Be more Tory?
Just like the Labour Party, advertising has also become less effective over time, writes Reach Plc's Andrew Tenzer. Time for a rethink?
A few weeks ago the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft released a fascinating report outlining why Labour lost the 2019 general election. One section in particular caught my eye:
“It [the Labour Party] seemed not to understand ordinary working people, to disdain what they considered mainstream views... looked down on people who disagreed with it, was too left-wing, failed to understand or even listen to the people it was supposed to represent, disapproved of their values and treated them like fools."
Tweak a few words here and there, and you have a pretty apt description of the advertising and marketing industry. Just like the Labour Party, advertising has also become less effective over time. And somewhat ironically, its decline started towards the end of the last Labour government (source: IPA Databank).
Like Labour, the composition of our industry is also a major problem. Over the past three years, Reach Solutions has been shining a light on the extent of the disconnect between people in advertising and marketing, and mainstream audiences.
We’ve shown how the industry gets it horribly wrong in their understanding of mainstream values. Overestimating the mainstream’s focus on power and hedonism, whilst underestimating the importance they place on altruistic values such as universalism and benevolence.
Most recently in The Empathy Delusion, we revealed that advertising and marketing professionals have different unconscious moral foundations about what is right and wrong. This has resulted in a lack of empathy towards those who have a different world view to our own.
In perhaps the clearest parallel of all, the Labour party has been widely accused of seeing the world through the eyes of the north London elite. As a largely London based, left-wing elitist industry, we too are guilty of unconsciously projecting our mental model of the world onto others. We know that we’re not the customer, but the evidence suggests we find it a very hard principle to live by.
New research by Reach Solutions reveals the extent to which brands are misjudging the values and underlying motivations of mainstream audiences, whilst reinforcing the belief that we as an industry prefer to talk to people we are familiar with, and understand.
We surveyed 4,000 UK adults, asking a number of questions about 175 leading consumer brands. The results should be a cause for concern. Based on an all brand average, the Modern Mainstream (the middle 50% of the population in terms of HH income) are:
· 33% more likely than high earners (top 25% of the population in terms of HH income) to say they don’t value the same things as brands
· 29% more likely to say they don’t trust brands to treat their customers fairly
· 25% more likely to say brands don’t aim their advertising and marketing at people in their local area
· 22% more likely to say brands don’t see things from their customers point of view
Even though mainstream audiences make up over 50% of brand buyers in almost every category, it is evident that we repeatedly and unconsciously gravitate towards a demographic group that we intuitively know will see the world as we do.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are a small number of brands who buck the overall trend. The likes of Boots and Tesco have always done an excellent job of empathising with, and aligning their values with their customers. A massive 78% of the Modern Mainstream say they share the same values as Boots, it’s 72% for Tesco. Some top performing brands might surprise you — the likes of Dunelm and B&M score highly amongst mainstream audiences for ‘seeing things from the customer’s point of view’ (73% and 72% respectively).
For a party where many politicians come from a life far removed from their constituents, the Conservative Party did a great job of understanding and tapping into the motivations and values of mainstream audiences. They’ve shown what can be achieved — and we can learn from this, even if some of us loath to do so.
So, shall we be a bit more Tory?
Andrew Tenzer is Director of Group Insight at Reach. The Empathy Delusion was awarded Gold for 'Best Custom Media Research - Media Owner' by Mediatel at this year's Media Research Awards.