January 18, 2018

Technology And Wisdom


There is a battle going on for the soul of marketing. It is a struggle between two competing forces -- technology and wisdom.

It is not unusual for technology and wisdom to be at odds. Technology moves in a straight line. Wisdom doesn't.

When our country was formed, about 250 years ago, the technology was remarkably primitive compared to today. No motor vehicles, no electricity, no antibiotics. But was there less wisdom? You'd have to be a mighty persuasive individual to convince any reasonable person that today's leaders are wiser than the "founding fathers."

This has been true throughout history. One of the reasons that the Bible and Shakespeare still appeal to us is that the follies of humans - the greed, envy, and betrayal - are constant while the technology moves from slingshots to spears to laser guided missiles.

If I had to make the case that humanity is any wiser today than it was 5,000 years ago, I'd be at a loss.

Nonetheless, today in the marketing industry we have foolishly equated technology with wisdom. The result is Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook has utilized technological skill to create an immensely profitable business. But it has been run by callow oafs whose lack of wisdom has created a crisis for democracies, a dangerously cruel social environment for children, and an un-safe space for truth.

Not all technology is the province of the young and not all wisdom comes with age. But, as a rule, tech is the territory of youth, wisdom the territory of maturity.

In the world of marketing, the conflict between technology and wisdom has been no contest. All it takes is a quick stroll through the halls of any marketing or advertising enterprise and it becomes immediately apparent which side has won. In the US today, 42% of the adult population is over 50. But in the advertising industry only 6% of employees are over 50.

The result is that the marketing industry is drowning in technology and starving for wisdom. Technology, left unbalanced by wisdom, is currently responsible for some of the most wasteful, idiotic, and ineffectual follies in the history of commerce. Or does $16 billion in ad fraud not shock us anymore? Does relentless surveillance not concern us? Does public disgust not bother us?

The wisdom of advertising's great "founding fathers" -- the Bernbachs and Gossages -- are unknown or ignored. They knew nothing about our current technology so how they can they inform what we're doing today?... goes the argument.

Technology without wisdom is just an elevator without buttons.

January 16, 2018

Sweethearts Or Customers?


In 2014, I wrote a book called Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. The thesis of the book was that we marketers have largely lost contact with reality and are living in a fantasyland of our own invention.

Last week I was doing a podcast for the great Bob Knorpp and was asked about an article that appeared in MarketingDaily entitled "Marketers As Relationship Scientists." The article was the kind of undiluted horseshit that has become the norm in the modern literature of marketing.

If we are to believe the article in question we are no longer "Brand Architects," nor are we any longer "Cultural Anthropologists." No sir. Now we need to be reborn as "Relationship Scientists." It seems that the worse we get at marketing the more preposterous our job descriptions become.

The problem is that the gap I described in "Marketers/Mars" -- between what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing -- is accelerating at a head-spinning pace.

We believe that our ability to collect data about individuals and deliver advertising to these individuals "at the right time, at the right place, with the right message" has made our advertising more relevant, and consequently more effective and better-liked. This is what Marc Pritchard of P&G calls "mass one-to-one marketing."

Ultimately, the goal of mass one-to-one marketing is for us "relationship scientists" to build powerful relationships with individual customers based on our keen understanding of their individual characteristics.We believe we have made big strides toward this goal through our gathering and utilization of personal data.

This is the most insanely out-of-touch delusion in an insanely out-of-touch industry.

In the real world, consumers are horrified. They hate what we are doing. Every reliable study I have seen says that consumers view personalized, precision-targeted advertising as the least trusted, most annoying, least relevant and most hated form of advertising. This is one reason there are over 600 million connected devices in the world running ad blockers.

But marketers are unmoved. We are committed to an ideology, and that commitment is impervious to facts or reason.

We are also preoccupied with infantile concepts like "brand relationships," "brand love," and "brand engagement." Apparently it's a fucking lonely hearts club out there. We're not seeking customers, we're looking for sweethearts.

Consumers, on the other hand, seem perfectly satisfied with having the shallowest of connections to us. They are quite satisfied just to buy our stuff from time to time and to focus their passions on people, not peanut butter or paper towels.

