Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Advertising The Crap Out Of a Product.

I recently had a student say that all that really mattered was advertising the crap out of a product. We have since started a conversation that might be of great interest to the readers of this blog.

What is posted here is my e-mail to him with his rebuttal to it.

--- MY E-Mail To The Student---

I wanted to address your comment about advertising. I realize I mentioned the first two in class.

While it is true that advertising generally works, merely advertising a lot WILL not work. Why?

1) Expense- Advertising is very expensive. Superbowl 30-second spot costs $2.6 million. Not sustainable.

2) Targeting- Blanketing the market leads to poor targeting.

3) Not Coordinating Product, Price or Place- High advertising levels hasten the demise of a sub-optimal product if distribution, pricing or product is not in place.

4) Attention- but not trust & value- High levels of advertising build attention, but not trust and value. It does not necessarily build a brand.

5) Price may be more effective- If market is price-elastic, you may be better off reducing price.

6) Competitive War- Advertising a lot will buy you a competitive war a lot of times. Your competition will not sit idly by when you ramp up advertising. The result may be a market share battle with eroding profits.

Let me know what you think.


I'll be glad to rise to the occasion. I am not sure I agree that "merely advertising" a lot will not work, (depending on your definition of "merely,") and I think you missed a few things above. For example, you say that advertising is very expensive. Agreed. Then you say that $2.6 million Superbowl ads are not sustainable. What about Budweiser, Dodge and McDonalds? If I am not mistaken, I believe they buy Superbowl ads every year. I bet they buy again next year. Are you sure expensive ads are not sustainable?

Although blanketing the market leads to poor targeting, a lot of companies do just that, and seem to not only survive, but thrive. Some examples are: Shane Co., Sleep Country, Beacon Plumbing, McDonalds, Vern Fonk, Coke, Pepsi, etc. More about these later.

It is true that there can be sub-optimal production and distribution, but in the above examples these were all managed.

As far as a sub-optiimal product goes, I would claim that all of the above are examples of either sub-optimal products, or products that are priced well above otherwise prevailing levels.

I agree that logically massive advertising should not build trust, but somehow it seem to. Some very intelligent people seem to continually buy from these companies, even though they should know that the value is not there compared to other alternatives. Nothing about the Vern Fonk ads seem designed to build trust, yet they seem quite successful as a business.

I disagree that competitive wars (Coke and Pepsi, for example), necessarily result in loss of market share or eroding profits. In case of the cola wars, independent studies have consistently shown that brands other than Coke and Pepsi have higher ratings in taste tests. Yet Coke and Pepsi have the highest prices and are clear winners in the profit wars. I believe marketing is the difference, since if the difference is not taste, and it is not price, it must be marketing.

Advertising or marketing is by its very nature an attempt to convince people to do something they might not otherwise do. It is my general contention that beyond a certain level of marketing needed to let customers know about the benefits of a product, marketing tends toward brainwashing. Brainwashing, after all, involves repeated messages without contradiction.

Taking this further than products, some very nasty things have been successfully "marketed"--Nazism, for example. An entire country was somehow convinced through propaganda (a form of marketing) that Jews and Gypsies were of lower quality than other people. Slavery, torture, suicide, and killing are just a few more examples of horrible actions that have been successfully "marketed" to acceptance, at least to the "target" audience.

I will restate my assertion: "Anything can be successfully marketed." Sad, but true.