If Your Product Isn't Selling, Maybe It's Dead (An Adman's Lament)
We sell a lot of dead products these days. Every car I see advertised is dead. It’s just metal to me. I feel no emotional attachment. Nor do I feel anything for most products advertised. All I see is metal, plastic, paper and liquid ooze.
If manufacturers are worried, they should be. If retailers are throwing up their hands, they have good reason. They’re selling dead objects.
We forget that products are like people. They live or they don’t live. The day you treat products like lifeless objects, you’ve confirmed their deaths. The same goes for consumers. Treat them like inanimate objects and they’re dead, too.
Look at how we treat consumers today. We rely on demographics, buying trends, even data mining. We don’t see people. We don’t feel them. It’s like the bomber pilot who never witnesses the actual destruction below. All he sees is topography. He can only suppose what’s happening down there.
That’s the problem with advertising today. We don’t know what’s going on “down there” either. We’re too busy with numbers and features. We make pronouncements like “You’re gonna love this car.” Sure, it makes us feel good saying it. It makes our clients feel good hearing it, too. But it does nothing for the character of the brand itself.
By character, I mean what happens when you bring a product to life, giving it dimension, making it breathe. If you’re saying, “How do I make a cough syrup breathe?” that’s exactly what a cough syrup is meant to do.
Cough syrups today contain expectorants. They clear chest congestion. When a person breathes better, they feel better. With the exception of aspirin, there’s never been a more successful medicine than liquid menthol.
Every product or service today has a personality. It contains a DNA formed from an idea. Once that idea is fully developed, it has a life of its own.
So imagine how destructive we are treating products or services as inanimate. In a sense, we’re undermining everything that has come before.
We take something that has the potential to grow (which, by definition, means it’s alive) and we make it a tool, an object, a device. We list its contents like a scientist breaking down the human body into liquid and solid forms.