Time to Get Along -- Or Duke it Out, Big Brands?
A few months ago – or was it an eternity ago? – I wondered in this space about the unavoidable dynamic the combination of nasty, polarizing campaign rhetoric and stunning election results forces us to know about our own “Tale of Two Cities” country. Specifically, I thought there might be three areas of consumer marketing to watch.
· First, would there be an escalation in the raw sharpness and harshness of directly comparative competitive advertising?
· Second, would there be a decline in Kumbaya “despite our differences, we can all get along” one world, Cheerio-esque post-racial, Coke on a hilltop messaging?
· Third, would manufacturers turn up the volume (and business strategies) on ‘made in America’ and ‘We’re returning jobs to America’ corporate umbrella campaigns?
I heard back from a number of folks. The overwhelming consensus was a definite ‘maybe’ to the first two, but a resounding ‘duh’ to the third question. Sure enough, that’s about where we are. The jury’s out on nasty, comparison advertising. Microsoft’s “Art of Harmony” ad, coupled with Apple’s “Open Your Heart to Everyone” campaign may be vestiges of approaches designed for a different election outcome, but they aired nonetheless through the holidays. Up, down and seemingly over with now. But gorgeous and world affirming for that brief shining moment. And, of course: Lots of corporate spinning to take credit for the return of newly chic manufacturing jobs.
So a new round of questions emerges. If we can’t trust polls and reporting on polls, what impact will mistrust/distrust/cynicism have on the people within corporations used to making brand and category decisions based on forward looking attitude and usage models, oftentimes created by the very firms whose political polling arms are now routinely vilified. Are we in a post-BASES world?
· Do we believe predictive models, or do we rely solely on ‘fact-based’ scanner data, which, while wonderfully accurate, is about as relevant to innovation and growth as using the rearview mirror is to driving a new car on a new road?
· If our consumers disengage from mainstream national news outlets, firmly believing that it’s all #fakenews, then how do we provide credible, authoritative product information, when marketing itself is characteristically viewed as somewhere between hyperbolic and downright unreliable? Both content and context are suddenly up for grabs.
· The populist appeal of ‘I think so because I think so and thus I get to say so,’ and ‘I read it on a website so it must be true’ segment of one reality, coupled with universal access to the internet already provokes scientists and nutritionists to state #fakescience stories are one of the most dangerous health risks consumers face. What’s a healthcare brand or indeed any brand to do about that?
Answers, please! Send me your thoughts. Before, as we slouch towards a retro-defined world of American greatness, the business of figuring out ‘Who Do You Trust’ becomes ‘Mission Impossible.’