Brands & soul traders; the effect of social media

I have just finished an excellent book, “Soul Traders“. The author, Jonathan Gabay, marketing whiz and CEO of Brand Forensics, argues that the psychological tactics to win over consumers over the past century continue to attain new depths of distortion.

The bookis full of examples. He starts with Rent-a-crowd for political demos. Lady Diana memorabilia netted around US$150 million for UK companies within 6 months of the death of the Princess. The “unemployment” poster, which won the general election for the British Conservatives in 1977 was not a long queue of job seekers, but 20 mainly teenagers whose faces were copied. At the Beijing Olympic games, every men’s swimming event was won by somebody using Speedo attire. And so on.

No surprise that the advertising industry began to mushroom as people began to read Freud.  Even the Palestinian media machine has been nicknamed “Pallywood” by some academics, as you see “dying” youths reemerge from ambulances to take up another role in protests. Things ain’t what they seem.

Jon Deighton comments that for all their resources and size, “World Corporate Inc” is not having things all his own way. Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Deighton concludes that

Social media are making life difficult for mainstream marketers. Insurgents use so-called “earned” media in place of paid media, creating video ads passed from friend to friend that like to target the imperfections of national brands and the excesses of mass consumer culture……

United Airlines, Northern Face, Dell Computers – we have all seen videos on utube mocking these and other giants. About time too?

Deighton lists 4 rules of thumb for conglomerates so that they can protect their brand names. Gabay takes a different posture. He argues that much of “Jo public” no longer believes what they are told. And they certainly are well beyond the reach of many old-fashioned 30 second expensive ads.

Gabay suggests that the lesson for politicians and CEOs alike is to tell it as it is; simple, straight, and to the point. Is this a case of the wheel coming full circle with the soul traders needing to find their soul?

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