Subscribe to industry newsletters

Search jobs

Consumers are from Venus and ad execs from Mars

I have run into this thought a few times over the years, mainly when I've either been working on a campaign or reviewing someone else's. How many ad executives, marketers, media planners (and the list goes on...) consider themselves "above" the consumer?

Just because they control the media that consumers see, does that make them any different from the flawed human next door?

Bringing up this topic takes me back to when I was studying Marketing and Business Management at Damelin a few years back. We were discussing the consumers thinking and psychology in choosing products and services and especially how stupid they were, following the latest trend, the best cross-trainer sports shoe, the coolest little sports car on the market to be seen in... and then we all glanced down to our feet and felt like one of the many lemmings taking the leap, just like the others before us... we all had Nikes on. We were stupid hypocrites.

In that lecturer room, some of us eventually the future leaders of the many media industries, we were removed from our "looking-glass" state and brought back to reality. We were just like "them". We breathed the same air, walked the same streets and had the same needs as "them".

Now I'm sure I've insulted nearly every advertising and marketing employee and employer reading this article by reducing their oh mighy and powerful position to a mere consumer mortal. I'm sorry, I know it hurts. I personally can't stand being human. Damn if I had the choice to rather be an intelligent talking Labrador that could still create campaigns and movies I'd jump to it! The mortal consumer is so high maintenance that the world lives off them. The amount of products for a female can't even be counted on one hand! The male is catching up too. Unfortunately though, us advertising and marketing people are also consumers.

I'm amazed at how many times agencies miss opportunities to sell their clients products or services to a target market that they can actually relate to, mentally or physically. Until research agencies can give accurate results on emotions, the best results will be from your head, the paper research results should only complement the planning and then in cases when you are at a loss, they obviously play a more important role. The famous saying (at least I think it is...) "Putting yourself in their shoes" is exactly what will let you into the minds of the mortal consumers. To an extent research on paper does help but it does not give the nitty gritty data you want. If you want, you must look deeper and "off-the-paper".

Give it a try sometime. Obviously don't do it first on a multi-million rand account (if you have the balls or whatever... then fine, good luck), but give it a try. For one day try and read other people's minds around you in the office, at the shop, your friends and even your family. Even though this seems simple and obvious, I'm sure not many actually try to do so and rather rely on paper research and demographics results. Have some coffee or coke (not the liquid kind) and start on a campaign, hell... a salary comes at the end of the month and you won that award a few years ago... what's the worst that can happen?

I'm going to be modest and say I can't remember the exact amount of times I've been right or wrong with my "off-the-paper" research but the right far outweighs the wrong, that I do know. (If I was to be unmodest though... I haven't been wrong yet).

What media executives today have to do is just keep their eyes, ears and minds open to their surroundings, I could even give that a fomula and be like Einstein! E2+M=results. To figure out consumers' needs isn't hard, you just have to learn to remind yourself you are also one and that your thought processes are similar when choosing a new car or that latest Tampon that does it all. Just because you make the media doesn't make you any different, remember that and you will create better campaigns with results.

Of course the main question above this whole article is whether every ad exec and marketer CAN put themselves into others shoes for a day. I think yes, but only the ones with a passion for media and love being around people - only YOU can answer that. I could easily say all of you but that would include those that got in the industry because daddy owned the business and you wanted a new Beemer? Oh, and that line for your next campaign costs 300 bucks.

About Sean Inggs

A stakeholder and leader in the SA space sector providing marketing, spaceflight, cyber and intelligence solutions.

Let's do Biz