That may be only half true.
While a lot about selling never changes, consumer expectations can change quite a bit. Take today's "lifestyle" cutbacks, thanks to the economy. What feels like "cutting back" to today's crowd is actually a step up in living standards when you roll back to nearly 30 years ago. On a more subtle level, that's even true when you roll back to just 10 years ago... or five years ago... or a couple of years ago.
Modern consumers expect more. In some ways, they also expect to work less hard to get it. This just goes to show you that the promises you'll make in your sales pitches can't remain static. They have to keep getting bigger. Or at least sounding bigger.
Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I can't tell you. After all, innovations happen when everyone from big companies to mom-and-pop outfits are pushed to compete.
On the other hand, it can go only so far. There's only so much luxury and service we can sell before the expense of it breaks us... or drains the consumer's bank account.
So what happens when no marketers can afford to offer more... and no customers can afford to pay more?
A while back, two marketing experts saw a whole new consumer trend coming down the pipeline. After the wake-up call. After the bust. After the recovery.
The boomers, they predicted, would sideline their ambition for a life of luxury and convenience... and start yearning for something a little beyond the material. When they said that, I figured they'd gone a little loopy. But now I'm wondering... could they be right?
In his landmark book Breakthrough Advertising, Gene Schwartz wrote that people's superficial desires weren't all that tough to spot.
But only the best marketers knew that all people share an even deeper, second "secret" desire.
It's the desire not just for products, services, or pitches we "like"... but a deeper desire for products and services that help us flesh out our own idea of who we are. Not to mention who we could be. And maybe most important of all (to us), who OTHER people think we are.
I've long said - and I wasn't the first - that the deepest desire shared by most prospective customers (a.k.a. people) is the desire to be loved and respected. Or at least respected.In good times, when it feels like everyone is getting richer and living larger than the next guy, respect comes from living like a king. Piling up stuff. Earning luxuries. Getting pampered.In tougher times, character starts to matter as much... or more. Austerity becomes honorable. Excess, an embarrassment. Security, prudence, sound judgment - those become the hot sellers.
We start rolling back to the fundamentals. Looking for answers. Or at least looking for people who seem like they have the answers... and the substance to back them up. Credibility, always important, becomes even more so.
Could it be that this is where the boomers - the biggest market in the history of capitalism and the driving force behind more than six decades of economic growth - are headed next?
Look, for instance, at how many things have trended back toward fundamentals. People walk more, use glass instead of plastic, cook at home, eat healthier, cut up their credit cards.
It might well be out of necessity. Yet even necessity has a way of wooing her bedfellows. By simplifying, we may very well find ourselves in a position to rediscover the things that matter.
Is that why advertising hype is dead? Is it why "relationship marketing" has become the most powerful force online? Is it why so many marketers love to talk about "brand," not realizing that brands don't matter until a consistent relationship of quality has been established?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Personally, I'm guessing yes.