Don’t let your product do the talking 

In this article, I analyse the role of advertising in creating successful products and why brands should not rely on word of mouth alone.

Peter Drucker famously said that ‘ a product should fit your customer so well that it sells itself’. 

There are many examples of where CEOs wear the need not to advertise their products as an almost badge of honour. Examples range from Tesla to Tony’s Chocolonely. Even in the early days, Uber made some bashful noise about their product prowess in this regard. 

And whilst this is a euphoric state for many brands, simply relying on, say, word of mouth, I can assure you it’s just that—a dream world. No matter how good the product is, it will not sell itself beyond a point. So communicating the product’s benefits continually and creativity is about the best chance a product has to survive, let alone thrive. 

Even sliced bread, a revolutionary product back then, gained traction once Wonder came along and heavily invested in advertising.

So even if your product is better than sliced bread without people hearing about it, it has a negligible chance of success. 

Furthermore, brands that once were product-first, such as Amazon and Uber, have both begun to advertise their services heavily. You see, to understand the importance of advertising, you need to understand introductory human psychology. 

Remind and reinforce

Humans gravitate towards things they can associate with and relate to. They need constant reminders that a product exists and how it fits into their lives. The more the message is reinforced, the more it becomes engrained into the memory and behavioural patterns of the individual. 

A product aims to become a regular part of individuals every day, so they think of that brand first when they have a specific need.

This comes only with a combination of repeat patterns of reminding them the product exists and getting them to use it repeatedly. 

A product that fails to live up to these constant reminders will have little chance of succeeding over the long term as it’s likely to be replaced by a competitor that does this. 

Let’s take Tesla as a case in point. Once heralded as the saviour of the automotive industry is now facing a lacklustre performance. This is in the main due to a huge number of competitors plunging into the EV space, with a heavy focus on advertising. 

On the other hand, Tesla has not, so we can see that it has lost share to rivals that have created comparable products but recognise this need to get the word out through comms. 

Product of the year research

Let’s turn to the drinks category to look at another set of research. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute recently conducted a study examining over 80,000 new product introductions that earned the status of Product of the Year. They were looking to see if these innovative and highly regarded products could stand the test of time. 

Remember, these were the best of the best in terms of launching new products. The results may surprise you since over 40% of products were not around two years later. 

They concluded that even great new products still need to apply the fundamental laws of marketing growth. Otherwise, they risk being added to the list of abandoned products on the road to innovation.

Mental and Physical Availability

At the heart of these fundamental laws of Marketing growth lie the tenants of Mental and Physical Availability. In particular, one key conclusion for the failure is that they were not advertised well beyond the initial period. It shows the importance of advertising to sustain even the best of products. 

Finally, the diminishing nature of sales and brand salience when brands stop advertising is well documented. 

Research again conducted by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute shows us the impact of dark advertising periods on brands.

The longer the brand is off the air, there is a steady decline in sales. 

The conclusion is despite many brands wearing the ‘no advertising required’ badge of so-called honour, it’s not advisable to follow suit. Even if they succeed early, they will eventually plateau without advertising and eat humble pie. So don’t fall into the same trap. 

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