Facebook and Apple have recently announced that free egg-freezing for women working in their company will be included as a special perk which will enable women to have more freedom when deciding about the time when to become mothers.
True, Apple additionally justified this decision by the fact that it is an integral part of a wider package of measures aimed at helping women in the company experiencing problems of conception. However, regardless of this additional interpretation, it is not difficult to assume that the proposal promptly caused the deluge of comments. The advocates of this new idea say that it is the conquest of a new area of freedom for women enabling them to get more time to achieve their professional goals without sacrificing motherhood, which makes this a win-win combination. Opponents of this idea claim that such proposals send a dangerous message to their employees that career and parenting are not compatible and that the interests of the company have to be put in the first place, while pushing private wishes and ambitions on the second place.
Time will show for how long this case will continue to draw public attention and how far will it go. However, no matter how this particular proposal is controversial, it shouldn’t be so surprising, because essentially, it’s not that new at all. Not only Apple and Facebook, but also other companies, especially those who have accepted this new information technology revolution, offer their employees a large number of benefits that were unimaginable until yesterday. Even the premises of these companies are no longer enormous boring office buildings in which the pinnacle of personalization is framed degree diploma hung on the wall and photo of a family on the desk and where the size of the office and the floor on which it is located tells us who is on the higher level in the company’s hierarchy. The campuses of these new-age companies are real small oases with parks and greenery, with fitness gyms, culinary facilities for preparing food at lunch breaks, cafes and restaurants with excellent food, usually free of charge on the principle of “all-you-can-eat”. There are also shops, pharmacies, kindergartens for children, day care for pets, dry cleaners and laundry services. Very often, companies offer apartments where you can sleep for free if you are working on an urgent and immediate project, and in some places, there are clearly labelled “love rooms”, you know, just-in-case. Employees can also attend various additional education and training programmes for the purposes of professional development but they can also plan activities for their personal individual development.
What’s with all that? Why do companies even offer these types of perks to their employees? In the past, the companies rewarded their good and loyal employees in accordance with the achieved results, but the system was simpler and reduced to cash compensation through bonuses and rewards (here, in our country, we were famous with 13th and 14th salary) and extra free days. But then there was a clear line between working hours and free time, people sold their work for the salary, and an additional award enabled them to raise the quality of free time making them able to organize it the way they wanted. People were expected to be responsible for their work, whether they were happy or not, it was their private matter. New technologies, without which today we can not imagine neither work nor life, erase the boundary between business and private life, and consequently there is no distinction between working hours and leisure time. What you do is no longer a job for which you are paid, but a “lifestyle” that you live. Therefore, in such companies it is not enough just to sell your work, you simply have to belong to them. It is no longer enough that you are present in the company only with your knowledge and skills, but you are now expected to be there with your heart and soul. But since this is the way of life today, nobody forces you to belong to this way. On the contrary, you’re the one asking to become a part of this new world. And this is the very reason why thousands of young professionals want to be employed in such companies, to work in such an environment and live under these conditions.
Both service users and product buyers of these companies also belong to this world and actively demonstrate them precisely using these products and services. When we want to download a new game or upgrade one of our applications, we click on the “accept” button. The thing is, we don’t do it angrily, fearing for our own privacy; we do it gladly because it means that everything will now be even more, better, quicker, stronger! And each new click makes us belong even more and want even more! It is precisely this possibility of participation in what the company does to make the sense of belonging the key element of its culture that is shared, nurtured and developed both by its employees and users. The membership of millions of users is so fully compatible with the affiliation shown by the employees in them. Authentic affiliation of both sides makes them a community, provoking a good feeling that they then want to share with others. That’s how both sides become ambassadors of these companies and an integral part of the company’s reputation. This is the context in which we need to analyze the news about egg-freezing mentioned at the beginning of this story, regardless of our conclusion. In future, we can expect new benefits of this type for employees (but also for users), which will not only be felt by their direct beneficiaries but all, because the benefits of this type have strong elements of solidarity, protection, help, and care for others that additionaly strengthens the sense of belonging to such a community, strengthens the work ethics and motivation of employees and thus directly contributes to better results of the whole company. And the circle comes logically full.
But let’s take a look at this whole thing from another perspective. All these services fall into a wider category of health and social protection, education, supply, ecology… Are not these functions provided by the institutions of the state for which its citizens pay tax anyway? They are. Does the state encourage and increase our sense of belonging to this community? Hardly. Needless to say, we are not discussing the quality of these services here, because it’s only logical that the level and quality of services offered to everyone, which is what the state is tasked with, can’t be compared to the level and quality of services which companies, particularly the wealthy ones, provide only to their employees.We are talking about the attitude of the state towards the citizens through the way in which political actors who represent the state, communicate with them. So, we are talking about political marketing.
