August 26, 2010

Leveraging Anxiety, Part 3

In the first two episodes (one and two) of this exciting story, we alleged that:
  • Creating client anxiety about the future helps keep us employed.
  • We maintain this level of anxiety by frequently declaring that something new "will change everything."
  • In fact, the things that are supposed to change everything generally have a modest effect on overall consumer behavior.
Then we asked the question, why are we so credulously attached to the belief that the next
flavor-of-the-year is going to "change everything?" 

And now, we reveal the answer... actually, the answers...
  • We Are Visionaries. We have an image of ourselves as visionaries. Advertising philosophy seems to have evolved from finding a differentiating attribute and communicating it, to anticipating the next fad and pouncing on it. Since trend-hopping has become such a big part of our business, we’ve talked ourselves into believing that we’re good at predicting the future. In fact, we have proven to be terrible at it. 
  • We Love New Things. We love new things and hate old things. Just look at the advertising we create. People over the age of 50 control 77% of the wealth of this country. Please show me one Super Bowl ad this year that was directed at them. The average American buys 13 cars in his lifetime -- 8 of them after the age of 50. When is the last time you saw a 50 year old in a car ad? We love the new, we hate the old. 
  • A Badge Of Honor.  Advertising and marketing people are the early adopters of just about everything. In other words, we are way more trendy than is healthy.  Appearing ahead of the curve is our badge of honor  -- even if we have no idea what the hell the curve is.
  • It's A No-Lose Proposition. No one ever follows up on the wrong-headed prognostications of marketing gurus. They keep churning out baloney and we keep buying it. You can say whatever you want about the future without a care in the world because 5 years from now no one’s going to go back and take you to task.
  • It's A Winning Strategy. And finally, we'll end where we started. Nobody ever made a nickel reminding marketers that while there are always a handful of game-changing innovations, most consumer behavior tends to stay surprisingly stable. Part of what keeps us employed is keeping our clients in a state of constant anxiety about the future. The more we can convince them that everything is changing around them --and they need us to interpret the changes -- the longer we stay employed. 
As I've said way more than I ought to, marketing and advertising people always overestimate
the impact of new things and always underestimate the power of traditional consumer

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