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Unaffected by Bad Marketing

by Lewis Green  |  
November 5, 2007

Because I am in the biz, I like to think that I am unaffected by marketing, particularly the advertising wing. Wrong! The truth: I am unaffected by bad marketing, which I think is best represented by much of today's advertising.

Don't blame the creatives. They are just as innovative as before. Blame the executives who are out of touch with their customers.
What brings me to write about this? Yesterday, I spent six hours on America's highways and byways. So bored that I began paying attention to the cars around me. First, I am not a car guy. I drive a 10-year-old Ford because I got a good deal on it. But yesterday, my emotions responded every time I saw a Cadillac. To the point that I announced to my wife that "I want one of those," and she responded, "I know. You have been saying that for a year."
Wow! She's right. Without being conscious of it, Cadillac has gotten under my skin and in my heart. But why? I believe it is because of the auto-maker's most recent advertising campaign. Here is an example:

But what makes that ad or any of Cadillac's recent ads grab my attention? Could it be these old but proven techniques?
1. Storytelling.
2. Futuristic show and tell.
3. The use of analogies that everyone can relate to.
4. The selling of different and special.
5. Great views that put me in the car.
6. Charged my imagination to create the potential for a great experience if I buy a Cadillac.
Can't say for sure because I can't read my heart. But I suspect I am grabbed because of those things and more. Cadillac has turned on my senses and awakened my emotions. Most marketing doesn't do that.
What ads touch you and why? Can you see what I see in the Cadillac ads? If you were the advertising/marketing god, what would you change about today's campaigns, if anything? What would you keep the same?

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Lewis Green, Founder and Managing Principal of L&G Business Solutions, LLC, ( brings three decades of business management experience. L&G Business Solutions, LLC, represents his third company. Additionally, he held management positions with GTE Discovery Publications, Puget Sound Energy and Starbucks Coffee Company.

In addition to his business experiences, Lewis is a published author and a former journalist, sports writer and travel writer. His feature articles have appeared in books, magazines and newspapers throughout North America. He has taught in public schools; lobbied for organizations both in state capitols and in Washington, D.C.; delivered workshops, seminars, and training programs; and made presentations to audiences in colleges, businesses and professional organizations. Lewis also has served as a book editor with a large publisher, the Executive Editor overseeing four magazines, and a newspaper department editor. Lewis served eight years in the U.S. Air Force, where he received the Air Force Commendation Medal.

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  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    I *think* marketing is lost on me except when I am actually in the market for something. Then marketing for that sort of product or service starts catching my attention. That said, it is very likely that marketing for things I might be interested in for the future is slowly influencing me toward the decision. When the time comes, I am sure that the marketing has primed me. Good marketing is, as you noted, particularly good at this priming.

  • by Gavin Heaton Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    I agree with Neil ... sometimes I am led right to the door and don't even know it. Later I will go back and try to figure out how they did it! BUT ... when I am in the market for something and I am bombarded with bad marketing, I get very cranky. I have been known to yell at the TV, talk back to the radio ... it is embarrassing. But then I have an excuse. Bad advertising made me do it.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    Yes, it is funny, we pretend to ignore marketing but the truth is that it influences us when we are finally in the market for the item. But, as Lewis notes, it has to be good marketing...

  • by Lewis Green Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    Neil and Gavin: It's funny but I am not in the market for a car but I yearn for a Cadillac. Something is tweaking me, and if it tweaks me enough, some day I will buy that car. Not today, however.

  • by Paul Barsch Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    Last week, I watched a PBS special (ordered on Netflix), titled "The Persuaders". It's a 90 min documentary about the advertising industry. I don't hate advertising, but some of the campaigns shown were farcical. Like Gavin, I found myself arguing and yelling at the television. Eventually, I was so frustrated I had to turn it off. How's that for "affected by bad marketing?"

  • by Lewis Green Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    Paul, I, too, yell at most advertising and other forms of marketing because they seem "facical" to steal your word. But some good work is being done, as well, and I urge us to take note, for we can learn from it.

