A while back, I wrote an ad for the agency I worked for. It was about an advertising philosophy that puts people ahead of products.
I've learned that there are two places to start when you create anything in marketing. You can start with the product, it's features and benefits. Or you can start with the person, the customer, and what she cares about, worries about, and hopes for.
Start with the product and the solution will be fairly rational. "Our bank pays 1.5% interest." If you start with the customer, your ad will probably be a lot more emotional. "You're worried about money, aren't you?" Which ad do you think you're more likely to read?
The same is true with marketing in any medium. One of the online dating sites hired psychologists to help make their questionnaire go deeper, and increase your chances of finding someone who you'll find worthwhile. They're not asking about your features. They're asking about your feelings.
A lot of people tell me they have "a passion for fashion". Now honestly, do all those ads in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar evoke passion? Some do; the Tom Ford ads and the Gucci fragrance ads. But most are dull, with the borrowed interest of an exotic setting or lurking difficulty.
There's a reason people use Tivo. It takes those interruptions out of your life. If you're in advertising and believe your job is creating interruptions, become an accountant instead. You're not going to succeed in advertising by butting into someone's life. You're going to succeed by being interesting and rewarding.
The word "advertising" comes from the Latin "turn toward". Not "turn away from".
That's what we in marketing should be doing every day. Turning toward our customers, and what they're all about. And talking to the person deep down inside.
That's the secret of advertising.