Chris Lawer has done a good summary of the latest Yankelovich report on the shortcomings of marketing. The findings aren’t that surprising – we’re all becoming more resistant to marketing messages. The report focuses on four principles for the future. Precision of targetting Relevance of message Power for consumers and finally…
Reciprocity Providing value in all interactions. This means paying consumers for their time and attention. Consumers want immediate value from the ad or marketing itself, not the promise of value in a product to buy. This value can be information, entertainment or compensation, but something to demonstrate appreciation and respect.
Whilst the Yankelovich findings support my general position that marketing is often wasteful and irritating, I notice that I have misgivings. First, I’m wary of findings like, “59% say that most marketing and advertising has very little relevance to me”. It’s the faux precision of the 59% that bothers me. And the Aunt Sally quality of the statement means I’m surprised only 59% agreed. Do you detect a sense of the research being used to prove a point?
Second. I notice the repetition of the “power to the consumer” mantra that doesn’t quite do it for me. The first three principles seem to be saying, never, ever waste the consumers time, only say things the consumer considers relevant, make the consumer all-powerful. And then it talks about reciprocity in similar absolutist language: “providing value in all transactions”.
That’s not my idea of reciprocity – or “give-and-take”. Nor does it conform to the real world of conversations and relationships. In the real world, not everything we do can be calculated to please or placate the other. I notice their use of the word transaction here. I think we demand mere transactional efficiency when our expectations are really low. Like when we lose our patience and say “Just give me what I want and get out of my way”. Relationships, however, require more flexibility on both sides.
I don’t want to live in a world of mere transactional efficiency. When I go to a shop I don’t want the staff merely to cow tow in an effort to make my life fractionally more efficient. I don’t want every communication I receive to conform merely to some anxious guess as to what I might want to hear. I am willing to be suprised, provoked, and engaged… I don’t expect to be placated. I don’t expect to be treated with precision by a company as I’m not a cog in a machine but flesh and blood. I don’t want to be the cause of unnecessary anxiety… I’d quite like to be treated as the fallible human being that I am, by others who are willing to admit some fallibility.