How Toothpaste Proves the Consumer Disconnect

Toothpaste and the consumer disconnectDo you know what the first reason is why marketers fail to connect with consumers? The fact they call them consumers and treat them as such. They even address them as consumers. It’s one of the many signs proving the continuing monologue mentality, self-centered marketing speak and consumer disconnect.

Yesterday, I saw two different TV commercials in which the beautiful looking actors that were supposed to represent the rest of us were called consumers IN the commercial. And it just struck me how this happens so often.

One ad was for a toothpaste brand, Colgate, and showed the usual pseudo-scientist, explaining what terrible mouth hygiene threats the toothpaste could treat, to some people seated around a table. These were the ‘consumers’. When the commercial started, it actually showed ‘Colgate invited consumers’.

The second ad I already forgot (guess why) but same history: “we invited consumers” the voice-over said and continued with some pseudo-scientific explanation that had to make viewers believe the product would really do what it promised (with the details in the very fine print no one sees).

How estranged can you be as an advertiser and an agency to make and show (and thus approve) a TV commercial that addresses people having the courage to watch it as ‘consumers’. How much more alienated can you get? Seriously? Do people address each others as consumers? Does an email marketer send an email saying ‘dear consumer, we invited some consumers like you, here is what they think‘? I don’t think so.

I came to realize this goes much further. Well, it was more a reminder really. Look at websites that sell ‘consumer products’ and ‘professional products’ such as computer vendors. You know that this is often translated in the navigational structures (which is not a good idea), that in reality reflect the structure of the organization. Enough said. Customers or prospects should never be called consumers unless when we’re among us.

The eternal consumer disconnect and the lack of respect

Why would you call people of flesh and blood consumers in their face while all you want to do is reach those who believe that they urgently need to do something about their mouth hygiene? Let’s be honest. Never ever call someone who is not in marketing a member, fan, subscriber, followers, suspect, prospect, lead or consumer. A customer: OK. A consumer: no way.

The underlying problem? The disconnect between brands and, well, consumers (yes, including customers that is). The eternal consumer disconnect. We like to believe that this disconnect is improving. But is it really? Not in the case of those two advertisers. And just look at all reports and surveys that in a way tell something about how customer-centric companies are, whether it concerns social media listening, optimization, customer service or any investment that is about improving what exists.

I can hardly imagine that both companies – and their respective agencies – look at consumers as people and treat them as such. I can hardly imagine they really once thought about marketing from the perspective of the people they want to reach. And I bet their marketing processes are as disconnected and siloed as their way of approaching consumers.

We have a problem resisting the focus on our beautiful selves instead of on the preferences, triggers, needs and pains of consumers across their journey. We can hardly resists the corporate marketing and PR speak and talk with potential customers in a human voice, even today.

The fact that we call them consumers in the face is just proof of it. Just as it is proof that we still fail to involve…the consumer in the decision process.

EACH connection starts with speaking the same language and taking the time to understand the ‘other’. That’s respect. Calling consumers ‘people’ in ads and interactions might be a good way to start.

PS: don’t think the social media strategies of organizations are more ‘connected’. Brands and consumers disconnect over social media marketing as well. Integration around the consumer and across channels. Customer-centricity. That’s the name of the game.

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