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“I don’t like it” – my marketing pet peeve

May 20, 2011

If you’ve ever created anything in advertising, chances are you’ve run into the “I don’t like it” argument.

Early in my career I was doing a website for a brand that was targeting 18-24 year old men (which brand doesn’t?) The website was obviously designed to appeal to our target market.

An account person said ‘it’:

“I don’t like it.”

Said the 35-year-old mother of two, losing the entire creative department.

To stay credible in the room,  she might have said: “I don’t think this site will appeal to 18-24 year old men because….” And then proceeded to lay out a proper argument for why 18-24 year old men would not like the site.

She didn’t.

I’ve also heard:

“My dad would never be able to read that.” For an ad targeting women.

“My kids would never look at that.” For an ad targeting grandparents.

Turns out, I have another “I don’t like it” to add to my list.

This hits somewhat close to home because I helped out with the Buffalo. For Real campaign. So take the next few words with heaping amounts of salt.

Ad Age recently did an article about the hate on for Buffalo for real (and for some of the lamer tourism slogans in the US).

Here’s the part that I’m adding to my list:

‘”To me, it doesn’t mean anything. I don’t know what is ‘real.’ Is there ‘unreal Buffalo’?”‘ Arun K. Jain, chairman of the marketing department at the University at Buffalo, told the Buffalo News.

Any advertising critique that starts with “To me” often ends with something rather idiotic. Unless you happen to be the target market. And if Arun lives here, then he’s clearly not an architectural tourist looking for a vacation.

“I don’t know what ‘real’ is” he says. He best be penning a mighty letter to the Coca-Cola company for all those years of being marketing idiots, since there is obviously not a “Fake thing”.

Here’s what I would respect. “Buffalo For Real will not resonate with nerdy architect tourists because…”

Then lay out a proper marketing argument.

Now, lest you think I’m picking on Arun, I’m not. There’s a chance that his quote was taken out of context, and that in the previous sentence, he laid out the marketing reason that architecture tourists – who are looking for the opposite of the Disney Vacation, which literally has a Fake Mountain and Fake things that look real – would dislike a line that celebrates the realism of Buffalo’s architecture. It’s possible that before his glib quote about  an unreal Buffalo, he explained that architectural tourists would think Buffalo For Real isn’t correct because they disagree that packaged Disney Vacations – which is what this line is meant to counter – aren’t really thought of as Fake. In that case, Buffalo for real won’t resonate with our target market. (Or something like that)

I would respect that, and I would be able to cross this “I don’t like it” off my list.

Because this is important: I’m not saying Buffalo For Real will go down in marketing history as the greatest slogan ever created for a city. But it meets the marketing objective. And when criticizing it, I would hope people start at that point.

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