The 5 main marketing approaches based on Spiral Dynamics

There are different ways for giving expression to your marketing. There is not a best way, they are just different. Inspired by the value systems of Spiral Dynamics, I’m sharing 5 different marketing approaches you can use.

The best marketing approach

You may have noticed before that certain marketing strategies just doesn’t fit you. It may be too rebellious, informal or striking for example. Even though certain strategies may work for your competitors, it can be destructive for your business. A congruent marketing strategy which is aligned with your environment is needed to be sustainable.

Some business coaches or marketing gurus will contradict your marketing decisions, even when these decisions are the right ones for your market, business, and yourself. Aligning your marketing efforts with your core (brand) values may not always lead to maximum revenue and clients, but that’s fine if this is not your only priority.

The different marketing approaches add up in complexity. The first discussed (red) approach is the least complex system, and the last discussed (yellow) approach is the most complex one. Choose the one which suits you best. Not for the sake of its complexity, but just because it resonates best with you.

Side-note: To make this article more accessible and less confusing, the most complex turquoise value system of Spiral Dynamics has deliberately been excluded. The less complex purple value system has also been excluded and may be added after a revision of this article.

1. Red (self-centric) marketing approach

This marketing approach is about finding ways to dominate the market. To crush your competitors and to become the most powerful player in the field. You won’t shy away from using marketing tactics which are kind of in the grey area. For example, weakening your competitors just for your own gains. Or making your customers dependent on your services by using addictive elements. As long as the tactics contribute to you and your business, you’ll execute those.

For the execution part, you won’t first wait to get approval from some external factors. The exception to this is getting approval from a powerful person (like a business partner, advisor, or business coach) you’re following. But generally, you won’t wait for approval or the right timing. That’s because you feel a strong sense of urgency. ‘If not now, then never’ is your motto. That’s why you believe a comprehensive marketing plan is not needed and rather distracting for getting started.

If the marketing results are disappointing, you won’t wait until the odds return in your favour. Without any mercy (to the people who were involved), you instantly switch your marketing strategy the moment you see promising results in the short term. Although you can be ruthless in your marketing decisions, you’ll still be respectful to your stakeholders.

For your marketing strategy, there are some principles you’re following. Clear boundaries you’ve probably set for yourself. These will prevent you from doing things which are crossing your boundaries. For example, spending a tenth of your time on marketing or excluding a certain audience from your marketing focus.

Examples of commonly used marketing channels are guerrilla marketing, video marketing, and public speaking. Guerrilla marketing because this is often in the grey area. And video marketing because you’re not shy to show yourself with the world while sharing bold statements without shame. You express your opinion on matters in an unfiltered, honest way. Public events because you don’t let fear stop you from sharing your message. You present yourself with courage and passion.

Top-3 advantages:

  • Direct action taking and not waiting for unnecessary approval
  • Setting clear boundaries
  • Having courage and passion

Top-3 disadvantages:

  • Egoistic decisions
  • Destructive capability
  • Oversimplified approach

2. Blue (product-centric) marketing approach

The blue marketing approach is mostly product-centric. You build the product and look for the right audience for that product, instead of the other way around. You set up a comprehensive plan and follow this in a structured and disciplined way. But before building your own marketing strategy, you would first look if there are existing strategies. If certain well-known strategies turn out to work, you copy it for your own business and go all-in with it.

It’s important for you to build a marketing machine which is stable. Meaning that it’s as little as possible influenced by external circumstances. The marketing channels you use today would ideally be the channels you still use after years from now. You don’t feel the need to change your marketing strategy because your motto is ‘Never change a winning team’. If something is working, you’ll try to improve it instead. Once you decide you go for a certain marketing strategy, you take full responsibility for it. Also, if it eventually turns out to be a waste of money due to a misjudgement.

You can best handle marketing tactics which will lead to transparent results. This will give you predictability and certainty regarding the output. You don’t mind if your marketing efforts are repetitive. As long as it will generate good results, you continue. You prefer a slow and progressive approach rather than an unpredictable approach.

Examples of commonly used marketing channels are social/display ads and existing platforms. Advertisement because the analytics will give you a transparent overview of the costs and the revenue. This way you can decide whether it’s worth it to continue it or to change plans. Existing platforms is about making use of the members of a certain app, like social media platforms as Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. These platforms give you access to a reliable user base which you can utilise. It can help you to get new clients in a slow but steady way.

Top-3 advantages:

  • Being consistently with your marketing efforts
  • Not giving up too quickly on strategies with potential
  • Not trying to reinvent the wheel

Top-3 disadvantages:

  • Wasting time due to inflexibility
  • Going all-in on a strategy without having any proof
  • Just using mainstream instead of innovate strategies

3. Orange (customer-centric) marketing approach

This marketing approach is very much about utilising smart (and sometimes manipulating) techniques aimed at increasing your revenue. You’re mostly focused on short term results and will convert as many people as possible. Many techniques are supported by theories about neuromarketing. In other words, the techniques are scientifically proven that they help you to sell more. You believe in the getting as much attention as possible. By just showing yourself over and over through all kind of platforms, you increase the possibility for new business.

Your materialistic business goals are determining your day-to-day actions. You’re flexible enough to change your marketing strategy if the results are disappointing. You steer on concrete results and set up short experiments for quickly validating your marketing-related assumptions. Your motto is ‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions’, a quote often attributed to Ken Blanchard.

