Advertising is not dead. But the way brands think about advertising needs to change. With ratings, reviews, blogs, videos, social media posts, and billions of other content delivered instantly to the supercomputers in our pockets, brands have become completely transparent. Their image is no longer controlled by targeted and clever advertisements, but by behavior.
In my new book, Exponential, I examine how brands can grow dramatically by redefining the role of advertising. I explain how some of the world’s most iconic brands have built armies of evangelists using data, creativity and technology to deliver empowerment rather than superficial, disruptive messages. Here are some of the best parts of the book:
Focus on empowerment rather than interruptions
Big brands are now focusing on empowerment rather than interruptions. I’m amazed at how many people in my industry act like people are still sitting patiently through TV commercials, admiring flashy banner ads on their laptops or watching intently as a YouTube pre-roll delays the video that they really want to see. This kind of institutional madness in corporate America is based on faith in a model of reach and frequency, which the advertising industry has spent decades perfecting. It’s a numbers game where the score is calculated based on how many people you can reach and how often you can interrupt them with a brand message.
But today’s most successful brands understand that for advertising to be useful, it must create an exchange of value: brands provide customers with meaningful content and experiences, and customers respond by donating their time, data , attention and recommendations. Educational content is one way to do this – to empower potential consumers instead of interrupting them. Orvis, for example, empowers its audience to educate themselves by creating content that teaches people how to fly fish. Fender does it with a platform that teaches people how to play guitar. Cabot does this by sharing recipes and nutritional tips.
When brands create content that improves people’s lives, they can stop worrying about how many people watch their 30-second ads. With educational immersive content, brands can get fans to invest 30 minutes or even 30 hours.
Make advertising personal
Historically, great brands could be built with one big, smart ad campaign. It no longer works. Today, customers spend an average of 13 hours researching a car purchase. An aggressive car manufacturer ad campaign will only result in about 12 exposures, or about 6 minutes of engagement. This still leaves 12 hours and 54 minutes for the client to do their own research.
Rather than spending heavily on traditional advertising to drive awareness at the start of the journey and promotions towards the end, brands should use digital tools like sequential messaging, custom audiences, and content retargeting to personalize ads.
One of the most important things we can do is empower people to effectively invest their hard-earned money and time in the exact products that meet their needs. While it may not win creative awards, functional content that clearly communicates product features and functionality removes barriers to purchase and drives momentum throughout the purchase journey. It’s one of the reasons Warby Parker has become a billion dollar brand. Time and again, they leverage empowerment by investing in content and technology to make shopping easier on their website, apps, and in-store.
Prioritize execution over uniqueness
Today, more than 500,000 brands across the world are competing for consumers’ time, attention and money. With just a few clicks, a kid with a bright idea can find a manufacturing plant in Vietnam, a programmer in Israel, or a logo maker in Brazil. Almost instantly, a new brand was born. Due to this proliferation of new professions, brands have almost no white space to forge a unique identity. The concept of differentiation is replaced by that of authenticity and execution.
Successful brands do not offer fundamentally different products; they create value with authenticity. Patagonia has peers in the market with similar offerings. But when it invests heavily in clothing recycling and immersive content about sustainable practices, it’s not just about giving the appearance of a green business, but about educating people and giving them tools. to make the difference.
Brands can no longer just say they are great; they must be large and show how they are in detail.
Brands that empower their customers create fans who actively evangelize for them through word of mouth marketing. This leads to exponential growth as happy customers share positive feedback about a brand with multiple other people – and we believe our friends more than banner ads and repetitive advertisements. The only way to create these evangelists is to rethink the role of advertising. It’s time for brands to break their addiction to interruptions and create engaging content for the entire consumer journey.