Mad as hell and lashing out in all directions ~ Brand Mix

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mad as hell and lashing out in all directions

Photo: Archie McPhee Seattle (Flickr)

In "AAAGH!", Y&R's Simon Silvester analyzes the likely consumer impact of the recession and describes a 5-stage process that investors will go through as they grieve for their lost money.

Recent news headlines suggest we have collectively started to move from #1: Denial into #2: Anger. "Public flogging for bailed-out marketers" headlines Advertising Age as it talks about public criticism of the marketing activities of GM, Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. With some politicians only too happy to lead the charge and people on the look out for someone to blame, this is an extremely tough environment for marketers.

Wells Fargo got caught up in all this last week as it was forced to cancel what had been dubbed "employee junkets" to Las Vegas. Rather than accept this and move on, the company decided over the weekend to go on the offensive, taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times to call the media stories about this event misleading: "These one-sided stories lead you to believe every employee recognition event is a junket, a boondoggle, a waste, or that it’s for highly-paid executives. Nonsense!”

Ever tried having a logical and rational argument with an angry person? It doesn't work so, whatever the merits of its case, Wells Fargo is only likely to generate even more anger by this approach. One comment on the news story starts: "rediculous (sic)..... they should not be going on these recognition events and we the tax paying citizens have to foot the bill, send them flowers, that is enough..."etc

So what should marketers, especially those working for companies that have taken some public assistance, be doing? It's going to be tough for a while but ideas worth considering: Focus on value, reduce complexity, keep on innovating and try and figure out a path towards restoring trust. Eventually, customers will work their way all the way to #5: Acceptance and then you need to be ready.

Meanwhile, perhaps we marketers need some reassurance that what we are doing is not, as it has been described, manipulative, deceptive and intrusive but is, in fact, an engine of value creation with noble intentions. Or, as Peter Drucker put it: “Because its purpose is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only these two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

Just in the nick of time, then, comes Harvard Business School professor John Quelch with an article called "In Praise of Marketing." He makes a strong case for marketing, builds on Drucker's thoughts and considers marketing's positive influence on our quality of life. Worth printing out and keeping close by to read when needed and as necessary.

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