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Philosophy is a subject I’ve always had an interest in – my mother taught it.

As a child, family dinner times would often involve a moral debate or rationalising the meaning of life – before we’d wash up and go watch Byker Grove.

But the art of questioning stayed with me. I use it everyday managing my client’s PPC accounts.

I was recently reading an excellent book about branding and philosophy.

Some of the concepts discussed got me thinking about PPC…

Friedrich Nietzsche Nietzsche – World class philosopher, world class moustache

A particularly interesting passage from the book covered German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

It discussed how his view of the world can be used to influence brands and marketing strategies today.

In contrast to other philosopher’s concepts of ‘worlds’ beyond most people’s understanding, Nietzsche saw the world as one of objective experience.

His view was quite simple – this is life, so live it to the full.

He had little time for spiritual hypotheses about deeper meaning and worshiping (in his mind) imaginary deities. His perspective relies more on provable facts and evolutionary thought.

This viewpoint formed the basis of his controversial maxim – ‘God Is Dead’.

Nietzsche felt many present day values were outdated by a declining belief in God – or at least the traditional sense of what God is.

These archaic values, he reasoned, were holding mankind back from achieving our potential.

Western values have emanated from a mainly Christian cultural history which has shaped society as we experience it today.

But it is built on a value system in which a mass of people clearly no longer believe – especially in today’s multi-cultural, diverse society.

Christianity – A foundation for Western values

Social values are, on the whole, based on trying to be nice.

Certain behaviours, overt declarations of selfishness for example, are considered anti-social and certainly not virtuous.

Nietzsche argued, however, that we only put a value on being nice to each other because of 2000 years of Christian forbearance.

A controversial hypothesis might be that in a dog-eat-dog world – where most of us would no longer identify as being Christian – we would be better off accepting that the key to survival and success is in being stronger, more efficient and more ruthless than the next person.

The argument could be that selfishness is not something to suppress, and rather a value around which we could cohere with a sense of association.

Are you really advocating ‘selfishness’ as a brand value?

Not quite.

My point is that in an increasingly competitive and changing world – we have to look outside generic ‘hygiene’ values to become distinctive.

The values we already recognise and admire – integrity, trust, empowerment, responsibility etc – will need to be modified with a suggestion of values we are less comfortable owning up to (e.g. selfishness, schadenfreude etc).

To stand out, brands need to start reflecting the way we and things are, rather than the way we pretend to or assume ourselves to be.

This is what creates a sense of belonging and affinity – admitting a ‘truth’.

Currently, mass marketing has a problem with the truth.

Many brands stick too rigidly to the ‘hygiene’ values – trying to be as uncontroversial as possible.

They do this to cast their appeal as far as possible.

The result is bland, wishy washy messaging that all says the same thing and isn’t distinctive.

With a Nietzche vision, brands become organisms in their own right – expressions of values set free from the outdated views of the world.

By taking risks and saying things as they are, smaller businesses can dig a niche out for themselves and take market share away from the snor-ganisations (see what I did there?).

How does this apply to PPC?

I am not trying to kid anyone here, rebranding is a risky business.

It can be expensive in many ways.

Not only is the process of updating your logo, website and collateral expensive, if you hit a wrong note with your new messaging, the expense is compounded with a loss of sales.

Luckily you can leverage PPC to manage your risk.

With a small investment, you can setup separate ad campaigns and landing pages targeted around new branding concepts with distinctive positioning/messaging.

These campaign ‘experiments’ can be run over a number of weeks/months and will provide a wealth of valuable data.

Analytics will show how people reacted to the individual ad concepts, interacted with your landing page, and committed to conversion actions you defined.

More interestingly it means you have a safety net to push the boundaries, as only a small sample of people will interact with each trial concept. You can try more ‘risky’ headlines and messaging that you might otherwise be afraid to roll out on a commercial scale.

With the results in, you will be much better informed to make branding decisions that truly resonate with your market and make you distinctive – whilst minimising the cost of getting it wrong.

Being different is risky – but fortune does favour the brave.