If anything tops Ashley Madison‘s controversial proposition is its advertising, the most recent example of which recently crowned the hideous Old Street roundabout in London last week. The ad manages to spectacularly miss the point on three accounts, all exponentially damaging. It is a low-rent execution of a low-rent proposition aimed at a low-rent audience.
You can’t fault the business concept, it is clever, but badly framed. Selling this as infidelity just consigns the idea back to hundreds of years of meticulously recorded physical and emotional cruelty. Visually the ad doesn’t do anything that a phone booth calling card wouldn’t do, which leads to the final, and perhaps most crucial point: it speaks to the wrong audience.
Strategically, this couldn’t possibly be a ploy to attract millions of sexually under-serviced single individuals. The integrity of the product and the business model would be compromised beyond repair. After all, legitimising an extramarital relationship by taking part of Ashley Madison must surely require a bigger intellectual investment than simply nipping off to the strip bar or calling up a hooker. Looking at the kind of stuff that Tilda Swindon dabbles in shows that people who commit to open relationships tend to rationalise their behaviour differently, or might at least aspire to do so. In any case, this intimate choice should be discretely acknowledged, celebrated and rewarded, not crudely exposed on the city’s biggest roundabout.
I know this blog post might read a bit like spam, but I think Waitrose’s new marketing push to match 1000 branded products with Tesco is a terrific challenge. UK’s most expensive supermarket is beyond well positioned for a price-matching showdown – even if the customer uptake from the promotion doesn’t pay off, Waitrose can counterbalance it by pricing up in the more inelastic, upper end of their product range.
Despite their legendary consumer database and near-scientific segmentation prowess Tesco still cannot afford that luxury, its average basket being nearly half that of Waitrose.
And while Waitrose continues to grow their brand meaningfully through innovations such as the Leckford Farm, what is infinitely smart about the 1000 branded product price-match (yes it is a pun) is that it can beat Tesco at their own customer-centric game cheaply, in real time, for every willing shopper.
If I were Tesco I’d be reasonably worried.
Just how gangsta is Cindy Gallop? All sorts. Screw making the world a better place – the only reason I’m into advertising is because one day I want to have a pad like this. Batman-flavoured, of course.
I own a 6-year old Fred Perry jumper. My mum has fixed it numerous times, and I am now contemplating furnishing it with elbow patches to make more of the most of it. I know I have just sounded like Jarvis Cocker, but longevity is something very few products/brands have achieved for me, and sadly, few brand owners seem to grasp. The combinant effect of quality, habituation and sentimental value is impossible to downplay, and I am not talking Patek Philippe here. A well made jumper is not too much to ask of a jumper manufacturer, after all (although I do admit mine is extraordinarily well made and cared for.)
I wonder what brand owners think of this. Are there any lapsed customers that are really just quite happy with what they have purchased? Can this unlock a powerful insight about your brand? For example – two million Britons still happily own jeans they bought 40 years ago. Similarly, a lot of people tend not to repeat certain truly remarkable experiences, simply because they don’t want to spoil a perfect memory. More crucially – they will hold that experience in high regard, and tell others about it.
Motives for this specific kind of high-engagement non-purchase are likely to differ across categories. Similarly, what people get out of it and what’s in it for brands varies, but it is an interesting territory just as well.
For some people, this is about taking a moral high ground, which is not a majority behaviour but an influential one all the same. I firmly believe that as part of an emerging culture of abstinence, we will be increasingly defined by what we don’t do. In that context, saying No to most things, means that the things we say Yes to, are higher-engagement, carefully considered and crucially important choices.
And of course, there is something unarguably smart and flattering about having purchased something that has performed its duties exceedingly well, has lasted ages and revalidates itself as time goes.
So I would argue that there is a role for planning to interrogate non-purchasing behaviour and customers. These audiences can be powerful mediators, and rich sources of product insight.
When I was a kid I remember imagining what a parallel mirror-image of the universe would be like (actually, my 11-year old self morosely concluded that we’d be the opposite of living, i.e. dead) If such a parallel universe for the ad industry existed, it would be a planned obsolescence industry. And I’d hate to be the planner on that.
Image source: Barbara Kruger, used absolutely without permission.