Magazine article Marketing

The Essay: In Defence of Being Unfashionably Rational

Magazine article Marketing

The Essay: In Defence of Being Unfashionably Rational

Article excerpt

Marketers have been told that emotion is the key to effective advertising, but there are cases where fact-based communications can win consumers over, writes Matt Willifer.

This is a deeply unfashionable view. Those who know me will, of course, be surprised at my association with the words 'deeply unfashionable', but there you go.

This article is in defence of fact-based advertising.

By this, I mean advertising - and it can come in various creative forms - the primary purpose of which is to communicate a concrete product fact. Fizziest. Thirst-quenching. Delivered within 24 hours. Tasty. From Switzerland. Used by dentists. Three hundred years old.

Advertising with this aim has had something of a bad press recently Academics argue that ads trying to get people to remember a fact are not feasible; our brains are wired to inertia, and such communications ask for too much processing from an audience with better things to think about. They also argue that communicating a fact is not required. Most brands are bought by people who, when asked, believe they are much the same as other brands that they could have bought instead (and often do).

Therefore, we would be better served aiming purely for salience, or creating emotional advertising that is pretty much unburdened by the underpinning of a rational product fact.

There are clearly many instances when this is true. However, there are also many instances when it is not - and, I think, many more instances than some academics have suggested. Here are three opportunities where good, fact-based communications can be effective.

The first opportunity is to identify the context in which people are willing and able to process a message. It has, of course, always been the case that there are some points in some customer journeys where people want to know something concrete about the product. Today, identifying the precise context is more viable than it has ever been. If a person is liable to be receptive to a particular message for only 1% of the time, it is increasingly possible for (good) programmatic, re-targeted and mobile advertising to efficiently seek this out.

The second is to use creativity to get people to process a product point, even when they are not naturally predisposed to do so. When Jean-Claude Van Damme did the splits to show the precision engineering of Volvo trucks, it convinced people who will never, ever be in the market for a Volvo truck, let alone have any need for its precision steering, of something they did not know before. …

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