Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Snob Appeal

The dictionary defines a snob as someone who admires and cultivates relationships with those considered socially superior and disdains those considered inferior; someone who looks down on people considered to have inferior knowledge or tastes.

Such a person sounds pretty unpleasant, don't you think?

The last thing the world needs right now is more snobs. Especially since there is already an ample supply available.  It makes me wonder why advertisers want to appeal to these folks right now, the economy being what it is.

Perhaps it's because the snob mob may be the only people right now with surplus disposable income. They comprise the notorious One Percent so often referred to in political and social campaigns, also known as "America's wealthy elite." Sure, we all get it. The majority of money is controlled by a small number of Americans. What else is new.

But by its very nature advertising would seem designed to reach a vast portion of the public.

Advertising should make consumers aware of new products which have become available or familiar items which have been somehow improved. If only One Percent of the country controls most of the money, then why do advertisers even need to reach the rest of us? Couldn't they just start a chain letter and send it to say, Warren Buffett, and ask him to let someone else know?

Advertising needs to reach the masses.

Recently the stories on the evening news seemed extraordinarily bleak. It was filled with news about the ongoing drought, how farmers are about to lose an entire year's crop of corn requiring years of recovery. Then there were folks in Syria, shooting each other and killing children, refugees exiting the country in droves. U.S. foreclosures continue to plague the housing market as cities decide how to deal with vast communities of empty structures. And those were some of the more upbeat stories.

Then it was time for a commercial. That advertisement was for an extremely expensive luxury vehicle. It featured two couples exchanging congratulations for having the insight to purchase a $60,000 vehicle which is also good for the environment. How special. What normal, all-American folks.

Only they aren't "normal" at all.

I have personally known a number of people who seemed to have it all: good career, a lovely family, social position (whatever that means today is questionable) and the admiration of others. In several cases, however, this appearance had nothing whatsoever to do with reality. Many of these folks were living right on the edge, afraid to admit they were overextended, concerned that their house of cards which could slip away in the slightest breeze.

Examination of the so-called One Percent confirms that the wealthy may not be what they appear to be. In some instances, public image is all important, overriding such traits as sincerity and -- my personal favorite for its rarity -- integrity.

An increasing number of magazines have declared that they can no longer afford to publish paper issues and mail them to subscribers. No doubt the rising costs of production and postage rates have caused incredible hardships. Many publications are going digital and will remain available by online subscription. Others are simply folding.

The last time I picked up a slick, high-quality magazine, the most obvious contents were advertisements. Not ads for simple decorating updates for our homes or fun activities that won't cost a fortune. These were ads for extremely high-end products: watches so expensive they don't show the price, jewelry too ridiculous to wear but acceptable for museum display. You get the idea. Pick up any well-known, high quality magazine and see for yourself. Perhaps there is some relationship between their mistaken audience and the real world. Perhaps this gap is catching up with advertisers.

If advertisers believe they are aiming at the 99 Percent and giving them something at which to aim, they are mistaken. If advertisers wonder what is happening to their advertising dollar, they need to rethink their approach.

The 99 Percent forms a considerable consumer base. Advertisers need to take it down a notch if they want to remain in the market.

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