Article by Martin Lindstrom, November 2009: I feel guilty!

If for one reason or another, you’d slept through the past five years, only to find yourself suddenly awake in 2010, you’d quickly realise the world of advertising and marketing has fundamentally changed in three major ways. First, subconscious or subliminal communication (and research) has become part of the vocabulary of most marketers. Second, power has shifted from brand owners to consumers – even the most powerful brands know that successful campaigns have to systematically engage consumers, who will in turn use their mighty word of mouth to spread the messages opposed to relying on big media budgets do the work. Third, 2010 is shaping up to be dominated by guilt. Guilt for spending money in the midst of a debilitating global recession, guilt for polluting the world, and finally, parental guilt, as kids increasingly engage in their own online world, far removed from traditional values that were previously the exclusive domain of the family.

So what does this mean for a marketer in 2010? Don’t fall into the trap of believing that conventional research will do the trick. More than 80% of all the decisions we make every day are decided upon in our non-conscious part of the brain. Now if we can trust these numbers, and every study indicates that we can, then 2010 will be the year where marketers will be forced to investigate alternative research methodologies that tap into the subconscious processes involved in decision making.

2010 will also be the year where marketeers will have to surrender their brand to the consumer. What do I mean by that? We increasingly witness how brands can be seriously damaged by consumers who choose to vent their frustration or anger online. Witness how Dominos Pizza’s share price dropped by a massive 10% in just one day after a negative video clip posted on YouTube. How can a large organisation, which can rarely turn anything around in a matter of hours, handle such an attack? Yet, in order to stay abreast of the way things now work, brands are required to find the capacity to do just that.

And finally, this will be the year when marketers will play the guilt card in ways we’ve never seen before. This is the sad reality. Buyology taught us that fear probably is one of the most powerful drivers when building a brand. Fear has a very close association with guilt, and as the world spins faster on its axis, guilt becomes a major by-product. Brands that are able to elicit guilt – or even better, remove guilt – will be the winners. I already feel guilty writing this!


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