Five Uncomfortable Truths About Marketing Posted on

Are you sitting comfortably? If you’re in the business of advertising, I certainly hope not, for these are uncomfortable times. So many deep-rooted ideas about brands and the people to whom they sell are under attack – and not just from a rival purveyor of theories, but from that most persistent of critics: the truth.

In the past 10 years, much marketing lore has been rocked by new evidence from fields such as behavioural economics, neuroscience and data analytics. There are myriad implications, but here are just five biggies to get you squirming.

Real people don’t care about brands

Brands are powerful and valuable, but that doesn’t mean real people care about them. People don’t want to have a relationship with a brand; brands are not like people.

Loyalty is habit, not love

Loyalty isn’t the result of “brand love” but of habituated behaviour. People are loyal to the train seat they use every day on their commute. Building habit is the most powerful thing a brand can do and to be bought without conscious thought, the ultimate achievement.

Perceptions don’t drive behaviour; it’s the other way round

A pervasive idea in marketing is that you can persuade people to buy things by changing their perception of that thing. In reality, we love the brands we buy, not buy the brands we love.

Information is meaningless, context is everything

The same information can convey different meaning to the same individuals at different times and places. In fact, even an individual’s stated opinion on a subject will vary enormously from one day to the next.

Asking people to explain behaviour is pointless

Decision-making is 95% subconscious, yet the conscious part of our brain is programmed to generate convincing explanations for our choices.

In this new world, we must set aside our desire for certainty. We must forget the brand waffle that decades of experts have spouted. Instead, break a myth, embrace the truth and above all, feel uncomfortable.

Simon Goodall is chief strategy officer at MullenLowe Open

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