Monday, 15 August 2016


Advertising, Marketing and the Fomentation of Popular Discontent

The Edmonton Journal last week reported that Lexus drivers will have access to 30 pre-paid, preferred and branded parking stalls at Edmonton International Airport (EIA). That leaves 1,170 spaces in the sheltered parkade for the rest of us. The EIA has sniffed, and rightly so, that parking revenues are crucial to its non-profit operation and that the airport boasts more than 13,500 slots on site, and anyway, it’s up to Lexus to enforce their exclusive usage. Still, the average traveler is inclined to mutter, ‘Grrr.’

On the same day that story was published Ann and I tried to buy a pair of tickets for the Dixie Chicks show in the soon to be completed downtown arena. (Disclosure: rock is dead and has crumbled into an expensive exercise in nostalgia; we have increasingly gravitated toward roots music which is equally authentic and at least current; and I admire the Dixie Chicks’ politics.) We kept selecting seats we were disqualified from purchasing because we did not possess an American Express card. I said, ‘Grrr, fucking grrr.’

Lexus and American Express are high end brands. We all know it’s tough out there trying to pitch a product or a service. The marketers behind these two familiar logos are trying to provide value added benefits to their current crop of clients while trying to lure new ones up and onto their elevated peaks. Status is all some of us aspire to. Perception is everything, especially when it’s a construct of persuasion, a false want needlessly created. Have these two brands done themselves any favours by fumbling toward elitism?

As a car owner or card holder are you comfortable with the idea of an ethereal entity presuming to speak for you and your beliefs? Do you enjoy being singled out as a conspicuous consumer and subjected to the envy and anger of strangers, is that the sort of club for which you covet a membership card? And how big is the slight to others when a multi-national corporation effectively says: ‘We know you want that parking space or those tickets, but sorry, you’re not good enough, you don’t belong, you’re not eligible.’ If Lexus and American Express cause others to nurse grudges, why, it’s easy enough for the snubbed to peer around and question everything else that constitutes civilized society and identify other wrongs, real or perceived.

We know that no one single cause or factor facilitates an event or an era. The ad industry has shilled nothing but great expectations and inflated promises since it came to the fore with the advent of mass production and the invention of the steam powered printing press. We cannot blame marketing and advertising solely for the rampant disenchantment with pretty much everything that now seems endemic in western countries. Yet the industry has played its modest role, there are those drive-by, roped off parking spaces and lousy concert tickets here in Edmonton, and it has spread or spun the messages of dissatisfaction trumpeted by special interest groups around the globe. Everybody everywhere has a lot to complain about. Pick a scab, any scab, the deck’s stacked.

Resentment is an easy bed of hot coals to stoke. An orange populist, a demagogue somewhere, say in a country south of Canada, might bellow that a portion of the seething populace is right to believe they’ve been jammed by liberal elitists, Lexus drivers and American Express card owners, excluded and forgotten, and that everything is rigged against them, always has been, and how about those ringing endorsements from the American Nazi Party and the Klu Klux Klan’s former Grand Wizard! ‘Make America Great Again!’

The irony is that the Trump brand with its ostentatious gold capital letters has always aspired to the aerie heights occupied by established luxury brands. One of the advertising adages I still adhere to is that a person cannot be a brand. However a personalized brand will not only gratify the ego of the founder but reflect their traits and qualities as well. The range of Trump lifestyle products (he doesn’t exactly manufacture Reardon metal), hotels, casinos and golf courses, premium meat and vodka, scattershot (real esteak?) and vulgar, were never meant to be marketed to the core constituency that now supports him because to get the best of the best, the absolute best, the best there is, you need a lot of money, a ton of money, a pile of money. Come November, a segment of registered Republicans will cast their votes for a man who, in his uniquely gauche, indeed signature way, has contributed to their sense of alienation.

No comments:

Post a Comment