We’re supposed to be living in a golden age of marketing, in which the power of computers and the information glut created by social media, combined with disciplined system design, are allowing for the creation of advertising campaigns and other promotional tactics that are capable of precise targeting of marketing efforts to the people who are most likely to be receptive to them. This morning, I wondered if it was this sort of Big Data targeted marketing that had led to the advertisement I heard while going on an early run.
I was listening to the 80’s Cardio radio stream on Pandora, to keep my motivation for exercise high, when the Pandora advertising system stopped the music and gave me an advertisement for doughnuts at Tim Hortons. I can’t decide whether the choice of context for this commercial was an unfortunate accident or a stroke of cruel genius.
I have a more clear reaction to the following marketing image. It’s being used in promotional materials for a competition in the Pacific Northwest for business students seeking financial support for their proposals from venture capitalists. In the graphic, the wanna-be marketers are depicted as faceless, featureless forms in slick clothing that only differs from person to person in color. The marketers in this graphic are all identical. They even carry their business plans in identical little briefcases – and their business plans don’t really say anything at all.
The message in this marketing is clear: Venture capitalists expect entrepreneurs who are willing to fit into a generic business identity. Creativity and individuality are not called for. Names won’t be remembered. The business students in this competition will be regarded as commodities – as human resources for the investment machine.
Is this marketing well suited to its audience? Only if business school students are insecure conformists, afraid of sticking out, looking for a machine to join, desperate for approval from paternalistic authority.