Perhaps the most interesting thing about Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde -preserved shark is its title: ‘The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living’.You could go further and say that no one today believes in their own old age, or thinks that they are anything less than say, thirty, in their mind’s eye.
This fancy sometimes comes up against hard reality when we attend a concert of a favourite band and find it peopled by mostly bald men of a certain age, or, when hesitating by a zebra crossing, some kind but misguided soul grasps our arm and marches us firmly across the street under the impression that we are incapable of independent action.
No-one, not even the young, likes to be relegated to a caste where a whole raft of assumptions are made about their likes, dislikes, status and prospects. And yet this, of course, is what we marketing men still seek to define and base our campaign strategies upon in the main.
There is a strong argument that says that in this social media age of enlightenment, the sharing of information (and very often the baring of souls in the process) means that the whole exercise has now turned on its head - especially in the B2C arena.
However, all of these platforms are businesses, have to make returns to their shareholders and are offering more and more in depth information about their users in an ever increasing effort to help monetise the operation by telling us about their members likes, dislikes, status and prospects. It’s just a question of using it correctly, giving rather than preaching and communicating well!
Compounding the problem is the fact that the young and the old – as opposed to the middle aged – are primary markets for advertisers by virtue of the fact that the first keeps on growing (with no sign of growing up!) and the other refuses to die, intent on spending the next generation’s inheritance!
Each group represents a key market that is important to cultivate, and yet both resent patronage. So what is a poor marketing man to do? The answer is to be more flexible, both in product branding and consumer profiling. In other words, shed your preconceptions. People – and a product’s potential – can often surprise you.
In the world of fashion for instance Givenchy, Burberry, Gucci, have all reinvented themselves over the past decade and extradited themselves from financial straights in the process. By refreshing their image, embracing different methods of communication and targeting fresh audiences they have totally altered the perception of their brands and massively increased market share.
One thing is certain: in the social flux and mercurial fashions of today’s society the old stereotypes and standards no longer apply. And attempting to gatecrash Generation Z by aping their manners and vocabulary is as embarrassing – and ill fated – as the breakdancing father-in-law at the wedding disco. The real trick is to create your own culture and invite your customers to be a part of it.