I had an interesting - if mildly annoyed time at AdFel today (yes, Costin, you did piss me off) because we talked, TRANSIENTLY :), about the use of special-interest groups in advertising. Sometimes referred to as subcultures or subgroups or niche groups, these include anything from emos, artisans, goths, skaters, ravers, hippies, Vamaiotzi, you name it.
And one thing that did get me thinking was the idea that there are a number of subcultures which are simply off-limits for communication because they are deemed "inferior". Anyone listening to manele is part of a group which advertisers won't touch unless to poke fun at. Equally mockable but uninteresting for communications are the Romanian nouveau riche (recognizable by their white SUVs, all black suits and propensity for Armani, D&G and Cavalli) or the yet-unnamed huge number of people watching Romania's crazy tabloid TV station OTV.
The reason behind this hands-off attitude is, as always, fear: fear that the animosity mainstream Romanians feel towards these groups will affect brand equity and sales. Brand managers assume all their consumers are decent, elegant and nice, and fear the day when they will have to slum it with subcultures.
BUT, OTV is among the highest rated TV stations in Romania: fact. Hi5, with specially designed Cavalli wallpaper pages by 14 yos from Popesti Leordeni (that's the equivalent of a small white trash town in the US) beats Facebook: fact. People who are willing to slash out on 100k white cars probably are more likely to buy higher margin products: learned assumption.
So, what do we do? Do we hang on to an elitist and somewhat narrow minded understanding of what is culturally acceptable or do we try to capitalize on these so-called subcultures?
[and in case everyone is worried we will damage our cultural heritage, please remember this is not culture as in arts and sciences but popular culture, much harder to control and sway by institutional means].
communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.