Are their shoes any better because they have the Nike swoosh on them? How would we market, or advertise, products without labels?  Companies would have to rely on the look, fit and quality of a product and use that to their advantage over a competitor.  These would most certainly create an interesting marketing and advertising campaign.  

I am not suggesting that we remove all labels from things.  I am suggesting we should for people.  A person is more than their label.  If you remove a person’s label and look at them as a person, you may find out you have more in common than you think.  It is the same with products.  No, we should not remove the labels from products that would be ludicrous.  However, just because a product is expensive, or considered high-end does not mean it’s better than any other product; and just because a product is less expensive doesn’t mean it is inferior to the more expensive product.  More important, is what the reputation of that brand is.  How is the product made?  

I recently read something that a lot of us will blindly buy a product because a big celebrity, or athlete, pitches the product, or because their name has been put on that product.  Consumers will buy that product; sell it out, not knowing anything about it.  Just because someone famous has their name on it, or they told you to buy it.  Yet, a local business in Any Town, USA can make a far superior product, and because they do not have the marketing dollars to promote that product, or have a big star to pitch it, struggle to sell their product.  It may take years for that product to finally make it big, or the business may go out of business trying.  Simply because their “label” is not well known.

So, what if…we had no labels.  How many successful businesses would have flourished, rather than struggle, or go out of business in this country?

Geoff Cummings is President|Founder of On The Level Marketing & Consulting, LLC.  Successfully helping businesses with all their marketing needs by branding their businesses and keeping marketing simple and straightforward.  

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