Earlier this year I rounded up some digital fallacies, but now I want to focus on marketing more broadly and some of its flawed reasoning.
I should point out that few of these are fallacies in the more strict academic definition. For a few of those (such as false equivalence and false cause), you should check out this little article by Alastair Cooke.
1. People love brands
Kantar tells us that ‘when we measure instinctive emotional preference for brands on a scale from strong disliking to strong liking, we find 90% of brands fall in the slightly positive range. Normal people don’t tend to love brands, they just quite like them.’
We may act as if we love brands, but often it’s because we use them as signifiers. The most successful brands can effectively stand for a whole product category, or even an entire lifestyle, and consumers take advantage of that.
But it’s not love. We are more likely to buy the airline ticket that flies our route, the jeans that fit us best, the drink with the best taste. Does it mean we love the brand? No. Merely the product.
In an article in Pacific Standard, Alana Massey takes this further, arguing that though brands on social media can make consumers feel loved, it is an obviously insincere interaction.
Alana writes, ‘Brands may be more personified than ever, but it is in such a one-dimensional and transparently insincere way that we should resist attaching to them. If we trust a company to consistently make good pants, we should reward them by buying their pants, not by surrendering our personal data because they’ve earned some modicum of trust by delivering a decent product.’
To be blunt, if Tony the Tiger turns up at your house as part of a marketing stunt, will you buy Frosties for the rest of your life? No. You might do so because you are a fan of extremely sugary breakfast cereal though.
For more evidence of brand contempt, see #WalkersWave, BoatyMcBoatface, #McDStories, or any other hijacked social media campaign.
2. TV is dying
One example of a proper fallacy is the false dichotomy. The idea that we can only have one thing or the other.
It is employed constantly as regards TV and the internet. How many graphs have you seen comparing online ad spend to TV ad spend? How many opinion pieces declaring TV is dead? How many marketers claiming kids don’t watch TV?
The stats say all we need to know about the supposed death of TV.
Though in 2015, according to Ofcom, youngsters aged 5-15 spent longer online than watching TV each week, TV still takes up a big chunk of time. Weekly TV viewing for children totalled 13 hours 36 minutes.
And in the UK population as a whole, just look at the chart below. Not exactly the most alarming chart I’ve ever seen.