There is a misconception around advertising that all it is, is a marketer sitting in an ivory tower engaged in a supreme form of psychological trickery to fool the unsuspecting consumers into buying a product they don’t need.
The problem is that this idea perhaps isn’t wrong. There definitely is some truth to this and a lot of agency work adds to this perception; we’re sometimes our own worst enemy.
However, I would like to propose a different defence. Start by imagining a world without advertising. The true and compelling reason marketing and advertising exists in the modern day is that companies, new start-ups or large behemoths, believe they have or offer something better or more interesting than their competitors. Once they have it or find it, they would like to tell people about it. (Companies that waste, yes waste, money on advertising vanilla products blow my mind every day; rather spend the money on designing products the customer wants).
With the amount of information available online through social media, forums and general reviews, anyone who does the slightest bit of research can protect themself from buying a bad product, and poor companies are no longer able to hide behind good advertising. So, a good product is fast becoming a hygiene factor. A great product tends to sell itself (Apple) and we often say, the best form of advertising is product.
The sad truth, though, is almost everyone advertises. And the bigger companies spend a lot more money doing so than the innovative little companies can afford. So, and this is where it gets interesting, the little companies are forced to innovate and push the boundaries and grow interesting challenger brands and build niche communities and ambassadors and brand loyalists.
In other words, advertising is a result of competition.
The more competition there is in an industry, the more big companies need to advertise and the more the smaller companies need to innovate to gran a share of the pie.
So what about a world without advertising?
Let’s look at the flipside, and amazingly, there is a real world example of this. Cuba, because of governmental control in what goes on the shelf, has no or very little competition for most products. And because of it, there is very little need to advertise and there is hardly any advertising in Cuba.
Without competition, we find a world with no advertising. And without advertising, we would find a world with no competition.
Advertising is the result of healthy competition. And healthy competition, in the consumers’ world, is a fantastic place to be.
Competition drives entrepreneurship, innovation, interesting products and new designs. Competition forces everyone to try make things different and better.
Without competition, only the big brands would survive. And they would very likely become lazy and fat and rich. And the little guys would suffer. And innovation would slow down. And consumers would be a lot worse off because of it.
A world without advertising would be a horrible place to be. Now, what I would really like is a world without bad, wasteful advertising.