13 Mar 2014
Lend Me Your Ears (or I’ll Chop ‘Em Off!)
Recent discoveries have shed light on the fact that the Roman Empire, despite its claims to the contrary, wasn’t any more advanced or civilised than the rest of the world. It’s just that they had better propaganda. By getting their message out far and wide, they claimed a perceived superiority that lasted for thousands of years and is only now being called into question.
Surprisingly, many of the cultural advances credited to the Romans were also used by the so-called ‘barbarians’ – a word that still resonates with the Roman interpretation to mean ‘un-civilised’.
However, despite lacking a professional army like the Romans, the Celts actually had better armour, helmets and shields. The Britons had more advanced chariots. And even classic Roman features such as roads were also built by the Celts. Even more surprisingly, Celtic road-building was not necessarily predated by that of the Romans. So how come the Romans got the credit?
The Romans left behind reams of written records that effectively communicate their perspective on the world around them. And of course, they were hardly likely to give their ‘competitors’ credit for all the marvellous advances they could claim as their own. The lack of written records from the Celts, amongst others, made it easier for the Roman message to dominate. But even so the Romans were, in essence, just using good marketing.
Consider the Roman Empire as a brand. It is instantly recognisable, and certainly for the period, a ‘market leader’. Simply hearing the words ‘Roman Empire’ conjures up familiar imagery and cultural expectations, all based on the Romans’ own version of history and how they wanted to be perceived. This isn’t just down to good record keeping. It’s down to the consistency of message and branding throughout the Empire’s reign. The ‘management’ may have changed, the ‘brand’ may have diversified and it may have gained and lost ‘market share’, but above all it remained on message throughout. And that message resonated throughout the Roman society, as well as in the upper echelons of command. Everything the Romans did or recorded was on message and on target to build their reputation.
So it’s hardly surprising that they dominated the war of communication. They had all the right systems in place and proved the power of consistency. Marketing establishes your message and a voice through which to communicate it, but the buck doesn’t stop with the marketing department. Everything a business does reflects its brand, and the whole company should be on message, every time.
Of course times have changed, and the Romans would theoretically have a much harder job these days, given the current fragmented media environment where millions of companies and voices compete on a multitude of media channels to get their message heard. But the Romans’ big advantage would be their consistency. Integration of your message into every aspect of your business is the key to building valuable perceptions in the minds of customers and prospects.
In truth it’s no more difficult to get your message heard than it ever has been. The opportunities are still there. In fact there are more than ever. In a cluttered, noisy market, you need to exploit every opportunity to get yourself heard. But you can no longer say one thing and do another, for customers will simply go elsewhere. By staying consistent and making sure everyone in your company is speaking the same language, you’ll give yourself the advantage.
You may not be in Rome, but do as the Romans did.
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20 Mar 2014
The Art of War: the 3 fundamental principles that underlie the best marketing campaigns