The advertising vs. social media battle

As you have probably realised if you’ve read previous posts at all, I have an interest, no, I am passionate about advertising. I believe in it. Even when people criticise it, when they call it morally corrupt or even when they see it dead. Today, I’ve had the great opportunity to learn about a respected professor who justifies my thinking. His name is Byron Sharp and together with other reputable scientists study the empirical aspects of marketing. In order words, they don’t come up with theories for the sake of publishing, they challenge what is there and have the research to support it. This is his book and *hint* *hint* my birthday is in two months.

 To very shortly describe it, what Professor Sharp argues is that against popular (Kotlerian) theory, companies should target light users of their brand despite their switching between different products because that is where the growth opportunity lies. Thus, his argument goes, a Coca-Cola heavy users will buy Coca-Cola regardless of the advertising he sees on TV because he is a heavy user in the first place. So even though it is more difficult to talk to the people which are not paying attention and couldn’t care less about your brand, they should be your audience.

The argument goes further to the realm of social media and the huge buzz created around. Companies like Procter & Gamble are said to cut back on their advertising to rely more on new Internet-based media. However, the customers who are most likely to “friend” your brand on facebook are already heavy users or people who aspire to your brand but will frankly never afford it (see luxury products like Burberry having nearly 15 million fans). A light or non-user would never go on Facebook to like your brand. Thus, it is still advertising that can help you reach and expose those people to your brand. Whether they will be persuaded is a whole other story worthy of a post on its own.

Then Martin Weigel, Head of Planning at W+K Amsterdam, discussed the concept of engagement and the hype around it. He rightfully claims that engagement as a concept is not new. Rather, it has been around for a long time although not manifested in the same way and social media is just another platform rather than the only platform that creates it. He gives the example of the Launderette ad from Levi’s which translated into a huge increase in the 501 jeans and people reacting to the ad to the point of putting up posters of Nick (the hunk in the ad) in their rooms. For those of you who haven’t seen it or those who want to see this classic again, enjoy!

And for those of you who felt inspired by my short description or not convinced at all and you want to hear more arguments from the source, you can see the video from the talk with the two,  I think it’s brilliant.

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2 thoughts on “The advertising vs. social media battle

  1. Great review of today’s excellent intro to Mr http://www.byronsharp.wordpress.com Anca! Some food for thought as we tip toe into our own social media marketing campaigns over the next few months. On a slightly depressing note, one minority customer, Natasha Harris, who was clearly a heavy user of Coca Cola from New Zealand, was in the press again today after dying from a cardiac arrest in 2010 after drinking 18 pints of Coca Cola per day for two years. If Professor Sharp’s theory is correct, she was always likely to drink heavy quantities and is not a reflection of any marketing ‘ploy’ or advertising or lack of effective labelling. That said I am sure there is a case to argue otherwise and it’s the marketers who get the rap not her poor diet and lifestyle.

    • Yes, I am sure the marketers get the blame for her death as advertising is the escape goat for bad things in the world. However, if they could have been blamed maybe 50-60 years ago when there wasn’t much consumer knowledge, it’s not the case now. There are thousands of websites, articles and TV shows that tell you how unhealthy and acidic Coke is, even show you how a chunk of meat left in it can slowly start to dissolve in it. So I’m sure she was informed of the danger. It’s the heavy usage, not the marketing to blame. You could think about it in terms of cigarettes. Their advertising has been banned years ago, yet consumers have them regardless.

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