Jul 3, 2007

What Michael Moore Can Teach Us About Marketing

Michael Moore’s latest movie, Sicko came out this week, but I have no intention of going to see it. Not that I disagree with Moore’s premise that our health care system needs reforming. Or that I dislike documentaries (quite the opposite, in fact.)

It’s just that I already know what the movie is going to be like and as such, there’s no real reason for me to go see Moore grill some not-very-bright factotums, take their quotes out of context, and use them to build his case that our health care system is in trouble. I’ve learned from the previews that he’ll also find the one instance where Cuba’s health care system does a better job than ours and highlight that.

Seen it already. It’s the same movie he’s made every time out. And if an informal poll of my friends is any indication, I’m far from the only one.

So what’s the lesson for marketers?

Serve up the same exact thing every time and eventually people learn to tune you out. While there’s a core audience that wants to see the same trick time and again, most people aren’t that enamored with what you do to want to put up with it.

That’s true whether what you “do” is an ad campaign, a product, a retail experience, a song or an agit-prop documentary.

I’m not advocating radical change—people like that even less than watching you do the same old, same old. But you do need to evolve some. Give people something a little different so they keep coming back for more. The greatest barrier to change is the old axiom “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a line that too many people fall back on to avoid the hassle of change. Because face it: change is a hassle. It involves risk, relearning and reaction. Three things most humans, by nature, will gladly avoid.

No matter how much that works to their detriment.

Happy 4th.

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