Friends Don’t Let Friends Buy Traditional Advertising And Other Dangerous Sweeping Generalizations

We all have those email newsletters that invariably show up in our Inbox. We cannot remember dealing with the company. We cannot remember subscribing. Then we eventually recall we met someone on staff there and exchanged cards at an industry event. They mistakenly took the business card to mean you wanted on their list. Still you never really bothered to unsubscribe.   Sure, you get that smug satisfaction and congratulate yourself on your efficiency at being master of your own Inbox domain when you scroll down to the bottom of an unwanted e-newsletter and click extra hard on the unsubscribe link in the footer.   However, sometimes you don’t even feel like wasting the five seconds it takes. [Side note: Although when I do unsubscribe, I like to be snarky when they ask “Why are you leaving?” and simply say, “You know why.”]

Anyway, the subject line of one of these emails struck me the other day. It boldly proclaimed, “Friends don’t let friends buy traditional advertising.” It irked me. Not just because it was self-serving coming from a digital marketing agency but more that I found it myopic and misleading. I certainly am no dinosaur who believes digital is a fad. It is a critical component of how almost any brand engages an audience today. I just don’t believe that has to happen at the expense of any other type of communications vehicle.

The task of allocating spending to help create connection between the brand and consumer is a challenge certainly. That’s not new. We all remember that oft-cited quote coming from the client POV: “I know half of my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.” Figuring out the best combination of vehicles, outlets, platforms, formats and what have you hasn’t gotten any easier as the number of options has exploded.   That’s why I believe advertisers more than ever, especially mid-size and smaller brands, need smart counsel from their hired marketing advisers. If those advisers are truly watching out for their clients’ best interest, they will also be objective and even will be collaborative with the client’s other suppliers of marketing know-how. I think for one supplier to broadly dismiss practitioners of other others is narrow-minded; it is only furthering fiefdoms. And for a company offering clients a way to navigate technology, that’s incredibly unsophisticated thinking in my book.

Epilogue: Another sweeping generalization that annoys me: “Focus groups don’t work.” Sure, sometimes they can be done badly. So can print ads or direct mail or email campaigns or an Instagram strategy. You gotta be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water – both in life and in the marketing game.

Nucleus Marketing Lab is a confederation of marketing thinkers collaborating as a hybrid account planning, research, insights and ideation consultancy. The firm’s fundamentally simple mission is to leave clients smarter, more informed or more enlightened at the end of an engagement than they were at the beginning. Nucleus has worked with clients large and small in industries that include retail, restaurants, electronics, apparel, consumer packaged goods, medical devices, real estate, financial services, tourism, healthcare and more. The Lab was founded by Steve Bast in 2005 after a career in marketing that included time as a Planning Director, Marketing Director and academic.