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.

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