“Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.”
Robert Stephens said this in 2008 as a guest columnist for Inc, criticizing “paid word-of-mouth” by out-of-house agencies as stiff, outdated advertising for a public which now overwhelmingly rejects corporate messaging. His belief in “original relevance” or authenticity for marketers remains timeless wisdom. Paid advertising by itself is a company-centric model. What brand success requires now is a customer-centric model. You must create content that consumers will be receptive to, rather than shoving one-way messages down their throat.
However, much has changed since Robert wrote for that column. Youtube and blogging is virtually unrecognizable now after six years. Earned media, too, has become commercialized. In 2014, a customer-centric model entails a sales cycle which has evolved past the purchase funnel. The social media revolution has discarded the need for command and control in exchange for influence. Trust. A relationship between brand and consumer base. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean removing paid advertising from the formula altogether. It just requires a shift in mindset. There has been a convergence of media. Social signals impact search engine rankings and paid advertising has become a necessary component for social platforms because of their evolving monetization goals.
I’d like to amend Mr. Stephens’ point: “Advertising by itself is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” You must combine earned + paid media to truly create a brand for customers to process as a value-add experience, resulting in repeatable revenue gains and growth. Advertising still works—when used to influence as a part of a converged marketing model.