A blog in pink font.

The insignificance of being liked

The reaction to Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge to donate 45 billion for charity is a perfect example of a constant pattern: If Zuckerberg doesn’t donate, he’s a greedy twat. If he donates, he’s a tax-optimising twat. If he donates to an independent charity, he’s a dumb twat for choosing the wrong charity.

If someone came up with a cure for cancer tomorrow, some fuckwit would criticise that it wasn’t cured the right way.

The point is: regardless of what you do or say, there are always critics waiting to fuck you over. It’s utterly useless to worry what people think of us and our actions. Making decisions based on this mindset is self-destructive and limiting. If it’s not you who’s given a free ticket to the golden shower party, it’s the other guy around the corner.

The alternative is to clap along with the conformists whose concern is to be liked and receive a badge of approval. Thanks to evolution for two middle fingers.

Advertising is communication

The Financial Times published an excellent article titled ‘How the Mad Men lost the plot’.

Most consumers aren’t aware of, or interested in, the difference between Nescafé and Kenco and don’t want to spend longer than they need to thinking about which they prefer. They just want to get coffee and get home. Marketers are usually surprised to hear this and find it hard to accept — they like to imagine that people who buy their brand are deeply attached to it. But the data show that even people who regularly favour one brand over others will pick a competitor if it happens to be more easily available or cheaper that day.

This is just one of the facts brought to light.

If you still indulge in the fantasy that “today’s consumers are changing”, cloudy days are ahead of you.
“Communicators have to be concerned with the unchanging man,” Bill Bernbach said more than 50 years ago. And this will still hold true 50 years from now.

Advertising is communication with the purpose to sell.
Not technology, not trends, not psychobabble.

Read the article.

Worry about the competition, not the consumer

What does the consumer think of our brand? How does she feel about our product? What values does she associate with our brand? What’s her brand experience?

The answers to these questions result in the same song over and over again: Finally people can live a meaningful life because they can worship a brand that enriches their life. We are that brand! This fantasy leads to advertising that tells people how they should feel about a brand or a product instead of why they should actually buy it. It’s the opposite of commercial-minded street smarts ignoring one harsh fact of life: the competition you’re up against.

Here’s why: nobody buys in a vacuum. People choose from a range of products and services within a category. The challenge is to get people to buy from your brand and not from your competitor’s brand. To be a considerable choice, you need to be noticeably different from the brands you’re competing against and persuade people to spend their money on you. Ally & Gargano had a timeless mission statement that fuelled the advertising they created: to impart useful consumer information in an executionally brilliant way. The tough part is to spot the useful bit and not default to the trivial bit. Useful is a question of context. It’s defined by the brands you’re up against and the category you’re competing in. The context is not people’s feelings or thoughts towards your brand.

Now some advertising people claim that products and services are the all the same. That they don’t have a USP. So therefore no distinctive differentiation is possible. To be honest I find that lazy thinking. If products have a USP it’s easy to advertise them: just show the USP in a fresh way. But all the others without a USP can’t be advertised: Please shut down your business, you already happen to exist by someone else. This thinking fails to understand that this is exactly what defines advertising creativity: to beat the competition despite all the odds against you. To look very carefully at what the competition is doing and then do something completely different. Or as Fallon McElligott Rice stated: there’s no such thing as “me-too” products, only “me-too” advertising.

The belief that advertising has to educate people how to feel about brands is total fucking bullshit. Witty salesmen are needed, not brand drunk preachers. If brands want to survive they need to worry about the competition. Not the consumer.

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