Marketing pros: Instead of talking down, listen up

The Harvard Business Review’s website is like Scrooge McDuck’s vault: There is something valuable everywhere you look. One new HBR Blog posting (http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2010/10/marketing_can_do_better.html) discusses the concept of “listening up” as a marketing initiative. Author Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab, explains,

“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. Pepsi Refresh is a simple, tiny, limited, imperfect example of investing in people, a small step beyond merely conditioning them to buy, buy, buy…

“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. No company’s made it this far — yet. But you know who’s getting a bit better, faster than others? Oddly, it just might be Steve Jobs — now notorious for responding to random emails about Apple. Hey, he might never admit he’s wrong, but at least he responds to, well, people. How many other CEOs do you know who do that?

“Listening up is the emergent, complex, and unpredictable joint creation of shared values, that build common cultural foundations and let customers and companies feel like they’re part of a shared movement. It is more than a commitment to transparency, it is a deep dedication to real dialogue… and no company I can think of has gotten all the way there, yet.”

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