The Marketing Resistant Consumer

As I was watching the tube this weekend, I came across two TV ads, which demonstrated exactly why faulty thinking is destroying the effectiveness of branding.

The first ad featured a woman about to pop a fish in the oven, when she is stopped by a TV cooking show host.  “You wouldn’t bake in a dirty dish, so why would you put food in a dirty oven?”  And then the ad for Easy Off or some such product proceeds.  The problem is that the analogy is faulty.  A dirty dish might cause the food to taste bad or to be adulterated by bacteria or other problems.  Is it very likely that a dirty oven will cause the same problems?  Nope, not likely.  The advertiser has just scared the woman into buying a product to avoid potential horrors that don’t exist by using an emotional appeal.

The second ad was for a hands free soap pump. The idea is that the top of the pump is covered in germs, so a hands free pump eliminates contact with these germs.  Never mind that many bacteria are harmless. Even more interesting, does it really matter if you get bacteria on your hands as you press the soap pump, when you are about to wash your hands?  Shouldn’t the hand washing prevent any problems from the bacteria?  The advertiser is appealing to our fear of dirtiness and illness, when the threat is, in fact, very low. 

Advertisers are counting on you being irrationally fearful of a particular situation, where there is minimal risk, and minimal benefit for you as a consumer.  You, being afraid, don’t do the hard work to think through whether these benefits are valuable or not.

The problem with  this approach is that overtime, consumers become less trusting and more cynical about marketing efforts, and these weak benefits become a source of scepticism. In the end, your brand becomes less relevant, less valuable, and less likely to be chosen.

Recently, research as shown that our overuse of anti-bacterial consumer products and of anti-bacterial drugs are creating drug resistant strains of bacterial. We’ve killed the goose that laid the golden egg.  Now, we’re doing the same think to branding.  We’ve created the marketing resistant consumer.


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