by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay  One of my all-time favourite dumb-guy marketing ideas is “lifetime value”.

The Ad ContrarianIt is the fantasy that, if you get a customer at a young age, she’ll stick with you for life. This nonsense is particularly popular in the automotive industry, where I misspent a lot of my agency career.

My conversations about lifetime value usually went something like this:

BOB: Why are we spending so much of our advertising budget against 18-34 year-olds when they have no money and no interest in buying cars?

STUPID-ASS MARKETING GUY: Because we have to think about the future. We need young people in our brand. If we get them now, we’ll have them for a long time.

BOB: But doesn’t it make more sense to try to sell our car to people who are actually interested in buying a car now than to people who might buy a car in 15 years?

Old people are dying out, and we need to get youth into our brand or we’ll die, too.

BOB: (Foolishly trying to insert logic into the conversation) First of all, old people aren’t dying out. Adults over fifty are growing at almost three times the rate of adults under 50. It’s young people who are evaporating, not old ones. But more important, 88% of cars are sold to people over 35. The math just doesn’t work.

STUPID-ASS MARKETING GUY: (Snickering on the inside) Why don’t you just stick to writing the ads and leave the math to me?

BOB: Because you’re a f*cking moron (no, I didn’t really say that…I’d say something like)… “let me show you the numbers…”

Only 12% of cars are sold to people between the ages of 18 and 34.  Let’s say we are the most brilliant marketers in history and we can get a 50 share among these people. And then let’s say that we make the most irresistible car in history and fifteen years from now 50% of these people will still buy our brand. And let’s say that these people miraculously become the most eager new car buyers in history and they buy a new car every 2 years. That means fifteen years from now we will have 1.5% share of market from them.

In the meantime, we will have ignored 88% of the f*cking people who actually bought a f*cking car every f*cking year for fifteen f*cking years. Does this sound like good f*cking business strategy to you, you f*cking moron…(once again, the “f*cking” part was often more a thought than an actual verbalization. Often, but not always.)

STUPID-ASS MARKETING GUY: (Snickering on the inside, the outside, the right side, and the left side) Why don’t you just stick to writing the ads and leave the marketing decisions to me?

That, my friends, is the value of stupidity. And it lasts a lifetime.

The Ad Contrarian is Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), the author of The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. This column has been republished from his blog The Ad Contrarian.

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