Aspirational Marketing

Until recently, the idea of a tastemaker or an influencer was centered around the idea of what could be. Often, content posted by influencers was so out of reach for the average consumer that it mostly served to make onlookers feel bad about themselves. In the name of aspiration, marketers continue to turn to those influential individuals who seem to exist on a different plane than most.

But is this concept helpful or hurtful? And when juxtaposed with the idea of inclusion and “realness” in today’s digital marketing, the idea of the out of reach beauty posting perfectly filtered photos may be reaching the end of its time.

But aspirational marketing still remains one of the cornerstones of marketing principles. Give consumers something to aspire to be — by purchasing this product, consumers can improve their lives. They can attract a partner. They can feel better about themselves. They can lose weight. They can be more attractive. All of these concepts are considered when creating marketing materials around the idea of aspiration.

The definition and look of this type of marketing is shifting, however. With platforms such as Facebook and Instagram beginning to test out features such as removing likes, the tone of aspirational marketing is beginning to look a bit different.

Aspiration is no longer synonymous with making a consumer feel lesser-than. While the same theme rings true — by purchasing a product or otherwise becoming a customer, the person’s life will somehow be improved or a problem will be solved — the theme of aspiration is more inclusive and less alienating.

What does this look like, exactly? Well, consider the example of Bon Appetit magazine, which is putting its editorial team front and center in an upcoming issue. Launching a full multi-platform campaign using their editors more like influencers, the magazine is seeking out a new kind of aspirational. Instead of relying heavily on existing influencers, why not tap into existing talent?

This look accomplishes different objectives. For one, it brings the content to a more relatable level. Seeing “real” people in campaigns (Dove’s body campaign is another example that comes to mind here) is more inspiring for consumers because they can see reflections of themselves in these materials. Just as the beauty industry standards are shifting away from otherworldly perfection to realistic depictions instead, other industries are taking notice of this trend.

This new breed of aspirational marketing ties in well with the current social conversations surrounding diversity and inclusivity. As more industries attempt to tackle the issue of social media and the internet’s general propensity for making users feel lesser than, marketing is following suit. While still presenting solutions to a problem or ways to improve one’s life, more brands are looking for authenticity in their aspirational marketing campaigns. This, in turn, resonates better with consumers who seek more genuine connections now than ever before. And this level of inclusion and thought outside of the box is one we can all aspire to get behind.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.