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I wondered recently if it is possible to build a brand using advertising alone. I'm not sure. One reader suggested that it is possible, but it takes time and is expensive.
But can great advertising be a substitute for a great product? Can average products be successful if their communications are world class? In the long term? I don't actually know. What about this powerful ad for Nike? Not suggesting they are average at all but are Nike runners better than Asics or New Balance? If they are all the same, (and if design is the same) does it come down to better communications or distribution to drive brand affinity?
What about bottled water?
David Taylor blogs at length accusing marketers of focusing too much on the 'sizzle' and not the 'sausage'. He wrote a book last year titled "Never mind the sizzle. Where's the sausage? Branding based on substance. Not spin."
Hamel and Prahalad cite Porsche's dramatic US sales decline in the early 1990s as an example of this. Porsche were living off their famous brand name but were not investing in their cars. Their sales bombed from over 30,000 cars in 1986 to under 4,000 in 1993.
John Grant predicted the demise of image advertising in his 2003 book - 'After Image'. He pointed to examples of brands whose premium advertising no longer worked. For example, Inbev positioned their Stella Artois as 'Reassuringly Expensive', using very visual european cinematic advertising. The reality was it was brewed in northern England and was known widely as 'wife beater'. See 'Where did it all go wrong with the beer they call wife beater?'
In his book, Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin makes the point that 'big ideas' worked when advertising was in charge. But he believes advertising is no longer in charge.
I found this presentation (via Helge Tenno) on an interesting blog called fckie.com. This is really good and worth flicking through more than once. Some nice examples here of where the product is the marketing.
Tom makes an interesting point that remarkable products use advertising as a window display, while unremarkable products use advertising as a smokescreen. Take Apple for example. Their iphone ads are demonstrations - done very stylishly.
Back to Nike for a moment. Clearly their Nikeplus is a perfect example of where the marketing is the product - and is in the product. I've used it and it really is good stuff.
And true to Tom's point, their 'I'm addicted' tv ad for Nike Plus, while truly stunning, is quite transparent and simple.
I think that in the curent recessionary environment, product and price will win out over promotion. Everyone is watching costs. Careful spending is the new "flash", with people proudly telling each other how much they have saved! Perhaps "Image" advertisers might take this message on board and craft their ads differently.
"But can great advertising be a substitute for a great product?"
I can't think of a proper way to answer that without using too much ugly marketing-speak, but there are times when advertising creates the product. This tends to be when one hears about "selling a lifestyle", or the phrase "we don't sell product x, we sell an experience". An example could be designer labels. When a customer wants to purchase a product because the purchase makes them feel a certain way, or when it expresses something about them, then in that case I think the answer is yes: Advertising can create emotions, or image, or pleasure that the customer feels regardless of the product. I think your example of bottled water is perfect; the product is so homogenous that the differentiation can't be on anything but the advertising!
thanks for the input lads.
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