Donald Trump's presidential victory has engendered all kinds of cringe-worthy mea culpas
and wretched self-assessment in the advertising and marketing industry.
"Trump's Win: Ad Agencies Must Address Middle America" shouts a headline in MediaPost.
"Trump’s Win Spurs Concerns That Ad Agencies Are Out Of Touch With Consumers" is the sub-head of a
Wall Street Journal article.
Over 2 years a go I wrote "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey."
The premise of the book is exactly the stuff of today's headlines -- that the advertising and marketing industries are living in a dream world and are divorced from the reality of average people.
We have warehouses full of data, but because of hard-wired prejudices and trendy intolerance we are totally blind to what the data tells us.
Just for the record, here are some of the fantasies that marketers are mired in despite massive evidence to the contrary:
The Social Media Fantasy -- The infantile belief that people are in love with brands and want to have conversations and share stories about brands.
- Online Display Advertising
-- Keeps growing at double digit rates despite abominable metrics, widespread fraud, and consumer revulsion.
- Ignoring Over 50's
-- "The most valuable generation in the history of marketing" (Nielsen) are the target for 10% of marketing activity.
- And, of course, the selfie-stick world view in which marketers and media honchos exist. As Rory Sutherland
beautifully put it,
"how clueless do you have to be not to realise that people living in a rust-belt town might not empathise too much with Yale students protesting about the cultural sensitivity of Halloween costumes?"
Despite the self-flagellation now going on in our industry, I guarantee you nothing will change.
Narcissistic ad people will continue to develop strategies aimed at impressing their pals in Brooklyn; brands will continue to throw money at social media delusions; inept display advertising will continue to grow at double digit rates; and people over 50 will continue to be ignored.
The reason for this is simple. There is an unspoken but well-defined "acceptable range" of thinking.
Living in the acceptable range is baked into the processes of contemporary marketing. Challenging what is acceptable is not even considered. For example, despite the fact that people over 50 buy most of the new cars, I spent over 30 years working on automotive accounts and never once heard anyone suggest that auto makers might consider targeting people over 50.
You have a much better chance of survival if your thinking is completely wrong but inside the acceptable range than if it is
completely right but outside the acceptable range