When we use the terminology and logic of market communication in this analysis, we can immediately see that state institutions, political parties, and politicians communicate in the public, in the same way, those brands and companies that have remained trapped in the old model of one-way communication towards consumers for what they use traditional mass media or new media in the old way. In this model, communication works by the principle – I know what is best for you, and I am telling you that, loud enough and often enough, this is my offer and I expect you to accept it. Marketing communication orders us to “buy my product”, political communication orders us to “vote for me”. But the logic is the same. That’s why it’s not surprising that political parties hire advertising agencies to run their political campaigns because if we treat voters the same way as buyers, then we turn to them as we turn to buyers and who knows this kind of register better than an agency. Here, let’s look at how it looks in practice on a few examples.
Come election time, agencies rightly adopt the approach used during final sales. The goal is to sell as many products to as many people as possible, within a limited period of time. As we know, the main drivers of successful sales are large discounts and a wide range of products. Accordingly, they make a list of any and every promise and they make them all at once. By voting “for us”, you’re buying this incredible package offer! All of that – for a single vote!!!
Political campaign commercials are made using the same principle used for laundry detergent, shampoo or sanitary towel advertisements: first, you highlight the problem (unemployment, pensions and salaries, investments… feel free to add to the list), next, the “celebrity”, i.e. the president of the political party takes the stage, impeccably dressed, with wind-swept hair aglow in the sunlight, and offers an immediate solution to the problem, “as soon as we come to power”. Finally, you score with a powerful slogan.
„Media buying“ in pre-election campaign is aimed almost exclusively on mass media. At first, „prime-time“ is rented on television and billboards with photoshophed faces of political leaders. Even print media and radio stations get in on some of the percentages of the not-so-small budgets whose origins are hard to determine; there are inevitable “candidate duels” which beat all viewing records; with only a “Sulejman” (Turkish telenovela – translator’s comment) here and there managing to stand firm – there are certain limits, we do live in a democracy, after all.
And in between two sales, or should I say, elections, the emphasis is on marathon broadcasts and recordings of assembly sittings with all the drama elements of a “Farma” (Farm), “Kafana traži gazdu” (Pub Seeking Owner), “Veliki brat” (Big Brother) or any other reality show. Additionaly, there are inevitable press conferences with a politician speaking directly to the audience while a bunch of people in the background stand by and watch with somber, worried expressions, without batting an eyelid, as if to say: “look at how many of us there are”.
Since winning votes which will enable its undisputed rule during the next term of office is its only aim, politics has boiled down to trading in hope by making pretty promises. After all, people are only expected to cast their votes anyway, nothing more. In this way, politics clearly conveys that it doesn’t care about people’s opinions. Devoid of any sense or purpose for the people whom it should represent and whose interests it should look after, it starts to lose the trust of a number of people initially, primarily those unable to identify with the cheap populism being offered as a replacement for a real and feasible perspective. The direct consequence of such a state is the loss of a sense of belonging to such a community. When the feeling of security, protection, and solidarity starts to disappear, a person begins to think about alternatives. When this sense of belonging is completely lost, he leaves such a community looking for a perspective outside it. Even at the first glance at the situation in these “our” countries, shows us that this is exactly what is happening to us. The fact that increasing numbers of young educated people are leaving is worrying, some of them in the companies described above. What’s even more worrying is the ambivalence of public power officials and politicians towards this occurrence. And that ambivalence is a logical consequence for the lack of the real participation of the community in political processes. Such politics doesn’t need equals in communication, it needs yes-men. Perhaps the belief in a better tomorrow can be bolstered for some time using false promises and old myths, perhaps it’s quite enough for some, but it certainly isn’t enough for all, or even for most.
The pre-requisite for any change is the ability to initially comprehend the situation. That’s why politics, as well as the traditional media and marketing world could benefit from an, albeit older, but nevertheless handy technological innovation – the mirror (provided that it’s not used in order to get an answer to “who’s the fairest of them all?”!).If nothing else can be done, it can at least be seen that if something resembles to something it does not mean that it is the same, as the letters written in the same order can be read in different ways and mean completely different things! And we can start again if we go back to the title of this text. What more do you want?!
Source: Media Marketing