Advertising used to make us get off our asses and go buy something. Or, call someone to talk about buying something. That was its job. Retail advertisers understood this better than most, watching the cash register ring when ads activated customers.
In the NY market AT&T and Verizon used to be able to tell how many new cellular customers they were going to add based upon how far forward their ads were in The New York Times.
The Web has changed all that. Social media pundits and digital strategists tell us we turn to one another to learn which products to buy. Consumers believe consumers, they say, not ads. The web facilitates this consumer-leading-consumer behavior. Through community and ratings machines, consumers can certainly gather information to help them with purchase decisions. No argument from me. But these online tools that gather and parse consumer attitudes, with no organizing principle behind them, are eroding brand strategy. And brand managers are allowing it.
Good advertising and market professionals find “reasons to buy” that are way more powerful than those offered by John and Mary Q public. Professionals are trained to prioritize and organize reasons to buy. If we let consumers decide, and then employ the algorithm to drive our decisions, there is no art or science. We cede control of the brand strategy. It may even alter product design, so everything moves toward the middle.
Marketers who let consumer do their job for them are lazy. Great brand strategy comes from consumer insight, no doubt. But a consumer collective as brand manager? Nuh uh. Peace.