June 09, 2009

5 Fashionable Myths About Advertising

There is so much nonsense about advertising being promulgated these days that it's hard to keep your head on straight. Here are five fashionable myths that need debunking:

1. Consumer Behavior Is Difficult To Understand
Marketers spend enormous amounts of time and money looking for arcane reasons behind consumer behavior. In fact, about 90% of consumer behavior is perfectly obvious. They buy stuff because it tastes better, looks nicer, is more convenient, or costs less. Just like you and I do.

Marketing executives and ad agencies like to pretend they don't know this and they focus on the 10% of consumer behavior that actually is mysterious. It makes them appear to have some magical knowledge and insight.

Most marketers would be way better off sticking to the 90% we understand and forgetting about the 10% we don't

2. Mass Marketing Is Dead
Tell that to Wal-Mart and McDonald's. This nonsense is being perpetrated by new age marketing gurus who need something new to sell (usually something related to the internet.) If they tell the truth -- marketing is pretty much what it's always been, plus search-- they're out of business.

3. The Purpose Of Advertising Is To Change Consumer Attitudes
Wrong. The purpose of advertising is to change consumer behavior. You don't make a nickel until someone buys something. The fact that they think highly of your brand is lovely. But until they buy it, you haven't done a thing. (Shameless plug alert: More about this can be downloaded free from Hoffman/Lewis principles of advertising, here.)

4. The Future Of Advertising Is Online
No one knows what the future of advertising is. Not me, not anyone. Those who say they do are full of shit.

But I do know what the current status of advertising is, and it ain't online. The only online advertising methodologies that have proven to be consistently effective are search and email. The rest is all talk, ideology, and wishful thinking.

5. Consumers Want To Have Conversations With Brands
Most consumers, wisely, don't want to have conversations with their husbands. Why in the world would they want to have conversations with the makers of mufflers and vegetable oil?

I'm a member of several online social communities and here's what we do: we waste as much time as is legally permissible talking about the stupidest stuff we can think of.

We're having conversations about golf, and beer, and sex, and sports, and parties, and music and -- did I mention sex?-- and just about everything else you can imagine that's irresponsible and silly.

The one thing we absolutely never do is the one thing the social media maniacs think we do -- have conversations about brands.

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