Monday, August 3, 2009

Why Marketing is Broken, Part 1

I've been giving the state of marketing a lot of thought this summer, and I have concluded that marketing as we know it is dead - not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

Long gone are the days of Mad Men where ad execs create campaigns that slither their ways into our hearts, minds, and wallets. Every consumer in America is now an expert on advertising - and we universally hate it. We listen to iPods and XM because we want to listen to music - not ads. We Tivo television shows so we can fast-forward through the commercials and reduce "The Office" down to 20 joyous, annoyance-free minutes. We universally enlisted in the Do-Not-Call list (even if we continue to get calls during dinner from charities and marketing research companies). And every morning, we're faced with an anemic Washington Post (or whatever daily you read/used to read) because the paper can't pay for journalism now that the advertisers vanished.

Why has this happened? For many reasons, which I'm going to write about over the coming weeks. But I'll start with Exhibit A: the Omega Watch television ad.

This dreadful piece of drek represents the worst of the worst. Why? Because it sells out all that is great and good about our country. For the sake of a buck, Omega Watches exploits our country, our dead president, our greatest scientific achievement of the past century, and worst of all, my childhood memories. IT IS JUST AWFUL. I wouldn't buy an Omega Watch ad now if it meant I could fly to the moon on its back.

(And whoever sold out JFK by allowing the use of that noble footage ought to be ashamed. Completely, utterly, and unabashedly ashamed.)

I don't object in general to Omega using its "first watch on the moon" status in its promotion. If they'd done a campy campaign with a cartoon moon and then shown a cartoon spaceman looking at an Omega watch, I'd have smiled and remembered the watch's unique status. This approach would have yielded a soft but powerful message rather than the overstated, overmarketed, absolutely nauseating patriotic 2x4 to our heads.

So this is Reason 1 why marketing is broken: because we've come to the place where everything is for sale - and we hate that fact. We all know better; we've heard about the evils of selling your soul to the devil - and the company store. Smart marketers need to recognize that some things remain above the almighty dollar - namely President Kennedy, Neil Armstrong, NASA, setting foot on the moon, and a very, very long list of other precious things.

Next time, the second reason marketing is broken: Veterinarians gone wild - or why marketing now matters more to them than my pets.

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