Why Companies Should Learn to Play the Infinite Game

From a marketing standpoint, what do multimillion dollar technological corporations, both bipartisan presidential candidates, telecommunication holding companies, and fast food chains have in common? If you guessed “the obnoxious over-use of comparative advertising,” you’d have hit the nail right on the head.I’m going to preface this by saying that although I am in the marketing field, I am your typical millennial consumer. I am the person that buys products from a company if the campaign centered around it is cause-related. I take BuzzFeed’s personality quizzes without even realizing it, and I buy my groceries based off of ShutTheKaleUp’s Instagram feed. I am who you should be marketing to, so when I question a brand or figure’s campaign strategy, my thoughts should be worth considering.So here’s my question this time around: Can comparative advertising just die out so that brands can focus on their authentic self and playing the infinite game?

@ShutTheKaleUp Instagram feed

@ShutTheKaleUp Instagram feed

The thought behind this article stemmed from the heat that rose from my cheeks during all of three of the Presidential Debates – which I’m very glad are finally over.

“How can they be allowed to stand there and just bash each other? When will they tell me what they can do for me and the country as a whole?”A day later I saw a commercial for Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Toomey, defaming his opponent Katie McGinty. Whatever, it’s what politicians do, right?

I personally have always found the constant need to “one-up” a competitor to be a bit off-putting. It takes me back to high school when someone would say, “I got a B on my test,” and someone would boast, “Well I got an A… and I didn’t even study!” Cool. I don’t recall anyone asking… but good for you.

The notion that we need remind everyone why “we’re better” is a very distasteful way of selling, and I truly think it’s unnecessary when appealing to millennials – you know, the largest living generation in the United States.

Here’s some important knowledge:

Simon Sinek's Start With Why

Simon Sinek’s Start With Why

“Start With Why” Author Simon Sinek has been working the idea that content marketing is an infinite game. The finite game is known players, fixed rules and an agreed upon objective.

The infinite game known and unknown players, the rules are changeable and the objective is to perpetuate the game.

To put it simply, finite players are playing to win, but infinite players are playing to stay in the game.

Sinek recently spoke at education summits at both Microsoft and at Apple. Microsoft’s presentation focused mostly on how to beat Apple, while all of Apple’s presentation centered on how they can help teachers teach, and how they can help students learn in order to create a lasting company that continues to grow throughout the years.

“A finite player is trying to beat everyone else. An infinite player is trying to advance themselves.”

Companies like AT&T and McDonald’s are more obsessed with advancing themselves and the bigger picture, rather than focusing on what their competitor is doing, and this reflects in their advertising. While Sprint and Burger King have been trying to prove their value against the bigger guy for years.

Infinite players frustrate their competition because they understand the game enough to sit at the top. Finite players can’t quite grasp it and are constantly trying to find ways to get in the lead.

Many leaders of marketing understand how the game is played and focus their efforts beyond solely creating advertising campaigns. They are looking for ways to create a culture from their content marketing. An infinite marketer’s goal is to make a lasting impression for their organization by thinking outside the box, placing continuous efforts on improvement, with the tenacity to keep going even after failing.

Playing the infinite game is hard, and it appears that many brands and figures are comfortable playing the finite game by comparing themselves to others and failing to focus on what they can provide the consumer.

Consumers notice this too and prefer to focus their efforts on brands that feel authentic. We live in an user-centric and customer driven world now. 43 percent of Millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news so it’s no surprise that they want substance and personalization with their content. This generation wants to feel like content is created with their interest in mind so it’s necessary for companies to create products and marketing campaigns tailored to the “bigger picture,” a picture that goes beyond simply increasing revenue.

The bigger picture is becoming the thought leader for their current audience and consumers to come. It’s actively listening to the consumer and developing products and campaigns based off of what they’ve said. It’s not worrying about being the best in the industry, it’s about working to be the best for their market.

Until public figures and brands can truly learn to play the infinite game, I really don’t think companies will succeed in resonating with young people. So, ditch comparative advertising and let your authenticity help you be the candidate, the phone company, the tech guru, the fast food chain that people want and need.

I want to know: are you sold by advertisements that compare a brand or person to their competitors? Or are you sold by authenticity and how a brand or person can better work for you? Tweet me to let me know!

as_teamAdele Stewart is a Marketing Account Manager & Designer at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about her, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the  Sparq team today.

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