Sometimes I wonder why marketers have a bad name. There are many that I know who actively strive to do good things, raise awareness, build brands, generate sales, prod, poke and provoke us into doing better work, create job and professional opportunities and to bring people together. These are smart, passionate people who can deliver creative and compelling business value and would have no problem taking a seat at the boardroom table.
But then, you see something that draws your breath. Makes you see the marketing world as others do … as illogical, tactically oriented and slightly foolish. This piece of “brand insight” from Martin Lindstrom surprises me … he is talking about the way that branding bottled water with “PWS” (public water source) can actually drive sales … that by publicly admitting that you are using PWS (ie tap water) that you can create a “first mover” advantage in the North American beverage market — and that people won’t actually mind. By way of example, he cites the tobacco industry. But these are very different products and categories. And unless I am mistaken, there are no addictive elements added to water.
Dennis Howlett points out that telling the truth should not hurt the beverage industry, and says, “If you can’t trust the brand, then what can you trust?”. This is exactly the point that seems lost in Lindstrom’s analysis. Encouraging any brand (let alone leading brands such as Coke) to play fast and loose with the truth is inviting a tidal wave of social media criticism. In an increasingly connected world, brands are only as squeaky clean as their last campaign — and we consumers, audiences, segments and participants are far less forgiving and more determined than ever before. The sooner brands start to rethink their network of advisors and start listening to agencies that get it, the better off we all will be.