Most marketers don't understand that while their brand is vitally important to them, it is of little to no consequence to their customers. These marketers don't understand the enormous difference between brand acceptability and brand love. (I'll be writing a lot more about this soon.) Their deepest desire is to be loved. But most consumers in most categories don't really give much of a shit.

I am quite sure that my habit of buying the same brand of canned tuna fish every week for the past 30 years has very little to do with "brand love" and has everything to do with my natural inclination not to screw things up that I'm satisfied with.

Anyone who has observed shoppers patrolling a supermarket and has the slightest bit of acumen can't help but observe that when buying plastic wrap or apple juice we are far more likely to behave pragmatically than passionately.

I'm still waiting to observe the first shopper going gaga over her choice of tomato sauce, frozen waffles, or wet wipes.

Nonetheless, we will continue to delude ourselves into believing the self-aggrandizing nonsense that we are 'brand architects', 'cultural anthropologists', and 'relationship scientists.' It is so much more romantic than admitting what we really are -- sales bozos.

I can't help but recall the great line Dashiell Hammett wrote for Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

If you want to test my thesis that we have lost touch with the real world try this experiment. Go into any bar in America and explain to the assembled crowd that you work in marketing and that you are a "brand architect", a "cultural anthropologist" or a "relationship scientist."

It shouldn't take much more than 30 seconds to get your ass handed to you.


In Other News... 
... I don't usually pimp my podcast on the blog, but there's a new episode called "I Finally Understand Why Online Advertising Doesn't Build Brands" which I think you will find interesting.


January 11, 2018

My Hopes For 2018


Three years ago I wrote a post called "My Hopes For 2015." Just to show how little things change, I am re-posting it here word-for-word as my hopes for 2018.


I'm tired of being disappointed. Every year I have high hopes that it's going to be different. And it never is.

So this year I am determined not to be disappointed. I've adjusted my hopes for the year accordingly.

Here's what I'm hoping for in 2015:

  • I'm hoping that some people with no talent or brains became really famous. 
  • I'm hoping that a presidential candidate writes a book.
  • I hope that some Hollywood stars sign a petition.
  • I'm hoping that a famous athlete gets arrested.
  • I'm hoping that college students discover the world isn't perfect.  
  • I hope there's a Super Bowl spot with talking animals.
  • I'm hoping that companies I buy things from make it very hard for me to talk to someone on the phone. 
  • I'm hoping for really annoying online ads. 
  • I hope to see more about Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, and Al Sharpton.
  • I'm hoping that someone announces they are going to re-invent the ad agency. 
  • I'm hoping this is the year of mobile. 
  • I hope someone in Washington suggests that we move to the metric system. 
  • I hope that some pop music stars share their political opinions with us.
  • I'm hoping that a lot of people decide that anyone who doesn't agree with them -- particularly about religion or politics -- needs to be killed. 
  • I hope that two large advertising companies merge.  
  • I'm hoping that a marketing group holds a conference called "Disrupt" or "Engage" or "Connect."
  • I hope that people get really sensitive about their religion or race or size or height or sex or ethnicity. 
  • I'm hoping that we have more people on TV talk shows screaming at each other. 
  • I hope our elected representatives have really nice suits and haircuts.
  • I'm hoping someone makes a movie about a flawed loner who has to save the world.
  • I'm hoping that a car company has the best deals of the year. 
  • I'm hoping that all my friends post cute pictures of their children. 
  • I'm hoping someone says, "It is what it is." 
  • I hope that a food we thought was good for us turns out to be bad, and a food we thought was bad turns out to be good. 
  • I'm hoping for more data-driven insights.
  • I hope that the ceo of a once-great magazine or newspaper decides they need to be an "online content provider. " 
  • I'm hoping to read about developing my personal brand. 
  • I hope that a tech ceo publishes an article about how I can be just like him if I follow five simple rules. 
  • I hope that someone writes a book about how to market to millennials. 
I have a feeling that this year I won't be disappointed.