Trout & Partners
Global Leaders in Strategic Positioning
Decades of Experience
Jack Trout's opinion about positioning, marketing, and more
Let’s start with a definition of “Advertising.” Go to your dictionary and it will be defined as “To proclaim the qualities or advantages of a product so as to increase sales.” Now I ask you, dear reader, does that definition fit what you see on the media you watch? For a few advertisements, maybe, but for the most, not at all. In fact often you find yourself asking what are they advertising?
Let’s review the bidding as a way to better understand how we’ve forgotten this basic definition of what advertising should be about. First we had Roser Reeves talking about “unique selling proposition.” Then we had David Ogilvy talking about the “image of a brand.” Then Bill Bernbach talking about delivering advertising that had a lighter touch. I chimed in with how to use advertising to “Position” or how to differentiate your brand in the minds of your customers and prospects. Then things began to go off the cliff.
As the level of competition accelerated, more and more advertising people began to see the need to use entertainment as a vehicle to keep customers watching or reading their advertising. Product qualities and advantages disappeared and were replaced with smiles and music more analogous to movies than traditional advertising. As all this began to happen, David Ogilvy once commented that what he was seeing was children playing in their creative sandboxes. What he was unaware of at the time was they were just warming up and beginning to have fun.
And now we have the arrival of social media on top of traditional media which has made things even more complicated. The problem is that this media isn’t interruptible so as to say “We interrupt our program to bring you a message from our sponsor.” People don’t like advertising messing up their computer or iPhone screens. So how do we get things back on track as to find ways to increase sales instead of just entertaining prospects?
Let’s start with not using the word “Advertising” but replace it with the concept of “Storytelling.” Good marketing is good storytelling and for a product to be successful in this era of killer competition it must have a good story verses that of its competitors. Yes, storytelling needs some drama to make it memorable so perhaps we should drop the word creativity and replace it with “Dramativity.”
But on to the media problem. Let me introduce another word that is critical in today’s market place. It’s the word “Integrated.” Consider the definition of that word: To make into a whole by bringing all parts together. Using both traditional and social media, a market has to figure out how to integrate that story in a way that reaches its customers and prospects. Not an easy task.
So, as I see it, rethinking advertising is all about moving to “Integrated storytelling” as a way for a product to increase its sales. Clients have to figure out how to create that story. Agencies have to figure out how to best dramatize that story and integrate it into all the media platforms that exist today. It’s a different world than the one I first went to work doing advertising and marketing. It’s critical that the advertising industry get out of its sand boxes and adjust to this new world. Should Advertising Age become Storytelling Age? Probably not, but it could become a powerful force in the process of their adjustment.