Vox Pop: Has marketing had enough of experts? (Part 2)
During last year’s European referendum campaign, Leave campaigner Michael Gove famously asserted that “people have had enough of experts”. We asked The Drum Network’s member agencies if he was correct and, if so, do expert spokespeople still have a valid role to play in promotional marketing campaigns?
Jake Dubbins, managing director, Media Bounty
Firstly Gove was talking absolute nonsense. Are people fed up of experts teaching their children, treating them in hospital even writing their favourite TV program? No. It was a fatuous comment to discredit the large number of social and economic experts highlighting the possible negative effects of Brexit.
In terms of expert spokespeople in marketing, it entirely depends on the brand or campaign. Do I want expert advice in healthcare. Yes. Finance? Probably. Where to go on holiday? Maybe. Coke Zero? No. As ever it has to be case by case. What genuine value does the expert bring?
Stephen Murphy, group account director, Latitude Digital Marketing
I think what people have had enough of is self-proclaimed experts. For example, I just threw the keyword ‘martin lewis credit cards’ into AdWords to see it gets about 4,400 searches per month. That’s more than ‘credit cards explained’, ‘credit card advice’ and ‘credit card guide’ combined.
People have had enough of experts with hidden agendas. Politicians/experts aligning with Brexit seemed at times motivated by personal gain, rather than having robust data and accurate plans to deliver to the public. If the expert is authoritative, and has genuine authenticity then I believe people do care what they say. While people have access to more information than ever, there is a need for people to make sense of it. Spokespeople can do that, providing they are truly aligned with the brand and message they are helping to convey.
Jim Bowes, chief executive, Manifesto
Perhaps people have had enough of experts or perhaps too many people claiming to be experts lack expertise. In Steven Levitt's book Freakonomics the role of the expert and information imbalance is discussed through questions like 'Why does an estate agency take longer to sell their own home?'.
What is true is that the Internet has addressed huge swaths of information imbalance - all of us can now easily access most of the information we need day to day. What you can't replace is experience and that's why experts should focus less on demonstrating their expertise and more on sharing their experience.
Jo Hudson, planning director, Pretty Green
In marketing ‘experts’ has always been a loose term - from celebrity endorsement to brand spokespeople (think Barry Scott) the bitesize nature of our content means expertise is rarely challenged, and in some cases not taken seriously anyway. However, with credibility and authenticity becoming driving forces in consumer culture, we owe it to ourselves to question who should represent the brands we are responsible for communicating. Utterly ‘faux’ experts, such as we see in ’Brand Power’ and ‘Medifacts’ commercials, may not have much of a future.
Mally Graveson, managing director, Heehaw
I believe there will always be roles for expert spokespeople, simply because experts make us feel safe. Experts give us reassurance, we respect them and more often than not they give us comfort because we believe what they are saying. Of course there is no room for phoney experts, they can take a hike, but if anything goes wrong, or we need to know everything going to be alright, we are often relived to hear those expert words “don’t worry, I’m a doctor”. It’s the same for experts in campaigns; deep down we know they reassure us.
Matt Shaw, strategist, RAPP UK
Yes. Confirmation bias is particularly powerful when beliefs are deeply entrenched and expert opinion is not immune from this. For 52% of electorate, pro-EU experts were dismissed as “metropolitan elites” with “vested interests”, while remainers accepted their assertions without question. Few voters enter elections with open minds and arguments (expert or otherwise) are rarely listened to.
While brands do not provoke the same levels of emotion as Brexit, this doesn’t mean consumers trust mouthwash experts anymore than pro-remain economists. Consumers expect brands to sell to them and therefore mistrust spokespeople. Expert opinions are far less influential than friends’ or family members’; a film can have five star reviews and flop, it’s positive word-of-mouth that drives box-office success.
Kevin Gibbons, co-founder and managing director, BlueGlass
You definitely shouldn't believe everything anyone says, whether that's an expert or not...
However, expert opinions definitely have a place to play in promotional marketing campaigns - people trust people, so it adds credibility if you can back it up with people who are subject matter experts. As a marketing agency, we are working more than ever with influencers, getting them involved in being a central part of campaigns which is a huge benefit, not just for insight but also when promoting online to engage with targeted audiences.
Michael Moszynski, founder and CEO, London Advertising
Michael Gove’s quote needs to be considered in context: during the interview he was told the leaders of the IFS, CBI, NHS and TUC all disagreed with him about Brexit. His full reply was that “people have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong”.
Given the performance of the UK since he has been proved right. As LONDON Advertising has been by predicting in The Drum on June 16th that Vote Leave would win by 52% – so I guess as our name is not an acronym we can be experts who are available for promotional campaigns.
Saman Mansourpour, managing director, AgencyUK
It's very easy to make a sweeping statement like ‘People have had enough of experts’. Michael Gove is perhaps demonstrating a politicians expertise in presenting ‘alternative facts’ out of context.
I think what is far more likely is that public sentiment no longer aligns with individuals who present themselves as experts when they're actually not. I would imagine when someone is sat opposite a medical consultant about to hear their results, or are being advised on how to build their walls to keep the roof up, they're all ears.
But this change in mood has been a long time coming. And it does certainly transcend the commercial realm. As marketers we do have a much tougher job when it comes to credibly presenting spokespeople and brand ambassadors. People are cynical, and rightly so. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, or that these tactics no longer work. But it does mean as ‘experts’ we all have to prove our worth.
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