The Age Of ‘Meh’ Marketing

If you’ve been reading any of the echo-chambers that make up the digital marketing trade press, or the thousands of blogs that feed off of these websites & magazines like so many Pilot Fish (and yes, I realise that I am, therefore, a fish that feeds off the left-overs of man-eaters, anyway) you’ll have read about the ‘revolutionary’ experiment by Skittles. In a ‘first’ (except it wasn’t really), Skittles has got rid of its entire site and instead pulls in various bits of social media content. It’s so crap that I can’t even be bothered to explain it any more, but you can read about it here, here & here.

As Toby mentions in his post, it struck me that this was part of something that he described as “the age of average marketing”. In fact, what I actually said was that this was another example of something that I’ve come to think of as ‘meh’ marketing, in that when you first hear about it, it elicits an initial spark of almost-interest before, with a shrug of the shoulders you mutter ‘meh’ and wander off to find something more interesting. Like a Celine Deon B-side. The reason that I feel that this is part of an age, or a movement, is that it’s the third bit of marketing I’ve heard of recently which has almost nothing to say for itself except that it’s a first (except of course etc…)

A couple of weeks ago I was sent a link to the KitKat site you can see at the top: with the snappy title The First Worldwide Website Where Nothing Happens which could, I think, safely be renamed The First Worldwide Website Where No One Gives A Shit What Happens. In a bravely Ronseal move, the site does absolutely nothing although, if you hang around long enough, you might (so I have been told) see a little bug walk across the screen. And if you follow the instructions in the page’s small-print and report the ‘bug’ (geddit?!) you get an email thanking you and a link to a screen-saver. A nice, even sweet idea, and one that obviously fits with the brand. But, at the end of the day, one can’t help but think, “so what?”

In a similar vein was lastminute’s recent ‘TV first’ in which 3 ads were shown consecutively, on ITV, Channel 4 and finally Channel 5: its ‘Mexican wave of thumbs ups’ made the front page of many of the trade rags despite the fact that, other than the fact that no brand had ever run consecutive ads across the three main channels, it was a really average idea. Does anyone who doesn’t work in advertising care that it was a TV first? No. To be honest I think you’d strugle to find many people in the industry who were really that bothered.

It may seem that this is nothing more than a rant against crap ads and I guess, at its most basic level, it is. But what I’m really trying to get at is that, in a desperate attempt to capture consumers attention, marketers seem to have adopted a magpie methodology: waving anything at consumers so long as its new & shiny. But in fact this is an incredibly short-sighted strategy because, as my old colleague Chungaiz pointed out so well, with so many things clamouring for a share of their attention, consumers need to be engaged more than ever. And just chucking ‘new’ things at them won’t do it.

Because it’s not like it’s impossible: Fallon’s brilliant gorilla campaign for Cadbury’s that Chungaiz was talking about; WCRS’ award winning moonwalking bear; The Times’ excellent poster & TV campaign; UNIQLO’s UNIQLOCK; even the pop-up store that accompanied lastminute’s Mexican Yawn Wave. All of these were innovative (even if they weren’t all entirely original) but either entertained, informed or helped the consumer. So whilst this might be the age of ‘meh’ marketing, it doesn’t mean that the good work has dried up entirely.

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