In an Exponentially Growing World, Advertising is Curiously Becoming More Personal

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Imagine it is 1905 and you’re on a street corner with a tiny stage set up in front of you.  A man with a wildly flamboyant mustache steps up and starts shouting over the crowd that he’s got a one of a kind product that no one can miss out on.  People ask him questions and he simply dismisses them with a few glittering generalities . . . and like magic, everyone pulls out their cash and begs for the product.

Wake up . . . it’s 2009.

The days of brands metaphorically, or literally, standing on a soapbox and shouting a one-way message at the consumer is over.  Now the roles have been reversed.  Your brand needs to have something interesting and relevant to say when the consumer decides that they will give you some of their time . . . and if you don’t “wow” them right off the bat with believable, emotional and personal information, they’ll move on and both you and your product will be left in the digital gutter.

More and more, brands have become a personification of themselves through the use and implementation of social and interactive media.  But rather than shouting loudspeaker messages, the good ones have become more conversational, relevant, and downright friendly.

Remember that friend you have that walks into a party and just starts shouting.  Everyone looks, but is generally annoyed.  Then you’ve got the other friend, who walks in quietly and confidently, but can sit down, crack a beer, and talk, personally, about what is going on in the world today.  By the end of the night, everyone knows they guy who’s shouting about how drunk he is but they all hate him.  Maybe less people know they guy who’s had a few really interesting conversations, but the people who met him will keep him in mind for their next party.  Brands need to be that guy.

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“9 out of 10 dentists recommend it” isn’t gonna cut it anymore . . . I’m sorry.  But if 9 out of 10 friends recommend it, that’s a different story. It’s a game of sociability and believability.  Brands can’t merely spout off about how great their product is; they have to ask you what you like about them, and what you don’t like.  They have to befriend you and gain your trust.  And eventually, once all the pleasantries are out of the way, maybe you’ll buy.

That’s just the way it is now.  People were worried about the lack of personalization that would ensue from the growth of the internet, worried that it would yield a cold, desolate web-space where no one would want or need to interact anymore.  I think we can all put that theory away for now.  As social creatures we would never allow ourselves to be so utterly confined.  And that’s what we need to remember in advertising.