David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather, the agency where I started my career, was fond of exhorting his agency to respect the intelligence of the people to whom we were advertising our clients' brands. "The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife!" Nowadays David would probably replace "wife" with husband, partner, significant other, son or daughter. But his point was clear: never assume Madison Avenue has a monopoly on intelligence. (Far from it!)
I'm reminded of this same point today within our political climate. Too many politicians and policy makers and their advisors treat the voting public as idiots that can fooled by a photo-op. Mark Penn, pollster and zeitgeist guru to President Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, Tony Blair, among others, makes this point loud and clear in his new book, Microtrends. He uses survey data to show that the average working American is actually more in touch with important issues that matter than more affluent and well-educated Americans. Surveys show that the affluent tend to be swayed by a candidate's "vision" and "leadership" whereas the working Joe makes his decision on issues impacting job security, healthcare, their kids' education and crime.
Today's New York Times carried a story about John Edwards' appearance last night on MTV to engage in some Q&A with America's youth. Instead of fielding questions about his favorite band, briefs or boxers, or Yankees vs. Cubs, he was bombarded with serious inquiries about how he would fund his proposed universal healthcare plan, what he would do to curb inner-city crime and how he would keep college affordable.
So what does all of this have to do with WikiBranding? Everything. The consumer is smart. The consumer is in control. The consumer will punish marketers and brands that treat them as idiots (except in the case of beer advertising!). Conversely, consumers will reward those marketers that show respect for their customers' values and intelligence. (Did you hear that Steve Jobs?)