I’ll Tell You What I Want – What I Really, Really Want

December 28, 2007 at 3:40 am 4 comments

Many throughout the blogosphere have recommended “The Story of Stuff”, describing it as essential viewing.

Whenever people tell me something is good for me, visions of brussel sprouts riot through my brain and I find myself pursing my mouth tightly, avoiding the spoon and shaking my head in defiance.

Well, today I finally gave in and am forced to admit that, yes, it is very enlightening. There are many educational aspects to the video, but the description of the advertising cycle especially hits the nail right on the head.

So this post is about why I hate traditional advertising and where I hope it’s heading.

Look, a great deal of advertising does make me sick. As we all know, supply and demand has long not been a part of the equation. Often aimed at convincing consumers that they are “not good enough” without Product X, advertising bullies and insults the very consumers it is targetting and leaves them unfulfilled. The Story of Stuff illustrates this cycle beautifully.

I’ve certainly been caught in this hamster wheel. A key example: years ago, I subscribed to about 4-5 fashion magazines. (Confession: I don’t really “get” fashion, but I love makeup). Well, I’d get a steady dose of these mags and I realized, after reading/flipping though one of these things, that I’d suddenly gone from thinking I was a pretty decent looking broad who was fairly interesting and sometimes even cool, to feeling like an ugly, unfashionable, unsexy druid who should be living in a cave, avoiding all human contact.

To solve this I’d have to purchase something, of course, something of the make-up or clothing ilk. When I hand over my money to the cashier, I’d feel that sense of relief, and the sensation that I would soon be “cool and happy”. But that joy would always be short- lived. I wouldn’t even really feel so hot a few hours after the purchase – and the good feelings certainly didn’t last until the next slew of publications arrived at my door, at which point the process would begin again.

Eventually, I whittled away my fashion subscriptions down to one and am much saner for it. Oh, and I don’t have a television.

So when I mention the whole social/viral marketing thing, I can well understand that to most of my friends the words “adverting” and “marketing” are loaded words, jammed full of connotations about convincing people to purchase things they don’t need.

The thing is, I absolutely don’t want to be a part of creating a need for things that are needless.

In fact, I don’t think there is all that much that we really, really do need. This was made abundantly clear to me recently. Prior to moving in with my boyfriend, I had been staying at his place but hadn’t yet moved my stuff. And I realized that I didn’t really miss most of “my stuff” at all… I didn’t require most of it. Now, I’ve never even been all that materialistic to begin with, but even the books, tapes, CDs, videos and DVDs I dragged from abode to abode… many were clearly set decorations, there to prove that I was literate, or fun or interesting, or action-packed. I hadn’t read or watched most of them more than once…

Which brings me, in my general long-winded fashion, to my point about where things are heading.

Now the definition of “marketing” is essentially:
“the commercial processes involved in promoting and selling and distributing a product or service”

But some also deem it to be:
“The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products.” [emphasis added.]

Mutually advantageous? Really?

Yip. Some are focusing on how to get us to pick what we want amongst products we already intend to purchase.

Recently I came across this Meme Labs post delineating:

“[the] majority [of consumers] go online to ‘pre-shop’ for products and information. Before we undertake any in-person shopping, we want to “try on” brands online to see if they fit with our complex choice models of price, perception, and utility. That means pre-shopping product catalogs, readings reviews, comparing prices, etc. From there, we head into stores with a more educated perspective and spend more than our offline-only counterparts.”

Interesting – and so very true . I hadn’t articulated this concept of pre-purchase consumer activity online (the “try on”), but I certainly function this way. Recently, I was looking for books as gifts and for myself. The first thing I did was go to Amazon.com to see general prices, peak at the reviews and check out the “people who purchased this book also purchased” feature/recommendations.

I also often Google products before I set out to purchase. Products I already want, but for which I seek more information, price comparisons, opinions etc.

Some marketers actively look at the consumer to understand their needs and others capitalize on creating products for which there is a built-in market by utilizing Crowdsourcing.

Why? Because the way it has been going – isn’t working as well anymore. We are reaching our saturation point with advertising and hype.

AdHack is “A Do-It-Yourself Advertising Community.” Founder James Sherrett states:
“Today almost every single ad I see has no value to me. I don’t know the person or people who made it. I don’t trust the message and I frankly don’t care.”

Ad Hack– creates ads – but not the usual way. The site describes the concept as “all about real people telling real stories about their real experiences” and Sherrett states his intent as follows:

“My focus with AdHack is on how to get better ads – ads that mean something to the people who make them and ads that mean something to the people who watch / read / see / listen to them.”

On his Alphanauts site(temporarily down as I write this) the Alphanauts create (in casual committee) ads for products the team already supports and loves (e.g.: Siegel’s bagels , Indochino, Canon camera – all products suggested by the participants. (Full disclosure: I have participated in a few of these and love it.)

Simply put, advertising and marketing doesn’t have to be about influencing people to blindly consume goods that are disposable and unnecessary.

I am not naïve. I understand that there will likely always be a need to make us want things that we haven’t even considered. And some things we need we don’t know we really know we need until its invented/developed and promoted (technology is good that way).

But it is critical that we, as consumers, look at what we really need and work on getting out of the consumer hamster wheel.

There is some progression away from the crazed purchasing, into using evidence rather than hype, towards getting people to rally for products they already want. And, in general, a sway towards a more participatory and social system.

So it’s OK to hate the player and the game. Thankfully, the rules are changing.

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Entry filed under: 1, advertising, Consumerism, crowdsourcing, marketing - general, Social Marketing, social media. Tags: , , , , , , , .

20th Century Fox – Why Do You Hate Me So…? I love you! Why won’t you come to me…

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. James  |  December 29, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Hey Monica, thanks for the fine words about AdHack. It’s been great having you along on the sessions we’ve done. I’m really looking forward to rolling out some new ones in the new year.

    One of the sayings that’s stuck with me about how advertising can still play a valuable role in people’s lives is:

    Advertising tells us what we could buy. Our friends tell us what to buy. (Replace friends with peers / colleagues / family for different contexts.)

    We’re social animals. We trust the relationships we have with each other the most. We ask each other about personal experiences with a car, a deodorant stick, a holiday destination. That’s the real way we figure out what we want to buy.

    So with AdHack we’re trying to open the ad creation process to the real way people talk about things. We call it DIY advertising, by anyone, to anyone, about anything.

  • 2. monicahamburg  |  December 29, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for the comment, James.

    I do like that saying about advertising & hadn’t heard it before.

    It is so much more relevant to be told of a product/service by a friend. And so natural to have those conversations.

    I respect the work you’re doing with AdHack (oh, and it’s a blast!)

  • 3. Boris Mann  |  February 11, 2008 at 12:06 am

    This is the one that was sticking out in my mind as having read and been very good. Which, um, sheepishly said, I couldn’t remember the post title of the other day at dinner.

  • 4. monicahamburg  |  February 12, 2008 at 2:05 am

    Ah, Boris – you rock. Thanks for the comment.


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