The Age of Influence

Terry O Reilly is the host of, quite possibly, the best program on radio today. The Age of Persuasion is a veritable Phd for free in marketing. The 30 minute CBC radio program tackles a different topic or theory each week and explains how, by vivid audio examples, it works or how it doesn’t work. How marketing has changed and how it has stayed the same.

I’ve gone back through the archives and have listened to what feels like 100 episodes to grab an understanding of how people react to advertising and how the “Mad Men” bait the hook.

But Terry’s show might need a bit of a branding change. The way the game has been played in the world of advertising is undergoing a radical shift.

Leo Laporte and his TWiT panel engaged in an interesting discussion about marketing and the changes the “persuasion” industry is about to undergo as we move to the web.

Leo’s theory is The Age of Persuasion is about to give way to The Age of Influence. Here’s a portion of the transcript from TWiT 215

Leo Laporte No, that’s what – see, this is where you’re wrong. That’s old school advertising, that’s – you know, there’s coercive advertising.

John C. Dvorak Oh, here we go.

Leo Laporte I think the advertising model is moving away from coercion and tricks and is moving towards influence. The most successful…

Wil Harris …it’s about creativity.

Leo Laporte No, no, no, no. Advertising, starting at the turn of the last century, when Freud’s theories were used to create the business of advertising and PR, they went from being – if you look at a Sears catalogue, advertising used to be a list of features and benefits and that’s it. And then along came, what’s his name? The father of PR, Freud’s cousin who … actually Hitler used his theories very effectively. This guy said, no, no, no. What you want to do is tap into Freudian wants and needs. You want to create a need for a product. You want to make people think that they’ve got bad breath or BO and that fear, that terror, will make them buy. And for almost a century, that’s what advertising has been. It has been to trick people into buying a product by coercion, by misrepresentation, by fear…

Leo Laporte I have to have a moment here. All right, so I hate advertising like that! And so but I believe, I truly believe that one of the reasons we succeed and podcasts succeed is because we don’t use coercion or tricks or duplicity, what we do is we use influence. Which is I think a much more powerful way to reach people. It’s word of mouth. It’s having somebody, it’s – believe it or not, getting kind of back to that original features and benefits thing. That’s the kind of ads we do. We trust our audience to be intelligent. We explain to them why this is a product they might want to try. And I think that that’s going to be, in the long run, more effective, especially when you combine that with much more targeted advertising. So I don’t know if I’m with you, Wil. I don’t know if it’s about emotion anymore. I think it’s changing.

Wil Harris Well, I think you’re possibly right. I think that it’s really hard to say that advertising is – I think there’s two trends in advertising. There’s what you are saying and it kind of influences and the kind of features and benefits, and then there’s this kind of statistical kind of spreadsheet-based advertising, which is if you pay x-amount of dollars for banner on the side of a webpage, it will give you x-number of clients, which will generate an x-number of people clicking through, which will generate x-percentage of leads, which will generate x-percentage of acquisition.

Leo Laporte Right, and it works.

What is your marketing plan right now? Is it about creating a need and serving it, or is it about creating a connection and community and influencing it. I discussed this very notion in a post for The Vancouver Sun called “Personal Jesus.” It’s not about grand brands or information channels disseminating information anymore, it’s about each of us finding out something special at the ground level from a friend.

The media landscape has become so fragmented that you can’t use the “scatter shot” method of advertising to reach your goals, you need to be on the ground, in the trenches, at the cafes and talking one on one with consumers and influencing them or their friends and having the word spread.

Welcome to The Age of Influence.



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1 Comment

  1. October 23, 2009

    Hi Buzz – thanks for the kind words. Mike Tennant and I have written a new book titled “The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture” and it hits bookstores Oct. 27th. If you’d like to do an online Q&A, or something, just let me know.


    Terry O’Reilly

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