We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is cooler than a $36,000 VW Touareg, which is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better than $20 no-names...and believing it makes it true. - jacket of "All Marketers Are Liars: But Great Marketers Tell Stories We Want to Believe" by Seth Godin
Trouble is the last few years I'm not a believer anymore. Those $20 no-names will do just fine if I'm just lying around the house or walking to the cafe (I'll still splurge for injury-preventing shoes for running.) Yep, I've become an absolutely lousy consumer. So fire me.
I've jumped off the CoolTrain. I don't need anyone else to bestow their coolness pixie dust to magically transform me into someone worthy. (Secret: You're truly already worthy - but you won't believe it if I or anyone says it - you gotta believe it for yourself.)
The problem is there are more and more people out there like me. It's part of the natural process of adult development that we look inside for the measure of our worth rather than to the car parked in the driveway or the laptop we tote. (I cannot recommend the book Ageless Marketing [blog] enough to understand the psychology of the maturing market and from an individual and cultural worldview evolutionary perspective Don Beck's interview is rather enlightening.)
The trend demographically if you look at the aging population is going the other way: Self-assured, self-determining customers not seeking to fill a void in their life via retail therapy. They have a sense that retail therapy isn't exactly the fix. The props just aren't going to erase the imposter feeling if you really aren't self-assured, confident and self-determining without them.
A lot of what passes for branding is really cool-hunting and then association with the cool. So then the message becomes: Hey look we're cool. We're hip. If you buy this prop, then voila you'll be cool too. In my comments to Jeff Nolan's assessment of the NBA brand losing touch with their market, I said: Perhaps not everyone is looking to be cool by association with urban inner city chic. Perhaps we don't even care if we're cool to like basketball.
And if you think this only applies to old fogies, think again. I've mentioned I have some access to research on the 'tween and teen market through a relative, and the data shows that young folks are more intrinsically motivated than previous generations. And faith, family, community rank high in importance to kids that lived through 9/11. I'm still a sucker for stories, but please it's getting rather patronizing to be told the must-have-it-to-be-cool story.
No one else can bestow validation that sticks ultimately. It doesn't come from the external - whether it's given or it's bought - and I think many of us are starting to realize that. And as a marketer, I just can't tell those kind of stories because I know all too well - that was the lesson of my own last few years - that it is a complete lie. No, the right shoes or the right house or even the right job can't make you cool...or happy. Finally getting to that realization then you might start asking the tough questions and looking within for the answers.
However, in its place, I'd love to see more stories that actually reflect and mirror real life values and interests and search for meaning and deeper needs of people of all stripes and ages today. And I think I'd respect a company more that respected me a bit more - one that acknowleged me as more than merely a shallow consumer. Oops, I spoke too late, it looks like Amazon already is getting that drift.
It's a financial statement, not a scorecard. - Citibank ad