Crash helmet

The Brand Frying Pan and the Motorbike Helmet

Imagine a land where marketers wandered around town centres armed with frying pans, embossed with their brand names, with which they smashed in the face anyone they met going about their business. Not surprisingly, the denizens of this land went and bought motorcycle helmets.

Immediately the marketers launched a campaign to have the helmet shop closed down.

Welcome to the “through the looking glass” world of ad blocking. As consumers (..people?) we are exposed to a lot of truly awful mobile ads. Ah, the cry goes up but it is advertising that pays for much of the lovely content that you ingrates consume. And this is true. 

But, it is not the great content or even good ads that has got us here. If they were all we were exposed to, no one would ever need or want  an ad blocker. 

One of the biggest drivers of this behaviour is our obsession with quantity and measurability and our neglect of what quality of experience do we wish our audience to have. There are few things in the world that you can annoy people into buying – except maybe an ad blocker.

Using hyper-rationalised approaches to marketing is very enticing. We have what we feel is predictability and control, which becomes self-reinforcing and comforting. We can base our actions on what the numbers say and, when things don’t go as expected why, we can explain that too with the numbers  – there is a self-referential certainty to it all.  It’s all under our control and we get real time feedback so that each little achievement releases a bit of dopamine in our left brain. Which makes us feel very good. For a short time. So we go back for more. Sound familiar? It should, it’s the basis for addiction.

This is not to say that measurability and scale aren’t good things, they are. In the right proportion and as part of a holistic view of what is going on they are incredibly powerful. One of the simplest things we can try is the use of empathy (not sympathy – although that may well be appropriate in some cases) – how do we really think they are feeling about their overall experience of us and our brand.

If they are over-relied upon or used alone however, well… Welcome to brand frying pan land where the helmet shop is the most successful business.

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