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Can We Change Poor Habits?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The goal for advertising, as we all know, is to inform, remind, and persuade specific audiences about the goods and services our brands provide in order to build a relationship and complete a transaction.

Good advertising sells products. Or, if we want to remove the word "sell," we can say that good advertising builds solid brand-consumer relationships.

With all that in mind, now add in the competitive landscape that is the U.S. economy. There are thousands of services and products trying to get the consumer's attention, and the media channels in which to seek attention are only adding in number. What can a consumer do? We've already learned that the consumer is poor at making decisions, and with complexity in choice being thrown in the mix, the consumer is bound to have more negative than positive experiences. 

Should we then, just let them do what they want? It seems that regardless of information, whether good, bad, or non-existent, consumers choose to do whatever they want. Even if it is bad for their health.

Example: one out of every five Americans still smokes cigarettes. That's, what, 60 million people? Even with the abundance of information about the dangers of smoking, consumers still choose to stick with or pick up the addictive material.

Even with crazy PSA ads like the one below:

As a marketer, seeing consumers watch this ad and then continue to smoke isn't just discouraging, it can be incredibly frustrating. Not to mention sad.

If we truly believe that advertising can make positive changes in our lives, why are consumers choosing to ignore the information? If are truly believe that more information is better, and that a smart consumer is a good consumer, why aren't things changing?

People are more complicated than we think. Unfortunately, goodvertising will not all of a sudden change behavior. To create a movement — to shift society — we need more boots on the ground, more influencers, more people who believe in our brands and causes. There is so much information out there, and we would be foolish to believe that just because a message is good people will stop what they are doing to see how the message will affect them. 

Not one formula will work for every single person. That would be too easy. When looking at choice, we like to look at the Theory of Reasoned Action, along with the idea of the Path of Least Resistance. Because consumers hate making hard decisions, or dislike the discomfort they feel when changing behavior, we need to look beyond the message. How can we make an experience more enjoyable? How can we take the pain away from switching to positive behavior? Questions like those keep us enthralled with marketing — figuring out how we can help consumers receive good messages to improve their quality of life. That's what marketing and our free enterprise system is about. Because if we succeed in making people feel good, then we're rewarded with profit. 

So can we change poor habits? Only time will tell.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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