If the slow death of mass advertising means the growth of better products, that’s certainly a good thing. Photo / 123RF
The advantage of mass media advertising was that it worked. If you put your product in front of millions of consumers and they react by buying it.
The Terrible Thing About Mass Media Advertising
that was working. Manufacturers didn’t have to worry about making great products, as long as they spent enough on supports, which was often enough.
When in doubt, throw some money at it
I’m going to give you an example. I once worked on a chocolate brand that was being overtaken in sales by its main competitor. The management was very upset with this and called us to help.
Research suggested that the competitor’s product was cheaper, looked better in the store, and consumers preferred the taste. Our client recognized these issues but considered it far too difficult to improve their own product, make it better or even reduce its price and instead decided to increase their advertising spend to try to convince the consumer that they was wrong.
Familiarity breeds content
It’s very hard to say which is the best mid-range laundry detergent, soap, soup, burger or SUV, because we just don’t have time to sample them objectively and then reach a rational hierarchy of superiority. . Therefore, we often just stuck with whatever was put in front of us, confident that if we saw it on TV, all of our friends and neighbors would do it too, so we could all buy it together.
This is not so much laziness as Darwinist conformity. If you were a reasonable Stone Age consumer, you ate what everyone else ate. Those who were dissatisfied with this consensus and went in search of a single berry to signify their individuality generally did not return.
Do your own research
With the rise of the Internet and the corresponding weakening of traditional media channels, we began to look elsewhere for trust. We would no longer rely on people like Ronald McDonald for product information.
As the internet provides a vast supply of whatever you are looking for, it allows people to discard any facts they don’t like the look of and find others that are more to their liking.
Of course, those who look with disdain at people scouring the internet for vaccination advice that matches their aversion to needles, are often the same people who pray that the Russian people will ignore their national media and find out the truth about the Ukrainian war. We live in strange and contradictory times.
The benefit of online discovery is that companies with premium products, but relatively little advertising, can thrive. Examples would be Uber, Tesla, Air BNB, Netflix and Apple. While you may not particularly like some (or none) of these products, they are revolutionizing all of their industries.
It’s getting better
The success of products that rely on superiority rather than advertising is not limited to clever use of technology.
For example, I use headphones a lot when walking the dog. Listening to podcasts is a great way to compensate for Monty’s limited conversational prowess. But what headphones? The best ones for sound quality are bulky and don’t like rain; but the little ones that fit in your ear probably won’t last long with my ability to lose anything smaller than a two-story house.
So I took a look on the internet. Like those who deduce that a planet should be there before I found it, I knew what I was looking for, but I wasn’t quite sure it existed. Shortly after, I came across a set of Bluetooth headphones that were lightweight, waterproof, and comfortable. This was backed up by a number of product reviews (after a while you have a cynical instinct for the most reliable ones) so I bought. They are brilliant.
I did this without ever seeing an ad, being recommended by a friend, reading a “Best New Headphones” magazine, trying them out myself, or even hearing about the brand. In the past, this would have been unthinkable. I went through the same process buying an electric mountain bike (I know, a sure sign of aging) with equally satisfying results.
Worse Ads Equals Better Products
I don’t want to bite the hand that fed me, but if the slow death of mass advertising means the growth of better products, then surely that’s a good thing. It may just be that the power of advertising to allow mediocre products to thrive is being replaced by the oxygen that allows superior products to thrive.
Still, I miss those great TV commercials.