I was listening to a podcast with marketing expert Seth Godin, where he was discussing the state of social media and he brought up that point. Whether it’s on social media platforms, magazines or billboards, marketing has always been about interruption. Pushing commercial messages onto people while they are doing something else. And the more people, the better.

Instead, we should be building brands that people care about. Creating products and services that customers would miss if they were no longer available. This is really hard to do. Imagine the outrage if Apple closed tomorrow and iPhone-iPad-Mac users had to switch brands.  Having to switch insurance companies might not prompt the same visceral reaction. How about show shirts? Riding boots? Tack cleaner? Would your customers ‘freak out’ if they had to switch to another brand? If we’re truly honest, for most businesses the answer is: probably not.

Because businesses are always searching for the highest common denominator (= everyone!), instead of serving a precise type of consumer really well. Of course, that group needs to be large enough for your business to be successful. But if you are able to do that with your product and marketing, zero in on a need and impress a specific group of people, you start creating a legion of hardcore fans who truly identify with your brand. And who tell their friends.

We value numbers over the quality of those relationships, making it difficult for businesses to take the slow and steady path of a targeted approach. It requires patience but long term, it’s the safer bet. Marketing is no longer about pushing a product onto people’s throats, it’s a two-way conversation with those who need and want it. It’s about ‘who cares?’ and ‘how much?’