Updated: Jun 14
Reading the celebrated British brand consultant Mark Ritson’s latest article in Marketing Week titled, ‘Elon Musk will wish he got over his hatred of advertising long ago’, I was inspired to write down a few thoughts of my own on the relationship between big tech and advertising/marketing in the coming decade.
Ritson’s copy is a valiant attempt to convince a hater of advertising to reconsider his hate. Musk, along with many of his tech 'Masters of the Universe' peers, have shunned the traditional brand building, big budgets route, preferring - understandably - to let his personality, products and services do all the talking.
Keeps costs down and give Tesla a cool cache of unassailable nonchalance. The very personification of the Tesla brand and ultimately its buyers.
Plus, he gets to use the money saved to get us all to the Martian surface.
What's not to like? Why change a winning formula?
I've been pondering the question of what marketing strategies are going to look like in the coming decade. Product parity historically calls for brand differentiation through classic big, brash, brand advertising. But what if Musk and his ilk keep innovating technologically?
I suspect tech advancement will become even more supercharged in this decade.
AI coupled with 5G will open the flood gates to a functioning 'internet of things' and technology will become an even more immersive and potent player in consumers' lives which, up until now, has only been mouth-watering theory for the technophiles.
In other words, how does advertising/marketing continue to be relevant with tech innovation continuing to be the primary brand building exercise?
Add to that the societal 'shock doctrine' of the Covid crisis and a smidgen of the 'Greta Thunberg effect’, where all working assumptions about what a functioning capitalist system is all about, advertising/marketing will have its job cut out for it in the coming years.
The marketing #comms industry has chased the constant tech innovation model since 2010 and, in my opinion, failed. For one very simple reason: tech is not one of its core competencies. It's not in its DNA. Human creativity is. Attempts by marketing to buy into the binary absolutism of our digital age have proven to be incapable of accommodating an important part of the equation: the irrationality and subjectivity of the consumer.
Leave the binary codes to the coders in Silicon Valley.
Tech tends to codify and commodify everything in its path. Relentlessly. Including creativity. Leaving nothing but barren, lifeless messaging. Machines talking to machines.
Advertising is great at getting people to have 'feelings' about brands. And feelings, despite the protestations of the tech evangelists, are what fuels consumer decisions.
As the late, great American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou said:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Author is Sean Hayes. Advertising Creative Director and Photographer.
Sean has over 35 years’ experience working as an advertising creative for multinational agencies and their clients in 5 European countries.
He has won numerous industry awards for creativity and marketing effectiveness for myriad clients across multiple categories of products and services.
Sean is also a passionate photographer and his work has been exhibited and awarded internationally.