Douglas Atkin is a partner and chief strategy officer at advertising agency Merkley + Partners and has worked for some of the world's most successful brands, from Procter & Gamble to JetBlue. He is the author of The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers. An expert on the relationship between consumers and brands, he knows about iconic branding from the consumer side, too: "I'm a self-confessed Apple loyalist," he tells FRONTLINE in this interview. Macintosh, Atkin says, is an example of a "cult brand," one that inspires a loyalty as intense as religious devotion by selling an implicit idea, identity, or community along with a product. "At the end of the day, Apple is a box of electronics," he says. "What makes them different?… When I'm buying an Apple, I'm not buying a clever box of electronics; I'm buying the belief that I'm a nonconformist." This interview was conducted on Feb. 2, 2004.
In his "Ad Review" column for Advertising Age magazine, Bob Garfield, an essayist, critic, and broadcaster, regularly delivers stinging critiques (and occasional praise) of the ad industry. If criticism is more common, there's a reason -- most ads, he tells FRONTLINE in this interview, are "historically, actually, quite bad." Yet the industry keeps trying harder and harder to get people's attention, resulting in a media landscape cluttered with pitches. "Since time immemorial, advertising agencies have been trying to create emotional reactions to goods and services," he says. "But there is no magic string for the puppet; there is no Svengali spell; there's no poison gas, there's no magic wand. … What they are doing mostly is failing again and again and again." In the end, he believes advertising and marketing is not actually that powerful and can't persuade us to buy or do things we otherwise wouldn't. This interview was conducted on March 23, 2004.
Naomi Klein's book No Logo, an impassioned critique of marketing's effects on culture and citizenship, has helped fuel the anti-globalization movement. In this interview, she explains how Americans are looking to brands to provide a sense of community. "I think brands definitely are filling a very real need," she says. "The question is, are they filling it well? I believe that they tend to fill it in a fairly unsatisfying way. You can go to these brand temples like Niketown, and you can get a piece of the story, the narrative, the dream behind that brand. But when you get home, it is just a pair of sneakers, right? … They're not actually going to fulfill those needs, which serves them very well because, of course, that means that you have to go shopping again to try to fill them." This interview was conducted on Jan. 22, 2004.
A corporate consultant, pollster and political consultant to Republicans, Luntz's specialty is testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate. In this interview, he tells FRONTLINE what it takes to communicate a message effectively, shares some of the advice that he gives clients, and explains why his testing and field research seeks words that move people to act on an emotional level: "It's all emotion. But there's nothing wrong with emotion. When we are in love, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are on vacation, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are happy, we are not [rational]. In fact, in more cases than not, when we are rational, we're actually unhappy. Emotion is good; passion is good. Being into what we're into, provided that it's a healthy pursuit, it's a good thing." This interview was conducted on Dec. 15, 2003.
Cultural and media critic Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of communication and culture at New York University. He explains in this interview the flaw in the claim made by champions of advertising that it is a form of democracy because it is giving people what they want. He also talks about what happens when marketing and advertising techniques spill over into our politics, the great difference between being a citizen and being a consumer and, lastly, the dangers of a culture where marketing is pervasive: "You'll hear [this] from novelists, filmmakers, reporters -- this is not just me. There's a kind of cultural crisis going on now where people are being forced to make the kind of thing that they weren't ever trained to do. … the kind of thing that's dictated by corporate interests alone, and it tends to make our air thinner. It tends to annihilate all the gorgeousness and novelty and all the challenges posed by really original, passionate works of art and news." This interview was conducted on May 26, 2004.
Can marketers really get inside a consumer's head to influence the choice they will make? For market researcher Clotaire Rapaille, the answer is yes. He believes all purchasing decisions really lie beyond conscious thinking and emotion and reside at a primal core in human beings. As chairman of Archetype Discoveries Worldwide, he helps Fortune 500 companies discover the unconscious associations for their products - the simple "code" - that will help them sell to consumers: "When you learn a word, whatever it is, "coffee," "love," "mother," there is always a first time. There's a first time to learn everything. The first time you understand, you imprint the meaning of this word; you create a mental connection that you're going to keep using the rest of your life. …So actually every word has a mental highway. I call that a code, an unconscious code in the brain." This interview was conducted on December 15, 2003.
Kevin Roberts, the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide and the author of Lovemarks, the Future Beyond Brands, claims to have found the formula to turn almost any product into an object of devotion. His big idea is the "lovemark" - a brand for which the consumer has "loyalty beyond reason." In this interview, he talks about how the consumer has moved from products to experiences, the power of brands in a market where, thanks to the Internet, the consumer will soon have full control, and he cites the brands that have made an emotional connection to consumers and why this is so important: "The goal of any marketing manager should be to create loyalty beyond reason for their product … You want lifetime customers, and you want them to have a love affair with you so that no matter what Wal-Mart is offering cheaper, they will stay with you and they will pay a premium." This interview was conducted on December 15, 2003.
This interview with Peter Swire, a professor of law at Ohio State University and an expert on Internet policy, focuses on the Acxiom Corporation, a company that collects and sifts data on Americans to provide information for clients to target consumers. Swire explains how the process works, the kind of data marketers can get, and how political parties are "datamining" Acxiom's information to send Americans targeted messages. While conceding that this pigeonholing of Americans into dozens of different types is giving citizens and consumers customized information they care about, Swire points out the negative impacts of these targeted messages on our politics and democracy: "You never confront the other side. You don't have to deal with the uncomfortable facts that go against your worldview. It's the idea of having to debate people from the other side, and [with] that debate comes knowledge and comes sometimes a humility and a willingness to listen. But here we get a hardening of the partisan divide." This interview was conducted on June 1, 2004.
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