Can a cat, dressed in a shark outfit sell you a vacuum cleaner?

  1. the relevance of marketing

(Or…..   Are we kidding ourselves about the relevance of marketing?)

An awful lot of money and creative talent is thrown at achieving the applied social engineering, which we call ‘marketing’ – trying to get people to like what we want them to like and buy what we want them to buy.

At the heart of this is the lodestone of our efforts: creating, developing and embedding core brand truths which are a distillation of what we want our brand to mean to our customers.

Nike’s customers, “Just do it”. O2’s dare to “be more dog”. Land Rover, “Deal in real” and every purchaser of a Big Mac and fries is, “Loving it”.

Marketers proclaim their story and customers believe, absorb and internalise it.

For many years Stella Artois was, “Reassuringly expensive”, at least, according to the advertisements!   In the pubs where it was sold and drunk it was, embarrassingly, flippantly and unpleasantly, known as “wife beater”.

This begs some difficult questions.

How did this disconnect between the brand and consumers originate and proliferate? Did the customers not see the ads? Did they not realise Stella was, primarily, “reassuringly expensive”? Or, more worryingly for us, was it simply that the marketing was largely irrelevant as long as the product was out there and people liked, bought and drank it? Certainly people were still consuming the product in spite of its unpleasant nick-name.

But let’s not leave it at that….. Let’s further challenge the relevance of marketing.

I recently bought a coffee maker for my partner as a birthday gift? Were the marketers influential in informing my decision making process?

Well…… No, not really. I looked at Amazon. I identified which ones had the best reviews and the right prices and made, what turned out to be a very good, purchasing decision based on that.

And it gets worse…..

I have also just bought a Roomba – a small, robotic vacuum cleaner.   It looks a bit like a pie dish on wheels, and I’d like to share with you my cognitive and conative journey, as I gently cruised through my AIDA cycle.

My first exposure to this device was a short video on You Tube, shown to me by a friend. It starred a small cat, dressed in a shark outfit, riding round someone’s kitchen on their Roomba (click here to see video). This was followed by another video, featuring a Roomba being ridden by a cat in a shark costume, pursued by a duckling (click here to see video).

I won’t bore you with the assortment of other, rather odd, Roomba riding videos which transported me effortlessly through my Attention, Interest and Desire phases. Teetering on the brink, I watched a couple more videos of reviews by satisfied customers and it was time for Action. I bought one on line, there and then.

How much marketing was involved in shaping my Attention, Interest, Desire and Action?

Precisely none!

Where were the core brand truths?   Where was the multi-faceted, integrated marketing campaign targeting early adopters, as both the Roomba, and the cat riding it, began their long and arduous journey through the product life cycle?

Nowhere…..

Maybe there was a campaign, but I didn’t see it and there was no need for one to convert me into an advocate.

So, perhaps i-Robot, the manufacturer of the Roomba, should have as its core truth and strapline, “We’re cleaning up and we don’t need marketers!”

Are we obsolete?   What do you think?

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