“…the future of business lay in its ability to manufacture customers as well as products.”
That’s a quote from an advertising trade publication from the early 1900’s referencing mass production and the shift from scarcity to abundance. It also struck me as what’s often missed about advertising.
Advertising has two (simplified) central components:
1) To convince people to buy your product when they’re interested in the category (I need toothpaste…hmm…what kind should I buy?)
2) To convince people that they should want your product/category when they don’t really. (creating demand where there it previously didn’t exist)
When you think about #1, Google AdWords could come to mind. Google makes their money selling ads based on your perceived intent. If you searched for “web hosting plans,” you’ll see a slew of offers from companies that offer this service. You could say it’s worked out pretty well for them.
#2, the latter is manufacturing customers. It’s been at the core of advertising for years. It summons the culture of guilt, playing on insecurities, and keeping up with the Joneses. It’s exactly the world we live in. When I think about how crassly superficial a global society we’ve become, it seems obvious. I’m often struck by how few marketers understand and/or explicitly think about this division.
I wonder what the Great Global Disaster of ’08 will mean for our consumer culture. Will we step back from the age of abundance to a more rational time of earnings and expenditures? Will advertising and marketing as a whole completely change as a result? As long as there is a choice of products, there will always be marketing. But the kind of marketing is dictated by the times.
This runs a straight line through a few of my previous posts, and this thought stream brought me to reading The Age of Abundance which is a lightly-heavy read. It’s where the intro quote is from.