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Spotted: Marketing Can Do Better By "Listening Up"

We came across this Harvard Business Review post from last October in which Umair Haque urges marketers to do better. Here's how: Instead of talking down, start listening up.

He then points out that he's not talking about sitting though thousands of focus groups and analyzing reams of data, but rather "listening up" (here we paraphrase):

  • The "up" is the really important part. It means having dialogues about what elevates and betters people, what raises them up to higher standards of living, doing, having, and being, what really makes them better of in meaningful ways that matter — and then igniting a movement to make it happen.
  • Listening up means spending time actually talking to your customers, about not just their "wants" and "needs" but about their hopes and fears, their opportunities and threats, their greatest achievements and biggest regrets. It's not just about sating immediate desire with lowest-common-denominators, outsourced from the lowest bidder — it's about learning to help people achieve long-term fulfillment, in inimitable, enduring, resonant ways that rivals can't. 
  • Listening up means empowering as many people inside your organization as possible to spend time talking to your customers to have those conversations, and empowering them to talk to one another openly. To get there, it probably means rethinking the shape of your organization, from tall, to flat, to networked, meshy, and circular.
  • Listening up means letting your fiercest critics rip away at you and hearing them. It means empowering people to be heard, instead of just trying to shout them down or drown them out. It means responding honestly, instead of dissimulating and misdirecting.
  • Listening up means investing not just in "market research" but in people. Relationships aren't just idle promises: they're patterns of mutual investment. Essential to the art of listening up is making those investments, so people can be heard. 
  • Listening up means asking questions that matter — and then being tough enough to hear that, just maybe, yes, you really, honestly do suck at having real, tangible, lasting benefits. Emotive branding helps brands "listen up" by putting people first.