Hello, Cuba. Welcome back to good terms with the Capitalist empire of America. There’s a lot you’ve missed in the last five and a half decades, but you’ll hear all about that soon enough. What you’ll see sooner is advertising — and lots of it — as American companies scramble to reach this previously untapped market of new customers.
As Americans, we see about 5,000 advertisements a day, but the vast majority of it, we ignore. It’s a trained response when you grow up with the constant sensory bombardment, but you haven’t had your inoculations yet, so it’ll be harder for you to ignore.
American advertising is, shall we say, robust. There are a lot of techniques that our companies have learned to make sure you can’t ignore the message. From native advertising and content marketing partnerships, which pair news and stories you want with advertisements for related products, to the latest digital techniques like cookies and remarketing, we have an uncanny ability to know who you are and what you’re likely to purchase based on aggregate data, and deliver those messages in a way that resonates with you as an individual. This means that, while you’ll probably respond well to a pretty smiling face next to a soda bottle, you’ll see that same soda bottle 7 or 8 times in a week – just to be sure you remember it.
That soda bottle represents a brand. That brand is the net sum of the manufacturing company’s public communication. It’s what the package looks like, what you hear about it on the news, and what you see in advertisements. Brands are different from each other because the products they represent, and the people who make them, are different from each other. Our rugged American individualism insists that brands be diverse and unique from each other, and our opinionated attitude insists that we have a favorite in a category. We like one kind of fast food, one kind of razor blade, and one kind of sneaker. If you think that makes our purchasing decisions less informed, or leads us to pay more for the same product, you’d be right. But even if you want to be different, to buy only the best product, irrespective of the brand that makes it, American advertisers have a whole process of dealing with people who feel the same way, the brand unloyal. Coupons usually work.
As an immature consumer, you’ll behave much like American consumers did in the 50s and 60s. A lot of Americans these days are very mature consumers. We care as much about the process that goes into making the products as the products themselves, preferring environmentally sustainable companies with a position we agree with on corporate welfare and a charitable giving arm. Chances are, when you’re buying your first iPod, you’ll care way less that they’re made with Chinese factory labor, and the condition of those factories, than we do. That’s natural. But let’s talk about that word – consumer – for a moment. Those lead sleds you guys drive around, the Mercuries and Chevrolets that have been passed down for generations, they’re not as efficient as newer cars. But newer cars don’t last nearly as long. At some point, the transmission will drop out of our car, and instead of fixing it, we’ll just buy another car. It’s that way with most products – at some point, the repair costs exceed the price of a new unit, and so we buy another one instead of fixing the old one. That mentality is the heart of consumerism. It’s simply the result of having brought the cost of production for most products down over the last 50 years through innovations in manufacturing. That’s why American advertising works so well. You go through more “stuff” in a country like ours.
Oh, and welcome to social media. It’s this thing where people talk to each other on a computer. We’ll get into that some other time.