Perfection is soooo last season

13th February 2013

“Nine-and-a-half percent!

Nine-and-a-half percent!

Buy a Fiat right away, it’s money wisely spent.”

This radio ad, aired in the mid 1970’s with a suitably sticky jingle, is lodged in my brain. It is a gossamer thread to another age in marketing. An age when 9.5% interest was a good deal; an age when borrowing was the easy choice when purchasing a car; an age when the job of marketing was principally to tell you the deal, straight up.

It has become unfashionable to call things straight in the art of marketing.

There are many good reasons for this. People do not operate as logical machines collecting information in an imaginary balance sheet, only to spew out the ‘correct’ purchasing choice. Indeed not. Consumer decisions are a complex potion of the implicit and explicit, the functional and emotional, the contextual and focal. The confusion can be head-wrecking – and yet, to build brands we must influence behaviour.

The big bet of marketing is that emotions win the day.

The assertion is simple: if a consumer feels good about my brand, she’s likely to buy it – even if it’s 9.5% more expensive than my competitor.

Thus, as a happy band of practitioners, we assail consumers with hyperbolic stories of how wonderful our brand is, how wonderful its consumption experience is, and how simply euphoric one is left in its wake. The emotional heart of marketing is its brand promise – and promising big is its chosen art-form.

Which brings me to Tom Daley’s pecs.

The 18-year-old Olympian from Plymouth has recently fronted a reality diving television series entitled SPLASH. I cannot bore you with its mechanics as I have not seen a single programme, but rest assured, ‘celebrities’ are involved.

I did, however, view a YouTube promotional clip of SPLASH where Tom talks about the show.

True to his personal brand, he’s standing proudly in front of the camera wearing only his Speedos. The camera, in love with his chiselled physique, scans his body coyly as Tom waxes lyrical about how exciting SPLASH really is. Bored, I wander down to that real oracle of human truth: YouTube’s comments.

I scroll down through the 91 comments to see what it all really is about. And there, right in front of me, is an articulation of the current crisis engulfing marketing:


The comment, left by LittleKayeeMonster, refers to Tom’s exquisiteness – presumably of physique, but perhaps also of personality. Indeed, Tom Daley is so perfect as to make LittleKayeeMonster feel pretty bad about herself. He’s just too darned good.

I encounter a similar resistance from consumers in research conversations when I present them with new ideas. ‘That’s just marketing’ they’ll say, defensively. ‘That waffle and hype really annoys me’.

At some level, when something is over-promised, it is a confirmation that it simply cannot be real. When a promise is too perfect it serves to remind me of the chaos in my own life; its lack of perfection. Who am I to ever look like Tom Daley?

What are we, in the marketing profession, to do? Perhaps a new space must now emerge. A third space of authenticity – the byword of a new set of conversations.

I am reminded of an artist from the 1970’s with a little more eloquence and truth than that of hard-selling Fiat of the same decade. On behalf of LittleKayeeMonster – thank you Mister Cohen.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.


Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Leave a Reply