Monday, August 15, 2005

Through a glass darkly.

Here’s the problem: Brands aren’t bad. Marketers are. Marketers and their advertising agencies. I sometimes think that there needs to be a movement to liberate brands from their captors and release them into the wild where nature meant them to be. They would flourish. We would know what brands were good, because they would be the ones we saw the most. We would know what brands were coolest because they’d be the ones that the cool people bought. We’d know which ones were best for people like us, because we could just ask people like us what they buy. And brands would get better, because it would be the principles of Darwin and not the likes of Sergio Zyman that determined which would survive and which would not.

Oh, what a halcyon day.

This occurs to me as I’m sitting in a dark room behind a one-way glass, watching a focus group, the crack cocaine of advertising research methodologies. Here we are again, asking the consumer to do our jobs for us. There are vast branches of science dedicated to the idea that people are not always conscious of what motivates them. Nobel prizes are awarded to economists who discover that marketplaces aren’t rational. And yet we believe that for fifty bucks and all the Chunks Ahoys they can eat, we can get consumers to accurately predict their own behavior, and do it in front of a half dozen perfect strangers in under an hour. All this on the arrogant and ludicrous assumption that the simpler and more uncontentious the answer, the more likely it is to succeed in the marketplace.

Consensus may have prevented all kinds of mistakes in the course of history, but it’s never created a damned thing.

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