If only our consumers were a bit less rubbish

One of the things that most irritates me about the financial services industry is our habit of blaming consumers for their deficiencies in understanding our advertising and other marketing communications. 

Sometimes we criticise them implicitly, in a patronising kind of way, never more so than when we propose spending millions and millions of pounds on “educating” them so that they can understand us better.  At other times we criticise them much more explicitly, saying how hopeless it is that they are “uninvolved” and “inert” when it comes to financial matters, and that they’re “uninterested” in the things we have to say to them.

My own view is that all this is ridiculous and misguided.  Consumers are who they are.  As marketers and communicators, it’s our job to understand them and find ways of engaging with them.  If they don’t understand what we’re saying, or don’t care about what we’re saying, then by definition it’s our fault, not theirs.

The same applies – and this is the rather smaller but still important point I wanted to make today – if they can’t actually read it because the copy is too small.  The agency responsible for Invesco Perpetual’s advertising, for example, may have all sorts of brilliant insights into the consumer target market for their retail funds advertising. But one thing they don’t seem to have spotted is that this target market, being at least forty plus and mostly fifty plus, doesn’t see as well as it used to – and struggles, particularly, with small white type reversed out of black in dodgy out-of-register mono newspaper repro.

You’d be right to suspect there’s a personal agenda here.  In anything but the very brightest light, I am completely unable to read the body copy in Invesco Perpetual’s advertising.  When the campaign started to appear 18 months or so ago, I thought it was one of those obviously bad calls by a young art director that would quickly get fixed in subsequent insertions:  but although the ads’ headlines, which also started out insanely small, have gradually crept up in size, the body copy is just as illegible as ever.

It’s another form of impatience with the imperfections of consumers.  If your eyes aren’t good enough to read this, sod you.  Get some glasses, grandpa. 

We have to get over this.  Communication is something we do on our target market’s terms, or not at all.  Demanding levels of knowledge, or interest, or even just physical ability, that people don’t actually have is a particularly stupid kind of arrogance.

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