Marketers in the know, for about three years now, have based their retail strategy on the fact that today’s consumers are desperate for someone or something to trust.
This is the obvious conclusion one can draw from just observing society these days.
People such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and our own Jacob Zuma firmly grounded their leadership styles on a toxic cocktail of lies, deceit, obfuscation and outrageous spin doctoring. They, and an increasing number of politicians and world leaders, assumed quite rightly that the average voter will believe even the most blatant untruths if they happen to match up to their particular prejudices, and are repeated often enough.
An increasing number of voters, however, have become disillusioned with unmet political promises and election campaign skulduggery.
The media isn’t trusted anymore. Not since the advent of the internet that forced traditional mass media to concentrate on survival, desperate to stop consumers from cancelling newspaper subscriptions, switching off the radio and getting their news and entertainment online. But now even the online environment, especially social media and heavily biased news websites, have shot themselves in the foot with billions of outrageously untrue postings and tweets.
These are the same consumers who have long since given up trusting banks, accounting firms and the big auditing outfits. And many of these them have given up trusting churches for any number of reasons including covering up sexual abuse and blatant profiteering.
It is extremely difficult to lie in advertising these days. Pretty much impossible. So much so that if Donald Trump had to have all his press statements, tweets and off-the cuff remarks monitored by an advertising standards authority, none of what he says would pass muster.
It is getting to the point, marketers feel, that consumers just don’t trust anyone anymore.
Well, not quite everyone…
The thing is, consumers in every single socio-economic grouping actually trust advertising. Yes they do. Oh yes, you do – you just like to think you don’t.
And advertising, quite frankly, can be trusted. Because advertising is the one mass medium in every country that is heavily regulated in terms of acceptable content. In many countries, such as South Africa, there are advertising standards bodies that act on the whim of consumers who might feel offended, insulted or hoodwinked by certain advertising.
It is extremely difficult to lie in advertising these days. Pretty much impossible.
So much so that if Donald Trump had to have all his press statements, tweets and off-the cuff remarks monitored by an advertising standards authority, none of what he says would pass muster. Not even close. He would, for example, be constantly tripped up by the “non-substantiation” clause in most advertising regulations.
It is going to be fascinating to see just how long the average consumer will put up with all the political lies and deceit. Right now, an unusually and terrifyingly massive number of them continue to trust politicians like Trump who comes up with just that that one thing that matches their particular prejudice.
How often do we hear Trump supporters say that, “Yes he might be a buffoon and get things wrong but at least he is improving the economy and cutting down on unemployment.”
What they fail to understand was that in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler also improved the economy, cut down unemployment, built magnificent roads, backed the development of the Volkswagen. And masses of people in Germany loved him in spite of his anti-Semitic and racist sentiments, not to mention a litany of other despotic tendencies. I am not saying Trump is an Adolf Hitler, but simply emphasising that one good thing doesn’t make everything a politician does acceptable.
Marketers and advertisers know that it only takes one mistake among all the good things a brand offers to damage sales and corporate reputations.
Hopefully, one day voters will adopt the same attitude and look at the whole political package instead of just the few things that appeal to them
In the meantime, advertising is all you have left to trust.
Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk ) is a marketing analyst and advisor and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of experience in marketing and the media as well as serving as non-executive director and chairman of companie