  • by gianandrea Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    There is a spot that I love the most. It's an old ad from Perrier with adults singing "We will rock you" with kids voices. It's a French ad for the water defined the source of jeunesse. I have the video and be more than happy to share it.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    My dad tells me the story that in the 70's he drank a brand of coffee called Kava, I think it was. Then they had an ad with an annoying voice saying "Kava, Kava." My dad was so annoyed he switched to another brand of coffee. BTW, Paul, is "The Persuaders" worth seeing? I have seen it around and was considering it for an evening's fun.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    When the HD on my Windows laptop finally crashed, I was in the market for a computer. For a while, I had been online watching the funny mac vs. PC ads. I love those. At the time, I was not consciously shopping for a computer. It was not until a HD crash forced my hand that I had to choose. I watched the ads for amusement but I did learn some things that I verified as true and that influenced my decision. The ads might even be what sold me the Mac, though the service at the Mac store was incredibly good. And not just pre-sale. I have called a few times with questions and they answer cheerfully and quickly. No, I don't work for Apple or own stock in them. In fact, I do have some Microsoft stock in my retirement fund. I hope they do well. They have the cash to do some big things in the future. Cheers to that.

  • by Tangerine Toad Mon Nov 5, 2007 via blog

    Funny what moves people. This is the second set of car spots that the Creative Deities mock that have moved you. (FWIW, Cadillac's advertising is considered very pedestrian.) But there's no denying your emotion. It's what moved you. For me, the most memorable car advertising of late has been for Hyundai, a practical Korean car whose safety and quality reputations have soared of late and who may be poised to move into the space formerly owned by Volvo and currently owned by Subaru:

  • by DJHowatt Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    Lewis, I saw two fundamentals in your post that strike a chord with me. The first is that good car advertising is so good at making us forget all about practical transportation needs and our own intellectual fortresses -- I'd look so cool in that Caddy and I deserve it, don't I? The other fundemental almost gets lost: storytelling. I believe it's the basis of marketing. It's something we all do and we all react to. It's one of the oldest, almost pre-historic ways to "message" with our species. Last week I posted some basic concepts around how a story can be structured for best effect. There are strong correlations to how marketing is best structured too: Let me know if you agree. Meanwhile, make mine a CTS-V. A red one.

  • by Michael Scadden Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    DJ, I think you are correct as to the power of storytelling and engaging us to listen. E.g. in presentations, if you add a colorful story, you are more likely to capture the listener. However, I think your first observation is more correct in that the image of the product is really what captures us. Vanity, Vanity, all is.....anyway, you get the point. I'll tell you a story to illustrate my point further (I know, I'm using a story :-)) A friend of mine goes into Nordstrom with his wife. She wanted to buy a dress, and really there was nothing anymore special about the dresses in Nordstrom vs. any other place they went to, but something was different in the Nordstrom experience. At one point my friend was ready to leave when the sales person says to his wife, "We've reserved a dressing room for you, and it will be available shortly." Unaffected by this, my friend still continues to exit when his wife stops him and says, "We can't leave. They've reserved a dressing room for me." The final result is that they walked out after purchasing about $750 worth of clothing. My friend came to the realization that Nordstrom doesn't sell clothes. Nordstrom's sells dressing rooms! More profoundly, they sell the image that you are special. I suspect that like my friends wife, like all of us really, Lewis is attached to something other than a nice Cadillac.

  • by Lewis Green Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    Sorry I went away for the conversation. Wow! You all did great without me. Love your comments, and, yes, I want and I deserve a caddie. But Toad, now matter how good a Hyundai ad is, it can't motivate me to buy because the products don't move me. Marketing struggles to sell bland in my small universe.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    Lewis, What is it that moves you about the Caddie and its advertising? Can you define it or is it just sort of an intangible thing that speaks to your emotions only? And where does the "deserve" bit fit into this? I get "want" a caddie but I don't understand "deserve" one.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    BTW, Lewis, sorry I see above in your original post that you did answer my question for the most part.

  • by David Reich "my 2 cents" Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    What ads touch me, you ask? Not many, possibly because I'm in "the biz" too. The few ads that may reach me are simple and straightforward, speaking to me plainly and (hopefully) honestly, with no blatant hype. Try to tie your product or service to a celeb or to make it seem "in" and I'm out. But that's me and I know I'm not the typical consumer. That said, you should probably just ignore what I just wrote here.

  • by Lewis Green Tue Nov 6, 2007 via blog

    David, Ignoring you is like ignoring chocolate. Can't and shouldn't be done.

