Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Information Age.

Maybe they call this "The Information Age," because it's damn near impossible to get any information.

I recently bellied up to the bar and had to buy a car for my younger daughter who, as I said in a previous post, has flown the parental coop.

I don't take spending $20,000 lightly. I throw nickels around like manhole covers. I wanted, before I put cash on the barrelhead (whatever that means) to know that the car was safe, that it was reliable and that it was large enough for my daughter and her friends.

"Consumer Reports" helped narrow the field as did the safety ratings of the National Highway Transportation Safety Board. But ads and websites and brochure and dealers were almost completely useless. Virtually every statement in any of those "channels" was a parity claim.

Nothing took the car apart for me and put it together again.

No one thought I'd be interested in customer-satisfaction scores and repurchase intent. No one thought I'd like to know about the relative thickness of steel, the aggregate number of airbags, the 60-0 braking distance. And dozens more things.

I see the same everywhere, whether I'm buying a new camera, carpeting for my apartment, a new computer. Even in financial services, perhaps the most data-sensitive of all purchase decisions, we tend to see well-fed people shaking hands with other well-fed people, usually through plate glass.

There's no information.

The only thing brands seem to want to tell me is that impossibly attractive people smile when they use their brand.

I can already hear the push back.

Nobody reads.

Purchase decisions are emotional, not rational.

Etc. etc.

I'm not buying it.

Even if you're impossibly attractive and smiley.

BTW,  I'm particularly frustrated by this because brands use information like mad to have their messages follow us around like heat-seeking drones. That's the one hand.

On the other hand, they think we're too dumb or disinterested to make wise purchase decisions.

There's a Volvo spot running now trumpeting theirs as the "connected car." It is so devoid of ballast it's like cotton-candy infused with helium. In a market that is up 8%, Volvo sales are down 6%. They are over 40% below their peak annuals sales figures. They need to help me consider Volvo. Volvo resides in the most competitive segment of the car industry. Knowing that I can listen to Pandora while I drive? No.

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