The Harsh Brutality Of Modern Brand Marketing

“Lloyd, it’s gonna be a helluva long night…”

I recently read many Millennials don’t care about brands.

They play the field demanding the most for their buck, and they will cheat on your brand if something better comes along. They’re just not into commitments.

But if a company does some societal good, it gets bonus points — maybe a smidge of their loyalty.

Companies like Warby Parker, Toms, and Casper are crushing it.

And now, there’s a smart new company called Brandless selling a variety of grocery, health and beauty products for $3 each. Three lousy bucks. And all the products are branded “Brandless”. Guess what? This hip “un-brand” is a very hot brand.

That’s brilliant marketing.

There are endless reports that traditional marketing doesn’t work anymore. It’s avoided, mistrusted, disliked, and considered a complete waste of time and money.

So, congratulations, marketing professional — you’ve chosen an obsolete career!

Then again, maybe not.

For as long as I’ve been in the game, consumers have said marketing doesn’t affect them. Who could blame them?

Do you want to admit a paid message that interrupted you while you were doing something you wanted to do actually influenced your behavior?

Hells no!

We are all the rulers (and heroes) of our lives. That’s human nature.

But everyone in every generation hates ads that are obnoxious, irrelevant or insulting to his or her intelligence.

That’s human nature, too. Who wants to spend time at a party cornered by a blowhard bore?

The news about Millennials demonstrates we’ve reached a saturation point. There are so many media channels, so many technological ways to cyber-stalk and pester people, that if you’re going to make a positive impression, you’d better damn well have a message worth consuming.

And you better be aware that just because you say so doesn’t mean it will be believed. Bullshit detectors are set to 11. Maybe even 12.

Also, know that now more than ever, people rely on the opinions of friends, relatives, and strangers who’ve experienced brands.

Which means they’ll ferret out your bullshit in record time. If others have had bad experiences, you’re screwed.

As Bill Bernbach said long ago, “A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.”

So, why do we even bother marketing? Because when it’s done well, when it is empathetic, interesting and compelling to its audience, it can do something amazing — it can intrigue, pique curiosity and interest, form an opinion, and warrant further investigation.

And who knows, perhaps your smart, engaging marketing can even help make a sale.

Yes, while your spin today will be greeted with healthy skepticism, it can still influence behavior — if it’s authentic, honest, engaging, informative, helpful.

And if your product or service delivers the goods, well, you will build some loyalty, and by and by, build a brand.

It just takes work. Lots of work.

The only certainty in the marketing business is this: none of it gets any damn easier.

I’ll see you at the bar to talk more about the perils of modern marketing.

Another round, Lloyd.

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Patrick Scullin is an empathetic adman and founder of ASO Advertising.

He has two blogs: Empathetic Adman (marketing pontification) and The Lint Screen (satire, smartassery humor, pop culture ramblings, and advice for people getting hip replacements).