person on a couch in the library
PHOTO: Mark Boss

Low information people tend to be highly emotional, impulsive and habitual. They hero worship. They blindly trust their instincts and fiercely distrust everything and everyone else. Much traditional marketing and advertising was designed to pull the emotional triggers of low information people and get them to hero worship brands. This reached its perfection where low information consumers met low information products. These are impulsive, addictive or habitual products that most of us don’t — or don’t want to — think too much about. They include snacks, fast foods, alcohol, cigarettes, sugary drinks.

We tend to see this low information hero worshipping marketing and communication as the only marketing and communication. This is because it is mass marketing. We have seen it everywhere for most of our lives.

As our societies have evolved, we have seen a steady rise in high information consumers and high information products. Better education, computers and smartphones have, by and large, made many of us smarter and more skeptical.

People tend to be a mix of low and high information consumers, depending on the product or service. There are people who are low information when it comes to their health, for example, but who will be very high information about choosing a camera. Most of us are a complex, often contradictory mix.

Someone once said we are not rational animals but rather rationalizing animals. Sure, emotion drives people but it is not the only driver. Emotion alone didn’t build the space shuttle or the iPhone. We are led to believe that fake news is sweeping the world and that facts don’t matter. Fake news always swept the world, and if facts historically mattered why have so many people believed in religion down through the ages?

Objective journalism was never that objective. Many of the world’s greatest dictators (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) were journalists. Governments regularly lied to their citizens. The "upper class" were — and still are — consummate liars. Brands like Coca Cola turned an addictive, obesity and diabetes-causing, sugar-saturated fizzy drink into a must-have brand for the cool generation.

What has changed is our ability and willingness to identify fake news. There is a growing number of people who are prepared to wade through high information messiness, who wish to analyze, compare and evaluate. After all, if everyone had all the answers, we wouldn’t need to search so much. There are about 60,000 searches every second on Google.

Many have stopped trusting politicians, brands and elites not because the elites have become less trustworthy but rather because we have become more knowledgeable and aware of the lies and fake news that are constantly being served to us.  

In this world of contradictions and opposites, many organizations still play the low information game, even when they have high information customers, and even when they have positive facts to present. Carousels pumped with fake news. Effusively smiling fakes pretending to be customers. Content so empty that it hardly even deserves to be called fake.

If you know your customers are the low information type, then using traditional, mass marketing branding is still the perfect tactic. If, on the other hand, they’re high information customers, you need to show them that you’re useful. You need to give them the facts because that’s what they want.