The one where I arrogantly question the smartest marketing people

I remember it like it was 30 years ago. It was 2007, the year of the first iPhone, last Harry Potter and of course the grand opening of the biggest playground in history of mankind, Michael Bay’s Transformers. Where were you on that beautiful pre-crisis advertising days?

I just finished high school, moved out of my hometown and began my short-lived journalist dream, that soon after matured into brand communications and all kinds of meaning and perceived value direction. I was beginning to take interest in marketing and it seemed as if everybody was talking divergence is the future of everything… Where is it today?

Since the very start, the marketing man has been on a never-ending quest to understand his job. It always seemed to me that most careers in marketing were built on common-sense thinking and gut-navigating, with majority of educated concepts rather a language to be used or a rational afterthought to the decisions and convictions already made, than actual guides of thinking. But the marketing heart was always hungry for some gigantic all-encompassing narratives on how it should be done. And many shiny approaches to provide such structures of marketing success have been presented, each one right until proven wrong.

All until today, when the three amigos named Sharp, Binet and Field, assisted by cold data, scientific method and all the beautiful insights into human mind (Kahnemans for short) have really provided us with the big guns. Oh, how eager I was to shove their findings into all clients’ faces, parading my up-to-dateness and indisputability. The scientific factor is such a great confidence instiller. Oh wait, aren’t we in the middle of a great science crisis, that makes even the most respectable sources of information spread bullshit and confuse people into post-truth sense of futility and submission? Isn’t even the most thorough scientific method prone to errors and overconfidence?

Don’t get me wrong, I really really want to believe. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for the reasoning we’ve been provided with by the authors of How brands grow and The long and the short of it – their work has really saved lots of advertising lives around the world (or prolonged it for at least 3 more years). And clearly I am in no position to challenge the scientific merit of their work. But how can you resist the itch, whenever you are reminded that the findings and laws proposed are applicable, to a high faultlessness, to all market categories?

Enter questions

No matter how broad some of the assumptions are, can we really say that they apply to chocolate bars as they do to computers, perfumes to airlines, SVODs to fishing equipment, or premium vodka to painkillers? All categories of varying frequency of purchase, mode of consumption, cost effort, commonness, benefit understanding, roles in our lives and all that?

Should you really continuously reach all buyers of the category if your consumers are in consideration mode once every 5 years, and can be effectively identified and precisely targeted? Thinking here in terms of bang for the buck, what’s more effective, a 60:40 long-term:short-term budget split, or something far from it?

No matter how much we love the ESOV principle, can it really do what it promises to store chains that are competing so hard on everything that the consumer is satisfied with simply choosing the closest one around?

Considering how the highest rates of ad-blocking and dumping traditional tv for ad-free SVODs are found among the most digitally-aware, higher income consumers, are you comfortable with the mental availability building efforts directed at them? And how does mental availability work for your brand in times of Google Shopping and Amazon?

Aren’t the long-term brand building principles that have been concluded on the basis of a 1998-2010 marketing campaigns under some challenge by radical changes in information consumption and memory consolidation of the following years?

By the way, we talk a lot about priming, but shouldn’t we talk a little more about negative priming and the risk of turning budgets into more inivisible brands?

And then there’s loyalty. Nobody has repeated the Coca Cola Vs. Pepsi argument more times than myself, but isn’t it a little bit of an unfair case considering that we are talking about 2 brands famously known for being undistinguishable in blind tests? Can we really use the market data about people unloyal to tooth paste brands to discredit the loyalty (or to be more on point – highly repeatable consumer behaviour with strong factor of emotional relation to the brand) argument for cars or airline brands?

Well, probably. To a varying degree. I’m not certain. I’ll probably wait for further research. And with each new client to assist, I’ll keep my eyes open, gather the data, consider all the options and, well… humbly go with my gut.