In his book, The Future of Advertising, Joe Cappo, of Advertising Age fame, writes about a world of increasingly cynical consumers ignoring more and more the growing clutter of conventional advertising and simply not accepting or reacting to the same old tired claptrap, gimmicks and shallow come-ons.
Of course, the marketing industry can look at this with an enormous amount of trepidation and the prospect of busting its buns trying to come up with shrewd and devious new ways of getting the attention of consumers and then managing and manipulating it long enough to flog products and services.
Or, it can look deeper into what is happening and pander to the new way in which more and more consumers are thinking. A philosophy that is beginning to oust that sheer materialism that saw consumers “wanting something because they want it” and beginning to put life into some sort of more meaningful perspective.
I got the following email some time ago and it occurred to me that if it reflects the way more and more middle and upper class people are looking at life, then perhaps there are a few clues in it that will lead marketers along the right road in terms of communicating with this important sector of the market.
“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems; more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable nappies, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.”
As those great Nedbank ads used to say – makes you think doesn’t it?
So, how does this affect our media and the marketers who decide on advertising strategy?
Well, it presents them with more challenges than ever before. Marketing is an expensive exercise and particularly in this day and age no one can be cavalier with it to the extent of simply giving something a try to see what happens.
Which means that nowadays, as a marketer, you have to be pretty darn certain of your facts before committing budgets.
I believe it cannot be emphasised enough how important market research has now become. Not only as tool to delve into the minds of consumers but also and almost importantly as a marketing measurement tool. Measurement of marketing is now no longer an optional extra.
Another big challenge marketers face will be to decide just when to start taking web-based consumer forums and mobile social networks seriously. Slowly but surely internet access is becoming cheaper and connections a lot faster. Which is giving impetus to the already growing phenomenon of consumers complaining, criticising and generating false perceptions in web-based social networks. My advice would be to start taking this seriously now.
Not all that long ago customer service specialists used to warn businesses that every time a customer went away unhappy that customer would tell ten other people who would tell another ten and in no time a couple of hundred consumers would be walking away from a brand.
Nowadays with Facebook, Twitter and a rapidly growing number of social network forums, that single unhappy person has the capacity to instantly vent his or her frustration via cell phone and within minutes has told not ten but hundreds of others about the offending product, service, brand or business. And the more instant the less chance anger has of dissipating. This is what makes the phenomenon a brand killer.
And, as Johnson & Johnson found out to their horror in the US a few years ago, more and more journalists and radio talk show presenters are finding themselves part of myriad social networks with the result that the mass media picked up the momentum.
The challenge that has been with marketers for some years now, is intensifying. And that is just how to get the attention of the consumer. It used to be said that advertisers had two seconds to get the consumers attention. That number has now reduced to less than a second.
With consumers having far wider choice these days in terms of mass media and leisure time activities and with information on demand becoming more and more of a reality, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get someone’s attention via the mass media. In terms of the youth market it is almost impossible because growing numbers simply don’t consume mass media in any shape or form anymore. But, the challenge is not only about getting attention it is also about holding attention and managing it.