When I was a youth, I told a friend of mine that fruit machines responded to static electricity, and he would be far more likely to scoop the jackpot if he rubbed pound coins on his hair for 15 minutes before putting them in the fruit machine.
While demonstrating that he was a buffoon and that I was a slightly malevolent character, it also established that the fruit machine could not be so crudely manipulated and it was, in fact, largely a matter of chance.
To a lesser extent, marketing is the same.
A beautifully designed ad with the most engaging copy and a thoroughly compelling proposition will only work if a highly specific type of consumer encounters that ad in the right circumstances, at the right moment.
Increasingly this is a difficult situation to engineer. Marketing in all its formats is thoroughly saturated. Take any 60 second segment from your average day and it is most unlikely that you will not encounter marketing in some form.
The modern consumer is not deadened to the entreaties of marketing, but they are somewhat disengaged. The ability to untangle ones consciousness from the deafening noise of marketing and media communications is an emerging aspect of the 21st century human condition. Never more have we been spoken to. Never less have we listened.
And so there is an excellent chance that a well targeted, cleverly communicated piece of marketing may well entirely escape the attention of the very people it was designed to ensnare.
Yet at other times a piece of marketing may, entirely fortuitously, captivate consumers that had not particularly been the target audience.
This morning, on my walk to work I came across a piece of outdoor digital advertising for new Wispa Hot Chocolate. Usually my drink of choice when I arrive at work is a cup of my own tears, but this advert reached me at precisely the right moment (thinking of nourishment), the right place (near to a shop where I could purchase the product) and, most importantly, in the right state of mind (feeling rather like treating myself to something that didn’t mean I would have to weep into a mug for 45 minutes).
I doubt I am especially close to the target demographic for Wispa Hot Chocolate, yet a very specific combination of circumstances conspired to make me a consumer. I doubt i’ll make a repeat purchase (i’m not made of money) but nevertheless, a unique blend of chance and persuasive communication achieved its goal.
Insight, strategy and the quality of the work are incredibly important. But if you believe that there is not an enormous portion of luck also involved in producing impactful marketing, you might as well be rubbing a pound coin on your head.
Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency.Would you care for a mug of his tears?