Tall Tale One - "Advertising Sells Products"

Advertising. We've all tried it at least once. For the purposes of this discussion, let's define advertising as any form of marketing one pays for.

From business cards, flyers, and mailers to billboards, TV spots, and newspaper display ads, advertising is everywhere. Still, almost every business in the world can benefit from advertising somehow.

Most people mistakenly believe that advertising is some sort of magic bullet. That may have been true in the past. But today, advertising incorrectly, inefficiently, or inappropriately will not only fail, it can kill your business.

The problem with advertising lies in its traditional placement in the marketing cycle. Advertising usually occurs after a product or service has been conceived, designed, implemented, and even consumed – and then only when sales aren't as expected.

Take Two Ads and Call Me in the Morning

Advertising is generally used as a surface treatment…a marketing salve. Your product won't sell itself? Nobody's using your service? Just do a little advertising and things should turn around! Not likely.

For the last 50 years, this has been the primary approach of advertisers and agencies alike. For many years it worked. But now, traditional advertising media like radio and TV and newspapers are dying a slow death.

In 1960, it was possible to reach 90% of housewives in one week by placing ads on the 3 TV networks. In 1994 the average household had less than 30 TV channels. Today, the average home enjoys more than 100. Newspaper readership is down, satellite radio technology is creeping in, the Internet has become the primary information resource for many Americans, and there are more niche magazines than ever.

Market segmentation is occurring at an historical rate, just as the number of marketing messages we see each day is. According to market positioning expert Jack Trout, the average American is exposed to 4,000 marketing messages per day.
Sergio Zyman, former Chief Marketing Officer of Coca Cola wrote, “Everybody has a thousand choices for any product they might want to buy, and there are a million different products competing for their wallets. So marketers increasingly need to find ways to speak to customers individually, or in smaller and smaller groups. Old-style, one-size-fits-all mass marketing can't do this.”
So, it's harder than ever to reach a mass audience and the impact of a single advertising message is decreasing as the number of marketing interruptions per day increases. That doesn't paint a happy picture for the future of advertising. Or does it?

One Word Changes the Entire World

There is one word that fundamentally changes what advertising is and what its function in business is. We were first inspired to this way of thinking by marketing guru Seth Godin, and his book "Purple Cow," which we highly recommend you read. This word is so important because it at once tells us what needs to change in marketing while at the same time tells us what marketing can do for us.


Whatever you do, don't stop reading here. This may not mean what you think it does.

That's it. In a nutshell, a company must be Sensational if it wants to find long-term success through marketing.

We define Sensational as seven distinct qualities a business (and the people who make it up) must aspire to embody. To be Sensational, we must be 1) fun, 2) unique, 3) interested, 4) a risk-taker, 5) visible, 6) credible, and 7) spreadable.

If a company is not Sensational, it’s invisible – no matter how much advertising it does. There is too much clutter and too little attention to hope that “me too” advertising stratagem or messages will gain any traction in the marketplace.

Put the Sauce on top of the Cheese

As we said earlier, advertising has traditionally been a post-development process – applied last. But the most extraordinary advertising in the world, from Madison Avenue's most famous advertising agencies, will struggle for results if the product, service, or company is not somehow Sensational. In today's media frenzy, that ad will hardly be noticed.

What's required of companies who need to increase sales and experience new growth is not a surface treatment of a "magic ad ointment."

They must inject the creative, strategic, and critical thinking of advertising into their design, story, development, implementation, experience, and service. By moving the primary stages of advertising up in the marketing cycle and becoming Sensational, the task of post development marketing will be much easier.

Spreading the word about a Sensational company is much more efficient than trying to convince the world that an average product is more than it actually is.

What's even better, by rearranging the marketing cycle in this way, the cost of marketing can vastly decrease.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

So, the truth is, advertising does not sell products or services. Advertising and marketing help Sensational companies with Sensational ideas that offer Sensational experiences to their customers build relationships with their prospects and customers.

Advertising and marketing are merely the vehicles through which Sensational companies can begin relationships with the people who want what they have to offer. Relationships that can blossom into customers for life. Customers who pay more, stay longer and refer repeatedly.

Take away the Sensational qualities and that advertising may as well be a mighty oak falling in a hidden forest. Nobody’s gonna’ hear it and nobody’s gonna’ care.

In Tall Tale Two, we're going to swing the bat at one of our old favorites and tell you why marketing doesn't have to cost a ton of money.