Writer, speaker and partner in Type A Group, Bob Hoffman, aka the Ad Contrarian, tells us how to get back to basics.
The marketing and advertising industries are currently in a state of great confusion. In fact, we are so confused that we’ve lost touch with reality – and with consumers.
Consumers are basically simple creatures with straightforward needs and easily-observed behaviours. Marketers, on the other hand, are complicated bastards with strange customs and mysterious beliefs.
We’re taught not to think simply. In fact, the whole practice of marketing is based on the conviction that there are forces at work in the minds of consumers that only trained specialists – ya know, us – are qualified to interpret.
Thinking simply has been beaten out of us. You can’t be taken seriously in any marketing or advertising organisation if you suggest that the bulk of consumer behaviour is perfectly obvious.
You can’t advance your career by speaking plainly and asserting that the reason people buy most products is because they’re tastier, prettier, cheaper, work better or are simply more readily available.
That kind of thinking just won’t cut it in today’s world of professional complexity.
Here’s how marketers think:
How can I engage consumers with my brand to create a community?
How do I connect the authenticity of my brand with my target audience?
How can I co-create with my target and develop a conversation?
Here’s how consumers think:
Is there gonna be parking?
Is this f***ing thing gonna work?
How vigorously are they going to screw me?
Is there anyone here who knows what the hell he’s talking about?
Consumers want clarity and simplicity. Marketers want to complicate the sh*t out of everything. I believe we are blinded by complexity and we are confusing complexity with diligence.
Every day we agency people go in to work. We have meetings and conference calls and we write briefs, build powerpoint decks, read emails, write memos, make presentations and have uploads and downloads…and as a by-product of all this bullsh*t, an ad appears somewhere.
We don’t even know what we’re doing anymore. Are we selling products or having conversations, are we curating content or doing branded storytelling, is it brand engagement, co-creating or building communities? We don’t know what the hell we’re supposed to be doing.
Marketers, on the other hand, are complicated bastards with strange customs and mysterious beliefs.
The more elaborate and convoluted our processes have become, the more dreadful our jargon has become – the farther away we’ve gotten from the people we’re supposed to be influencing.
We’ve been operating under some highly questionable assumptions which have disconnected us from the thinking and behaviour of average people. These include:
- Grossly exaggerating the role of brands in the lives of consumers
- An immoderate and false faith in the death of traditional marketing practices and media
- Largely overstating the sales value of social media marketing
- Conveniently disregarding the alarming amount of sleaze, fraud and corruption in the online advertising industry
- Abjectly disregarding people over 50 – the most powerful consumer group in the history of the world
- Massively inflating the importance of advertising media at the expense of advertising creativity
Other than that, we’re doing great.
This story was first published in The Media Yearbook, an annual title of Wag the Dog Publishers.
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