Power of Marketing – and not just for the product

This ad sells Congo-Brazzaville an image of itself. For Guinness, of course the most important message is, Drink Guinness and Feel Empowered. But that’s not the only message that’s there. Be Congolese and Feel Empowered. Express Yourself and Feel Empowered.

Of course, “Empowered” is the development way to phrase it. Someone else might say, “Feel Powerful”.

Is Guinness making people feel more powerful for their own gain? Sure. Is that a bad thing? The way they do it, I don’t think so. It’s highlighting a positive empowerment – not negative towards any person or group, and not making feel bad for not doing anything. The “be proud to express yourself as working-class Congolese” and “be proud to drink Guinness” messages are intertwined, but that doesn’t diminish the first one, which is an important one in its own right.

In development, when we “do empowerment work”, it’s easy to forget that empowerment is about… power. People having more power to do what they want. To empower people, we try to remove the constraints that they face (eg. cultural restrictions on women moving outside the house) and give them more useful tools (eg. new savings products). But often they are the ones that are easily seen. And it’s hard to see how people feel.

There’s a quote from Game of Thrones (of which many development nerds who are also real nerds may be aware): “Power resides where men believe it resides.”

If we remove constraints and provide tools, but people don’t feel powerful – don’t believe in their own power – how much can we really empower them?

Not that the first two aren’t important, nor that they can’t lead to the third. But that third part – belief in one’s own power – is the clincher, I think, and something we should consider more.

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About developingnathan
I am a reflective person. I am an introvert, a friend, a brother and a son. I appreciate a well-crafted glass of beer, piece of music and turn of phrase. I am a professional of international development, a good pianist and a Green Bay Packers fan.

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