Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A bit more on brands and likeability.

Fifty years ago when the Big 3 were really big and in a sense ruled the economy of the US if not, de facto, the world (this was the era when people believed "What's good for GM is good for the country") GM and other corporate hegemonies adopted a tone that those of us in the baby-boom generation were comfortable with.

This tone was authoritative, from on-high, paternalistic, in the sense of "we know what's good for you." That tone was rampant in American corporate marketing for many decades. There was no need for the friendly or familiar. Those qualities, in fact, were the opposite of what people wanted from the companies they associated with. In a sense our parents' generation wanted a corporate Big Daddy.

Then, of course as it always does, the world changed. But it seems to me that the communications tonality of so many GM-like corporations didn't. They weren't there to help you, or serve you, or listen to you. And if something was wrong with whatever it is you bought from them, somehow that was your fault, or at least your problem.

Meanwhile, led by agencies like DDB and their advertising for such brands as VW, Avis and others, the zeitgeist changed. People wanted something different from brands. They wanted to like them, not just fear them. It seems to me that this is a lesson that so many marketers have never learned. Having worked miserably for two years on GM, I can't believe they will ever learn it.

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