Let me start with a quote from Mad Men.
“What you call Love was invented by guys like me… to sell nylons”
Desire. That’s what the quote is about. Creating a desire. Addressing the deep seated emotions. Within us. For us. For everything that makes us happy.
“Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay”
Happiness and desire have gone missing in the Advertising today. Having been in this profession for over 20 years, I have seen the change. I have been part of the change.
Somewhere in last 20 years, we have let go of the art of seduction. I know a lot of you will say that Advertising is not supposed to be that. It is supposed to inform the consumer about the product and benefits. It is supposed to work for the brand and therefore we need to understand the consumer and create that perfect communication.
Somewhere in our effort to create perfect communication, we lost out. We started believing everything the consumer says in a focus group or when she fills a questionnaire. We started “fine tuning” our advertising to address what she wanted us to say. Something that will sound very relevant and rational. Question – when were we ever rational?
I will go out on a limb and make a huge statement here. No buying is ever rational. The only time rational part kicks in is when it comes to price. That’s when the consumer shops around for a better price. The irrational part of the consumer has already decided on the product she wants to buy.
But coming back to the post, we have become too numbers driven. We have stopped looking deeper into the consumer psyche. We have stopped looking at what makes them happy, what makes them crave for something.
When did the consumer tell us that we have to do extensive need gap analysis to reach out to her. When did she tell us that there has to be a list of benefits in the advertising? When did she say that unless certain criteria in terms of features are not met, she won’t buy?
It is us who put these people into conference rooms and made them think, analyse and overanalyse. Once we started doing that, there was no turning back. After all, the Agency and the client could always use the 169 slides research deck to prove they have taken the right creative path.
We have become formula and code driven. Humour is a formula. Showing an automobile in a certain way is a code. Tapping into the various boxes we have put the consumer in (gen x, gen y, millennials, gen z) and then creating communication that taps into the popular culture of the specific box, is how we look at communication now.
The art of subtle persuasion is long lost. No one has the time to build a deeper consumer connect. Building a brand is now about market share. Not an emotional bond with the consumer.
To quote Vance Packard – “The difference between a top-flight creative man and the hack is his ability to express powerful meanings indirectly”
We are all now a bunch of hacks. Power is now all about shouting the loudest. Or now with digital medium, creating something that will go viral and have a million likes on social media. Whether it is taking up a social cause, creating controversy or just get people talking. We forget though that digital medium is in a constant state of flux. When we pander to the short attention span of the consumer in the digital space, we are never going to build a lifelong bond.
Getting attention and conversations going is not building a connect. Advertising has now become like a teenager or even an infant. They do stuff to seek attention.
Marketers are also going down the same path. Link test score is what matters. Nothing else. Films get crafted to ensure a good score. All brands are getting uniliverised (couldn’t coin a word with P&G).
Desire is not a rational emotion. Craving is also not a rational emotion. If you don’t want something desperately enough, you won’t buy it. iPhone can sell without advertising (ok maybe not for long). Why? Because it has created an intense craving in the consumer which must be satisfied at all cost.
How many brands are doing that? How many brands are looking to build a deeper emotional connect. Connect that is not built on discounts, after sales, fake lifestyle, some obscure technobabble but a strong emotion.
I have been lucky to have worked on brands that addressed deeper emotions. I have worked on brands that were ingrained in the consumer’s mind. But it has been a long while now.
Will I get to work on something similar again? I doubt that. Our minds are fragmented by mediums and driven by numbers. We are now communicating with a mind that is way too cluttered and the way we look at it, the safest possible way to get the sales number and continue to retain the business.
Tommy Walker wrote on shopify.com that the divide between marketing and sales will disappear. Well it has. And hence the death of advertising as we knew it.
Long back there used to be theme communication and scheme communication. Now it is all scheme. There is no theme anymore.
And why is that? It is because we are no more addressing the mind of the consumer (and they have a very sharp mind) but her wallet. We want a share of every rupee that she spends on buying a long list of products (yes the list has become way longer than it used to be two decades back). We want to grab that rupee before it is spent on something else! But pause. Pause for a moment. Think about it. The list has become longer. Which means that the desire and craving for more stuff has increased. Is it possible to address these emotions? Be relevant in the context of making her happy. And not be relevant as she tells you across different focus groups?
(Disclaimer – she is not meant to address only females. It just addresses consumers)