MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING DIS­CON­TENT

In the spirit of past heretics, ranters and ag­i­ta­tors, our res­i­dent an­gry out­sider Clax­ton tells you what’s get­ting his goat about this in­dus­try.

New Zealand Marketing - - Shorts -

If you tsk-tsked along with the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Court and the New Zealand Com­merce Com­mis­sion about Nuro­fen’s dodgy mar­ket­ing last year, then per­haps you need to man up. Just to jog your mem­ory: back in De­cem­ber the man­u­fac­turer of Nuro­fen, Reckitt Benckiser, was found guilty of break­ing Aus­tralian con­sumer law by charg­ing a higher price for spe­cial­ist forms of the painkiller—for pe­riod pain, mi­graines and so on—when the prod­uct for­mula was the es­sen­tially the same.

Talk about out­rage! As if you need more ev­i­dence of the evils of big pharma!

But hang on there, Mr High and Mrs Mighty. Pulling the wool over con­sumers’ eyes has pretty much been the stock-in­trade of mar­keters for years. Please don’t tell me you have a prob­lem with that?

Au­to­mo­biles? What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween an Audi, VW and Skoda? Not much, as they roll out of the same fac­to­ries on the same chas­sis. Ex­cept that the price in­di­cates what level of snob you are.

In­sur­ance? We have per­fectly good pub­lic health sys­tem but the health in­sur­ers do their best to freak you out about how long you’ll wait for the that bunion surgery. We’ve not yet be­come as bad as the USA where you can get Rap­ture in­sur­ance for pets. But all in­sur­ance is based on the spu­ri­ous con­cern that one day, some­time in the fu­ture, there may be a prob­lem.

Speak­ing of health, a par­tic­u­lar bug­bear is body wash, a prod­uct es­sen­tially in­vented to con­sume soap faster as it drib­bles off your nethers be­fore it’s done its job. In­creas­ing the size of pack­ag­ing with­out in­creas­ing the con­tents (FMCG man­u­fac­tur­ers take a bow), adding pad­ding to laun­dry pow­der and widen­ing the tops of bot­tles so more prod­uct comes per serv­ing ... th­ese are old fash­ioned mar­ket­ing tricks.

Mar­keters aren’t alone in such alchemy, of course. ‘Planned ob­so­les­cence’, in which prod­ucts are de­lib­er­ately made to fail, was first in­tro­duced by the head of GM, Al­fred Sloan, in the 1960s to ad­dress the sat­u­ra­tion of the US car mar­ket. He’s so clever he’s a got a busi­ness school named af­ter him.

And of course fear mon­ger­ing has been a suc­cess­ful political strat­egy for thou­sands of years. How else were cas­tles and cathedrals ever built?

Mar­keters like to think they’re solv­ing real world prob­lems. So much of the craft is man­u­fac­tur­ing dis­con­tent. Get over it.

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