  • by Shane Kane Wed Nov 7, 2007 via blog

    I'm drawn to authenticity, which is a rarity these days. As someone who was raised by their grandparents I tend to also be drawn to ads that play upon the dynamics of that relationship.

  • by DJHowatt Wed Nov 7, 2007 via blog

    Michael, Sorry, I too stepped away and discovered you've all been busy. Thanks for using the story to refute my story theory ;-). The point I try to make about marketing as storytelling is not so much telling a story about an incident or situation. It's about the bigger picture of how do we give a customer a framework of facts and opinions about a company. More in the sense of "What's their story?" when we ask who someone is. In your Nordstrom's vignette I'd suggest that the relevant part of their story is Nordie's reputation for civility and respect. These are values that make it rude to walk out of Nordstrom's. I'm sure your friend would have no problem walking out of Kmart. Neil, Want vs deserve? For me the justification of "want" is the rationalization that I "deserve" it. I've worked hard all my life and I need a reward. I've earned the Caddy and so I can justify wanting one. Does that explain it?

  • by DJHowatt Wed Nov 7, 2007 via blog

    Lewis, Sorry about that. Not trying to spam your site. Network error didn't tell me it had posted already... Perhaps you can delete one of the duplicated entries and this one as well?

  • by Lewis Green Wed Nov 7, 2007 via blog

    DJ, No problem. I have double-posted myself, thinking that the post didn't go through. Good comments.

  • by Paul Fri Nov 9, 2007 via blog

    I'm not sure that it's the emotion of the ads. They are well done for their target, but I think the bigger issue is that Cadillac is building distinctive cars that have quality, muscle and aesthetic appeal, especially to guys, for the first time in over 40 years. The ads are consistent with the new edginess of the cars, i.e. they are authentic. They aren't trying to sell you something that isn't there. The creative mavens haven't a clue what they're talking about anyway. The only purpose of marketing is to help move your target audience towards a purchase decision, not to win creative awards. If you can look nice at the same time as you sell, great, but don't try to sell me on an empty suit. I'm a little tired of marketing people who think their job is to make things look pretty. @tangerine. Hyundai's ads are far too cerebral to have a broad impact. You actually have to pay attention, and/or visit the website to even know they are Hyundai ads. No doubt, there is an audience this appeals to, but it is a small one. But, they aren't as offensive as most car ads. @Lewis. I wonder if it's simply that almost all other ads are so offensive that makes Cadillac more appealing (in addition to the authenticity factor). The only other car ads of late that I have thought were really good were the Volkswagen "Safety Happens" series. They were very different, and the accidents were amazingly staged and powerful. If safety was your number one thing, versus quality engineering or styling or utility etc., then these made the point very forcefully (and emotionally). There is no other car ad that I can distinguish from any other, excepting Cadillac and Jetta. (Neither of which are my car, by the way, although I would seriously consider a Caddie if it offered a stick.)

  • by Jeff Wed Dec 5, 2007 via blog

    Hi Lewis, Might be interesting to think about this want/deserve angle. Even while sharing your opinions, I could find myself wanting a Hyundai that had the right look, set of functionality, features, price, etc. But it is unlikely I would ever think I would deserve a Hyundai, regardless of how much I wanted it. Deserve implies reward, and regardless of how much I want it, I wouldn't consider it a reward (now isn't that a bit snobbish and elitist... thinking of the folks in the world who could never aspire to own a Hyundai). But for the Cadillac, I might think I deserve it in return for hard work, etc. Kind of drives home the vanity point.

  • by Jeff Wed Dec 5, 2007 via blog

    And no offense meant by the vanity or snobbish comments, I share your opinions on the Cadillac fully!

  • by Roman Tue Jan 22, 2013 via blog


    I've read the discussion and I enjoyed reading about your many view and experiences. Personally, as a marketer, I don't believe in a bad advertisement, but I do believe in a ineffective ads. Some ads you dont understand what they are all about, some you confuse with other brands (specially in car and cloth industry, which today as all focused on almost the same information), some you just just don't enjoy looking at, but more than just personal opinion of the ad, I believe that there can be a better ad in terms of fulfilling marketing objectives. All ads will be successful, but there will be more successful and less successful ads.


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