a his & hers weblog of worlds apart

Advertising For The Middle

Making Marketing Famous Again

I have a lot of friends who don’t care about marketing. But a couple times a year just about every one of them will mention an ad campaign they feel strongly about. Contrary to a lot of people in the business, I love hearing about people’s favourite or least favourite ads. I enjoy thinking about why it broke through.

The campaign I’ve probably discussed more than any other over the last 18 months is Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man In The World. On paper, the concept for this campaign is nothing new. But there’s something about it that people love (myself included).

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed for all the popular praise this campaign has received, there’s been relatively less within the ad world. [UPDATE – there’s been much more since they’ve announced sales numbers]. Which brings me to the purpose of this post: fame.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mass appeal lately. Two recent pieces on the subject have particularly stuck: The first, from Jeff Goodby, calls out the increasing irrelevance of award winning ads. The second, from Seth Godin, considers just how tough it is to breakthrough the middle of the market. In my opinion, these are very much related:

Goodby’s Cab Test…

When you get into a taxi and tell the driver that you’re in advertising, they often ask you whether you’ve done anything they might be familiar with. Well, have you? Ironically, the more awards you’ve been winning these days, the more likely the answer is “No.”

We’ve created a system that rewards work that is increasingly unknown to anyone outside the business. We have become connoisseurs of esoterica. And in the process, we’re becoming more about us, and less about changing the world. We are becoming irrelevant award-chasers.

I want to make marketing famous again, outside the walls of our agencies.

Godin’s Paradox of The Middle…

The middle of the market is the juicy part, where profit meets scale. The paradox is that it’s almost impossible to make a product or service for this segment, because they want the tried, the true and the boring.

The leading edge of the market is a lot smaller, but far easier to cater to, because those folks are looking and listening and talking… The thing is, this audience is fickle and they don’t often convert into paying customers or long-term fans. It’s not that difficult to be haute couture, to be fashionable, cutting edge or fickle. What’s difficult is figuring out how to make it pay.

Right now we’re treating the ad community as leading edge. Cab Drivers are the middle. And the gap between the two seems to be growing. Aiming for the edges not only spells irrelevance, it spells financial trouble. Let’s try not forget the fame and fortune in satisfying the middle.

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This entry was posted on July 15, 2009 by in His Nurture Posts and tagged , , , , .

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