Resisting the dark side of marketing
I’ve been a professional marketer for the best part of 25 years now, first in the pharmaceutical industry working on brands for osteoporosis, glaucoma and high blood pressure. And then with one of the world’s largest healthcare agencies with brands as diverse as milk, yoghurt and medical equipment.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been running my own consultancy – Blue Frog Marketing – and have had the pleasure of working with and for some amazing individuals – business owners, marketing colleagues and suppliers.
There is no doubt that in every industry, we are seeing more competition for the customer and their wallet than ever before. In most segments, there are many many competitors- both large and small.
I’ve been interested in ethics since studying an ethics course around 12 years ago. And in particular the ethics of marketing. Those who know me, will no doubt have heard me rail against the ONE dimensional marketing of supposed health foods, the hidden costs in telecommunications.
With the new Star Wars movies coming out soon, I thought it might be topical to compare the choices that Luke had to make against Darth Vader and the trends in marketing and advertising right now. By no means do I think the majority of companies out there are lying to us as consumers, but there is a complexity to advertising creeping in, that could be morally inferred to be ‘bending the physical universe’ and using the dark side of the force.
We see almost every electricity retailer offering discounts off ‘Electricity usage’ in big 2 metre high lettering on their billboards – consumers beware – this is not the same as 15% off your electricity bill – it’s only a discount off a part of it.
We see 1% interest rates for leasing cars – but when you look at the costs and fees the real rate is much higher!!
One of the central platforms to great marketing strategy is researching your market and like the proverbial blood out of a stone – finding that elusive market opportunity or relevant differentiated benefit to your brand – then coming up with an effective campaign to take advantage of the thing only you can provide your customers – yes this does mean maybe being a smaller richer brand – targeting a smaller niche – but inevitably the niche brands are more profitable, more nimble – BIG isn’t always better.
But lately, it seems the path to a marketing strategy is the easy – dark side path – where you just come up with a campaign that has a headline discount that seems fantastic, but the devil is in the detail for the consumer.
My challenge to brands and marketers, is get back to your core roots of great strategy – find a real, truthful and noble BENEFIT you can offer your market and then remove the complexity and the ‘white lies’ from your advertising.
My guess is consumers would prefer a real benefit to a tricky offer any day of the week.
Have a great festive season with your family and best wishes for a more ethical 2015.