Like it or not, we still work towards more sales and more consumerism.
I think I know my audience pretty well.
Of the few thousand or so people who will read this column, only a handful, if any, will get up early Friday morning to stand in line for a “doorbuster” special at big-box retailer.
Yet, among some other friends of mine, doing that was a ritual for many years.
These days, many of us have a different, and in our minds superior, game plan for holiday gift giving: Avoid the craziness. Buy it all online. Wait until the last minute. Better yet, don’t buy anything and give your friends and family something homemade, a donation to charity, or some sort of tangible experience.
But like a game of whack-a-mole, marketers haven’t gotten rid of Black Friday. In fact, we’ve spread it out to every day. Even in this age of the so-called “sharing economy,” consumer sales are what fuels our economy, and our industry.
Are we, as both marketers and consumers, forever addicted to sales and deals? Is it wrong for someone who works in advertising to want to put the brakes on more consumerism?
Among retailers and e-commerce sites, the communication is never ending. Even relatively small retailers send out daily emails these days. There’s more manufacturing of news, sales, and deals than ever before. So the onslaught of direct, social, and email marketing marches on unabated. Mobile has made the amount of sales messages exponentially higher.
Advertising and marketing, once you get past high-level branding efforts, has to keep the focus on increasing sales for clients. It’s not always sexy, but it’s requested of us. And we oblige even if the ideas, tactics, or technologies we use are new. I can’t count how many social, promotional, or activation-oriented ideas I’ve heard in ad agencies that end with “…and then we send them a coupon.”
The truth is many creatives don’t often think about increasing a client's sales when they’re working on new ideas. It often feels dirty, or it’s someone else’s job. But in advertising and marketing, increasing sales is everyone’s job. I once worked on a Very Big Car Account at a Very Big Agency, where the monthly sales figures were posted on the wall, paired with monthly sales figures from the previous year. The message wasn’t subtle. Move the metal or the client will move their account.
And don’t fool yourself into thinking that as a society, we’re radically changing our generous spending ways. Consumption in any form is just that — more spending. Even Uber and AirBnB (everyone’s favorite marketing examples these days) still provide a means for people to travel to other neighborhoods, cities, or countries, whereupon they consume more. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the key metrics of the economy, at least in America, is “consumer confidence.” Spend five minutes watching shoppers at a Costco and you’ll understand.
We may very well start buying different things, or the same things packaged in a new way. But the future of advertising and marketing is still wrapped up in helping clients grow. Which means they need to sell more. Which means there’s more work to be done for people throughout the industry — more ads, more emails, more texts, more social media marketing, more coupon offers to be disseminated.
Call it a path to purchase. Call it a consumer journey. But whether it’s Black Friday or any other day, we’re all still headed down the same familiar road. And it’s a toll road.
Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small.
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