I always love this time of year. Here in Cambridge, Mass., we’re at a turning point: With the close of the World Series and the start of daylight savings, we face the reality that evenings are colder, nights come faster, and the holidays are imminent. With summer escapes behind us and holiday shopping ahead of us, recent media stories made me think about one phenomenon that does not change with the seasons: the relentless efficacy of advertising.
For example, REI’s latest ad, which urges consumers to forego Black Friday, may look like commercial suicide at first glance, but don’t underestimate the effects of an unexpected message. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that while ads may not directly spark a purchase, they immediately enhance awareness and can spark consumer behavior that subsequently drives consumption:
And this data only quantifies the advertising effects of which consumers are aware; more often than not, advertising has a deeper, subconscious impact on consumer behavior and attitudes.
Well, the 2016 US presidential race has begun in earnest. Every day a new candidate enters the race on the quest to headline the Republican or Democratic ticket. I am a bit of a political junkie: not because I am a policy wonk, but because I am a marketing wonk. I love (ok, sometimes hate) to watch the unfolding strategies to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the electorate. What interests me most is the struggle to stay ‘on message’. The candidate wants the dialogue to be about the ‘brand message’: “Don’t Swap Horses When Crossing Streams”, Lincoln, 1864; “Return to Normalcy”, Harding, 1920; “Are you better off than you were 4 years ago”, Reagan, 1980; and, of course, “Yes, We Can” Obama, 2008. But, it’s tough. Political discourse requires a political platform of messages on issues and topics that are targeted to micro-constituencies. Political operatives, surrogates and donors can get it all terribly muddled. And when they inevitably do, the damage control often rises to an art form.
It’s something any B2B marketing exec can relate to. Keeping everybody on message is never an easy task. Despite the hours spent in claustrophobic conference rooms discussing mission and vision and value propositions, key stakeholders just seem to go rogue when communicating in practice: the CEO wings it in press interviews; the SVP of engineering explores the nuances of fascinating, but irrelevant features with a prospective buyer; marketing managers write content that misaligns benefits and customer problems; agencies propose promotional taglines that are slick but won't stick; and sales reps create their own special spiel (and use it faithfully regardless of client context).