DO NOT Be a Marketer. BE a Consumer.

The Biggest Mistake Marketers Make is Being Marketers

A woman holds her shopping list while leaning on her grocery cart in the produce aisle of the grocery store.

Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images 

If you're in advertising, marketing, public relations, design, or another similar agency, you will have a title that usually dictates what you do. BUT, it should not dictate how you think. 

Whatever your role is in marketing and advertising, and it could be a very big role indeed, you cannot escape one fact. One absolute truth that you, or anyone else in the industry, cannot deny.

You are a consumer.
We Are All Consumers. But We Forget That. 
You are. The person sitting across the hall from you is. The CEO of your company is. So is the janitor. You buy things. You go to stores. You carefully select items. It doesn’t matter if those stores sell things for just a dollar, or are high-end shoe boutiques on Rodeo Drive. You have money, you spend money, therefore, you consume.

And yet, this seemingly obvious fact is one that escapes the vast majority of people in this business when it comes time to create advertising and marketing campaigns.

Suddenly, the paradigm shift from consumer to marketer sucks much of the common sense, and experience, out of the room. And that’s when words like 360-degree approach, contextual marketing, disruptors, hyperlocal, and zeitgeist enter the room. It has become so bad that "buzzword bingo" is common to play in agencies and marketing departments around the world. But show these buzzwords to the average person in a grocery store and they'll look at the list like it's written in Klingon. 

Everyone starts examining demographic spreadsheets, and they get deep inside PowerPoint presentations, showing charts and graphs of the “target audience.”

You nod your head, write a few notes, and start picturing this homogenous figure. A 31- to 45-year-old male, with a low to middle income, a mixed ethnic background, and a wife and 2.4 children. This person doesn’t exist. 

Do Not Create Marketing for Faceless People and Statistics

There is no such thing as 2.4 children. There's no such thing as a 31- to 45-year-old male. It's all nonsense, written in creative briefs and marketing presentations because it's much easier to target a wide range of people than it is to actually focus on a real person. 

And yet, every day marketing and advertising campaigns are developed with this pitiful target in mind. The campaigns are soulless and come out of meetings that take creative ideas, designed to connect with real people, and give them the death of a thousand cuts.

“Our data indicate that people want to see more people dancing in ads. And also, talking babies and animals are getting a huge lift, so crowbar that in. Plus, if we could also aim this campaign at women as well as men, even though it’s a man’s product, that would be very helpful.”

This is not the thinking of a consumer. It’s marketing hyperbole. It’s why there are so many awful ads out there, crippled by countless client meetings and rounds of changes. And then, they’re pushed out of the door, barely alive, to die a grim death at the hands of real consumers who have no idea how to relate to the garbage being spewed at them.

Not only that but the media buys for these awful ads are also placed by people who, although they are consumers, are not thinking like them. So you end up getting horrendous 30-60 second pre-roll ads on a YouTube video. As a consumer, it drives us all insane. The very same people who buy spots like this, or countless other “disruptive” ads, are just like the consumers who are screaming at them to go away. They hate them. And they hate them because they are no longer thinking with a marketing mind, but a consumer’s mind.

Think about that for a second. Someone is paid good money to buy ads that they, themselves, would hate to see. They know it's disruptive. They know it's enraging. But, they are thinking like someone who has the title "media buyer," and not "media consumer." 

This. Has. To. Stop. 

Think Like a Consumer. Always. 

When Gordon Ramsey is cooking, he always considers the audience. He thinks like a consumer of his food first, and a chef second.

In an early episode of the British Kitchen Nightmares, he is astonished by the food being served. A small plate of fancy French food at an exorbitant price, in a North-East England town where the people were craving good old-fashioned pies, hot pots, and other traditional grub.

The young chef was thinking as a chef. He wanted to show off his talents, and prepare food that he liked to cook. But that was not thinking like the people he was serving. If he had actually considered the consumer in the town, he would have never attempted to force that food upon them.

When Lexus first started making cars, it wanted to sell a luxury car to an audience that would pay for quality. But what did that entail? What did this specific type of customer want? The Lexus executives decided to treat the car designers like royalty for a few weeks. They put them up in the best hotels, with the most amazing food, wine, and service. They got to live like the people they were making cars for. They go to think like them. And then, they came back to Lexus and designed a range of cars that this consumer would embrace.

The rest is history.

The moral of these two stories is this; think like your consumer.

If you sell cars, how would you like to be sold a car? And more importantly, what would you hate?
If you sell tea, how would you like it to be sold to you?
If you sell ideas, how would you like to hear them?

Think like a consumer. Your advertising will be better. The response will be better. Sales will go up. Your brand will thrive. And the advertising world will be a much better place.