Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How Marketing and Advertising Screws The Pooch

We like to think that everyday marketing and advertising gets better and better. As marketers, we accumulate more knowledge and experience. We get a promotion. We hire and manage direct reports. More people give us more things to do. We become busy - and full of ourselves, right?

But marketing and advertising, since the inception of television, the first mass advertising medium hasn't gotten better. It's gotten worse, a lot worse. And here's why and how. Have you ever played the game where you whispered something in some one's ear, and then they whisper it into the ear of the next person, and they to the next and the next and so on, until the last person says the secret he or she just heard? The fun part is that the end result never matches the original phrase. And down the years, that's what's happened to marketing and advertising. Consider this. The original instincts of the first televised mass marketers were typically correct. They were exceptionally good at finding highly differentiating product-based selling solutions - what Rosser Reeves called USP's - or what I call Special User Effects. But over the years, the whispered message changed, softened, became impotent. Sales intent fell victim to the antagonists of awareness, recognition and buzz as if sales and the later three were synonymous until categories ultimately became commodities and business schools churned out future CMOs and CEOs believing that markets were becoming increasingly complex and segmented and that their salvation would lay in chasing the new media's consumer ears and eyeballs. Hey guys you got it all wrong. You have to remember that making you believe that all of these different consumer segments exist is so that their purveyors can make their next car payment. You have to chase consumer ears and eyeballs, not because "that's marketing and advertising," but because that's the way media, strategy, research, trend and innovation guys all make their mortgage payments. They make it all up in their heads sitting in closets on Friday afternoons. Think I'm full of shit? Well remember, my family invented the game founding the first TV station CBS in NYC. Before it was "a network" it was just a low power one city "experiment" and we made all of this stuff up to make people believe in the need to use the new mass media. Billions were to be made and we had to "convince" people like print mad man David Ogilvy to "try" the new mass media for the very first time. He preferred print.

But my bottom line here is that you should go with your instincts - first instincts. Not those of today, but the instincts of those who started the industry. Their first impressions of how to reach people was and remains correct but unpracticed today as the whisper got fainter and fainter and increasingly distorted. Marketers have not made marketing and advertising better. They have watered it down, like a muscle, it has gotten weaker because we don't use it. It takes thought we don't have time for today - which is why I say marketers today try to do with [new media and technology] brawn what we used to do with brain and finesse. Miller strikes Anheuser-Busch feigning a new beer war, Crispin Porter + Bogusky looses ConAgra but shoots from the hip and gives us Orville Dedenbacher. The evidence is all around us - which is why so much more advertising is forgotten than remembered.
No matter where you are in your management and marketing career remember. Your grandfather had a farm. Your dad had a garden. And you got a can opener. You are practicing marketing and management with can opener practices past along from the last can opener's owner. And this is why we have a problem with advertising today. It's fallen to the level of the people who watch it, which is why we click through it.

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