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Marketing – can you trust it?

July 22, 2010

Out of the mouths of babes – or so the old folk say. It’s an oft-used phrase to describe the blunt honesty of a child – usually when they announce something deeply personal about their parents in a less discrete environment than the home.

Yet it is honesty such as this, frank honesty, which delivers greater credibility. For the last decade in the UK we have had to endure the most odious and disreputable spin from government as it covered up crass incompetence and flatulent overspending disguised as social “fairness”.  From NHS spending to schools helping “every child achieve their potential”, spin doctors hid behind the vapid ambiguity which is the fog of words.

Little wonder then that government became discredited. Little wonder that people ceased to believe in politics. Even the “special relationship” between the US and the UK was hijacked by pointless wars and hyped up to disguise years of under-investment in defence. In an environment such as this, is it at all surprising too that marketers have taken the blame?

In some ways, the new “age of austerity” compels us to focus on deliverables. For the first time in years we are hearing of a “balanced economy” where manufacturing – thank goodness – is being rediscovered as a key contributor to national wealth.

Sad to say, of course, that following years of neglect, much of UK manufacturing has either closed down or been acquired by foreign companies on the cheap. Whether it’s Kraft buying Cadbury, MAN buying ERF; BMW buying and selling Rover; or Agusta buying Westland, the ability of the UK to manufacture itself out of recession is now prejudiced by international commerce rather than national need.

Yet one thing emerges out of the age of austerity which has been missing in the last 10 years of spin-disguised incompetence and neglect: the need now to convince people to buy things. In an age of hardship, people need to think twice without spending. Which means that goods and services really do have to deliver. And that means that marketers now have to work very hard to describe what a product does, why it is necessary and why YOU should buy it.

We’ve had the floss, the spin, the nonsense. Now, for the first time in years, we may have the truth. And as for products which have built themselves on the vacuity of brand alone, heaven help them. And frankly, good riddance. Who wants to buy an illusion these days?

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