You don’t believe you have to sit down and wait for the right things to occur. Instead, you create the chances yourself and are constantly seeking even bigger market opportunities. You recognise opportunities after having collected fact-based proof. This is the starting point to further explore it and if it works, exploit it to its fullest potential. In this process, you stay rational, and you don’t let your feelings determine your actions.

The marketing tactics you use are often charismatic in nature. For example, you energetically and persuasively use your powerful voice to attract customers to you. Convincing other people to do business with you comes naturally for you. That’s why you attend and organise speaking events and webinars regularly. You also go to network events because you know how to use effective communication to your advantage. You are the master of influencing others, and actively utilise this to speed up the process of observable achievement.

3 main advantages:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Strong persuasion power
  • Well-thorough strategy

3 main disadvantages:

  • Spamming people
  • Short-term focus
  • Manipulating people

4. Green (people-centric) marketing approach

The green marketing approach is all about people. To work together with them, to contribute to others, to be part of communities, you name it. You deeply care about people and adapt your marketing strategy to that. It’s a strategy which is focused more on a human approach rather than a commercial approach. If it turns out you earn less money and get less clients, you’re fine with that. Because the process of connecting is what counts for you instead of the results.

It’s important for you to really listen to what your stakeholders need. After discovering those needs, you’ll optimise your marketing strategy according to those needs. This need-oriented approach will be interspersed with intuitive choices. If something within your marketing strategy just doesn’t feel good, you just quit it. Even if the strategy is beneficial in a financial way. Your marketing choices are primarily led by your intuition, and directly after that by the needs of others. Your constantly active filter for all of your marketing choices is your brand vision, mission, and values. As long as some marketing decisions are not aligned with this, you won’t execute on them. To keep yourself sharp on this, you regularly check in on these essential matters.

You believe that the marketing opportunities which are coming on your path without having taken effort, are often the best things to act upon. Speaking about effort, you’ll try to minimise that because you believe this is a sign of resistance. And the marketing actions which are resulting in any kind of resistance, are doomed to be destructive for your business. Even though the reality may say otherwise, you believe clients will eventually come on your path instead of the other way around.

Examples of commonly used marketing channels are community building and business development. Community building because you’re in the game for the long term and want to bring people together. You want to build a strong connection with your stakeholders. You believe that’s the most sustainable way to grow your business. Business development is about developing connections with individuals. They can eventually become affiliate partners, investors, ambassadors, or anything else which is beneficial for both parties. You’re likely to not view your competitors as competitors. You team up with them and try to be complementary to each other.

Top-3 advantages:

  • Capable to build strong and ever-lasting collaborations
  • Strong intuitive capacity

Top-3 disadvantages:

  • Lack of initiative due to surrendering to external circumstances
  • Viewing effort as resistance
  • Viewing direct marketing approaches as aggressive and destructive

5. Yellow (system-centric) marketing approach

This is a unique marketing approach in itself. Mainly because it requires the capacity to make use of all the previous marketing approaches. But without experiencing the disadvantages of those. You’re not averse to use a very direct marketing approach from time to time if the situation asks for it. Or to use certain neuromarketing techniques to stimulate sales. You just do what works best for the environment which you’re part of. Your main goal is to have a functional marketing approach. Meaning, you’ll match your techniques to the market while taking into account the needs of the other stakeholders.

The marketing approach is not about you. In other words, you’re not executing strategies purely for your benefit. It’s about the whole market system which you and your business are part of. Meaning that it could be even beneficial to help your “competitor” if this would lead to a more functional system, like a better solved collective problem from the market. This requires an integral approach.

You’re likely to see the connections between many marketing-related things. This will allow you to develop new synergetic effects which will further contribute to build a healthy market system. This could for example mean to combine a large variety of marketing tactics and aim them for a specific goal. It could also mean to work together with other people because together you can contribute in a more sustainable way.

Your marketing decisions are consequent. Your motto is ‘Everything is good as it is and tomorrow everything must be different’. If something works, you will continue it until something else works better. Although you can be very consequent, you’re also very flexible. Once the environment asks for new solutions, you’ll adapt to this instantly. But also when the environment doesn’t ask for new integral solutions, you’ll still innovate new ways to be prepared for future challenges. You’ll do this by regularly thinking outside the box.

With the yellow marketing approach, the type and amount of marketing channels can be diverse. You’re likely to make use of an omnichannel marketing strategy. According to Marketing Evolution, ‘the goal of an omnichannel marketing strategy is to create a convenient, seamless user experience for consumers that offers many opportunities for fulfillment’. You combine different platforms and integrate those for marketing purposes. You make use of marketing channel stacking. This channel stacking approach allows you to build a strong connected marketing channel combination without losing focus. Because the different channels you use are strongly connected to each other. They reinforce each other like for example a three-stage rocket. To better understand omnichannel marketing, check my previous article by clicking here.

Top-3 advantages:

  • Creative and innovative
  • Be consequent and also flexible
  • Move freely between different marketing approaches

Top-3 disadvantages:

  • Overcomplicate your marketing
  • Unpredictable approach for most stakeholders
  • Inventing non-pragmatic futuristic solutions

Pick your favourite marketing approach

Ok, so now you’ve been introduced to different marketing approaches you might consider to apply. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one approach. Use different ingredients from different approaches to develop your resonating marketing approach. And if after some time your approach doesn’t feel congruent to your core values anymore, you just switch it. Determining your marketing approach is after all a dynamic process.

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