Have you ever seen a commercial or some other marketing stunt that was so bad you questioned what moron thought of that and thought it was okay? Did you even, perhaps, get a little bit offended? Well good – you should be offended by bad marketing.
“Why should I be offended by bad marketing” you ask? It’s not Narcissistic by any stretch, so don’t be alarmed if you have these feelings. The fact of the matter is that most marketing is carefully crafted and constructed around a strategy based on insights about you – the “target” customer. The brands and companies that really care make a point to communicate with you in a relevant and compelling way about the benefits of their product. Good advertising doesn’t just get plucked out of the air.
And if you see something you think is not quite right don’t think “oh they weren’t really talking to me. They were trying to reach someone else”. The other fact is if you are watching a television station or reading a magazine they have specially selected those media channels because they are trying to reach the folks whose demographics and “psychographics” drive them to those channels. It comes from a space of deep empathy and human understanding. I consult on this kind of stuff for a living and do a lot of that type of research, so trust me – I know.
Granted, there also has to be a level of honesty in marketing communications. Companies can’t lie to you about what they are or aren’t and the claims they make on their packaging (especially if they are a food product) such as “healthy” or “natural”, for example, have to have validity. I can’t tell you how many amusing-but-sad brand positioning and packaging discussions I’ve been in where I’ve been part of discussions phrasing was being agonized over, such as “well, we can’t say ‘nutritious’ or ‘healthy’ but we can say ‘farm raised’.
So, what it comes down to is that the people who are selling you products – the ones who are doing it right – are doing so with respect for their customer. They really do “like” you and want to have a meaningful connection with you. So, when you see advertising or marketing that rubs you the wrong way – take it to heart.
Sometimes it means that a product is not all it’s cracked up to be and you should beware: such as the example here from Little Caesars (and the one that sparked my rant):
If the most compelling benefit they have to put in their marketing is that the product is hot (never mind “tastes great” or “fresh ingredients” or even a baseline “yummy”) then I am immediately suspect about whether or not i want to put it near my mouth let alone in my body.
And then there is advertising like the slogan in the screen shot below from a television commercial that is in heavy rotation on CNN (I would know, CNN is my daily companion when I am working from home – which is fairly often when I am not on the road)
This one offends me because it is attempting to convince me to use their service with an argument designed to challenge my ego by calling out my intelligence. This and other commercials with similar messaging, such as the commercials convincing you to buy gold so you don’t “fall victim” to fluctuations in the economy play on outdated worldviews and fears. It’s inherently disrespectful starting with an inherent point of view about human’s flaws or fears and using those against them to sell them things.
My point is that when you see bad advertising you SHOULD take it to heart. The brand strategy and marketing world is very sophisticated. So, If a company is either not taking the time to understand you, understands you but chooses to play on your negative emotions rather than positive ones, or simply has a product they can’t be truthful about so they try to mask its badness with smoke and mirrors – you should assume disrespect and move on to the next brand.
Don’t let the brands and companies who are trying to get your hard-earned money walked around all unzipped with their bad strategy showing. Empower yourself as a consumer and human and speak up. It’s the only way they will learn and the world will be a little better for it – because the people who have the power to communicate on a mass scale (like marketers) have the power to set a tone for the rest of us. Don’t let them set a tone that doesn’t reflect your values. You have more power than you think.
- Customers launch outcry over RRSP commercial, ING pulls ad (macleans.ca)
- When It Comes to Advertising, Who’s Better: Facebook or Google? (prweb.com)
- ING pulls TV ad after mental health backlash (theglobeandmail.com)
- Bad Decisions And No Results: What You Can Learn From Super Bowl Advertisers’ Mistakes (forbes.com)
- TV ads offended transgender community, rules Irish watchdog (guardian.co.uk)
- The Difference Between Marketing, Advertising, Branding & PR (amsterdamprinting.com)