Orlando Wood’s Lemon offers an insight into why advertising effectiveness has declined but the reasons go much deeper than the challenge of execution, new research claims: marketers and advertisers simply see the world differently from other people.

Reach Solutions, part of newspaper publisher Reach, surveyed UK adults and advertising and marketing professionals in February and then again in April during the height of the COVID crisis.

In The Aspiration Window, the latest in a series of studies, Reach Solutions notes that while Wood has observed signs that the right brain has woken up (for more, see yesterday’s WARC News story), “advertising and marketing people can be seen to be part of an analytical culture that is pervasive across all business and government.”

And that culture is quite divorced from the “modern mainstream”, which Reach defines as the middle 50% by household income.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the goals these groups aspire to. The research establishes that while people in the advertising and marketing industry have more “aspirational capacity” than the modern mainstream, the two have similar intrinsic goals, such as love, relatedness, empowerment and growth.

But when it comes to extrinsic goals, such as money, image and fame, people in marketing and advertising put significantly more emphasis on these – an index of 130 versus 100 for the mainstream.

And, consequently they completely misjudge how the mainstream feels, believing the latter group to be far more motivated by such goals than they actually are.

“Where the mainstream give extrinsic aspirations a cumulative importance rating of 3.8 (out of 10), people in marketing and advertising predict that the mainstream would give aspirations relating to fame, money and image a rating of 7.4,” the report authors, Andrew Tenzer and Ian Murray, note.

There is, they state, “a profound aspiration gap”.

Referencing their earlier work (Gut Instinct, The Empathy Delusion), Tenzer and Murray observe: “Advertisers and marketers diverge from the mainstream on every major psychological, behavioural and attitudinal framework that we have explored (i.e. cognitive biases and thinking styles, basic human values, empathy, moral foundations and now aspirational capacity and motivation).”

One area where the two groups have common ground is in their widespread rejection of “social-virtue related considerations” when making a purchase – it turns out not even marketers really believe what they’re promoting around brand values and concern for the environment.

The authors suggest the prevalence of such social virtue narratives may simply be a way of alleviating the cognitive dissonance advertising and marketing people experience: “We reduce the mental discomfort of pushing fame, money and image all day by reimagining our work as purposeful and socially responsible.”

Sourced from Reach Solutions