Has Your Advertising Become a Vuvuzela Blowing in the Night?

Product 'News' Sounds the Same -- and Consumers Are Tuning Out

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Tom Denari
Tom Denari
Let's face it. We've become addicted to making news.

It's not all that surprising. The digital age has created a hyper-awareness of anything new. We no longer have to wait for the morning newspaper to see what happened the night before. We don't have to wait for the six o'clock news to see what happened earlier that day. We don't even have to wait for the 24-hour news networks to arrive on a scene to see what happened 30 minutes ago. Mobile technology allows all of us to record and receive news instantly. Why does anyone need 24-hour news, evening news or even newspapers, when all of us are constantly making and receiving news all day long?

But are we?

Or are we just living our lives? Are the celebrities just living their lives? Are the professional athletes just living their lives? Do their tweets or our blog posts rise to the level of "news," something that's notable and important for the general public to know? Of course not. At least not much of it, anyway.

But this ever-growing digital capacity for information must be filled somehow, and we're more than happy to do it. Anytime we have new thought, a notion, or an idea -- no matter how insignificant -- we can launch it into the world wide web so that it can be viewed, retweeted, answered or, God forbid, even ignored. Our sensibilities have been ground down, dulled to the point that we can hardly recognize what is truly notable, and what is not. We've convinced ourselves that every little thing we do is news. News has now simply become "what just happened."

All this "news" is getting old.

No, this isn't a call to arms of journalists and news organizations. That barn door was left open long ago. Instead, the point is to simply describe the current context of how people are receiving information today -- and why consumers are becoming desensitized to marketing "news."

As marketers seek more attention for their brand and their products, they've become convinced that no one will pay attention to their brand, unless they have some "new news" to deliver. They think they'll solve all their market share problems if they can just come up with a new product, a new twist on an existing product, or maybe even a new method to deliver that product. What they need to reflect upon however, is whether any of these machinations are actually news. Or, are these "new" products, twists and methods simply faux forward motion -- kind of like driving your car two blocks further out of the way so that you don't have to stop at the light, except, stopping at the light would have been faster. Is this "news" actually dulling a brand's strength by distracting customers from the power that the brand actually holds?

One of the biggest culprits of this behavior is the restaurant category. Restaurant advertising has become the vuvuzelas of commercial TV -- a low-pitched, constant, unending din. Almost any restaurant ad you see these days has the same cadence, with about 20 seconds of some bit that's "strategically positioning the restaurant," but mostly just keeping the creative team engaged. The last 10 seconds contain the sell: the lovingly presented "new" dish, bouncing "new" sandwich or rotating "new" dessert they're trying to sell this quarter. Each is designed to present the new-product news that the restaurant is convinced will drive traffic for that quarter.

And while a few restaurant concepts have mastered new products and have built their brands around them, most have not. The best example might be Taco Bell, whose brand is as much about innovation and new products as it is Mexican food. Yes, it can be done effectively. But unfortunately, a chicken wrap is not news. Encrusted asiago cheese is not news. Certainly not guacamole topping. It's just confusing noise that has caused almost every restaurant to fade into that deafening hum. In a desperate attempt to stand out, each restaurant is blowing its horn. Unfortunately, they're all blowing the same horn, at the same time.

What if your brand stopped blowing? What if your brand stood out as a confident, calming voice? Instead of blurring what your brand stands for, what if you stood for one focused promise? What if you took the resources used to search for that next sandwich topping and focused instead on what makes your brand experience fundamentally relevant?

When you ask customers if they'd like more new choices, they almost always say yes. However, when it comes down to decision-time, they buy what they can count on -- what they can trust. In an economy where people are finding ways to reduce risk, they'd rather not take chances or make mistakes. What if you worked to make sure your brand experience was so consistent, so well-executed, that customers knew they could count on it every time?

What if "the same" was your news?

Then you'd really have something to talk about. And someone might listen.

Tom Denari is president, Young & Laramore, Indianapolis, Ind.
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