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Advertising is No Excuse to Not Improve
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Advertising and product innovation go hand in hand. A good product cannot grow its audience base solely on performance alone, not in this monopolistic economic environment. Nor can a bad or plain product bring in a ton of revenue with a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign.

Something usually has to give.

During this era's proliferation of digital media, the Silicon Valley advocates repeatedly curse and boff the existence of advertising. Yes, these start-up entrepreneurs, our geek brothers and sisters, believe that with new and social media, used the right way, the need for advertising becomes obsolete.

The truth is, advertising has been used poorly by the mainstream. It is true; if we were bystanders, we would think that advertising as a whole is useless. Sometimes, even being insiders, it is tough to swallow the practices we see in our industry.

Corporate America has warped the relationship advertising has once represented. Instead of using advertising to tell the public what is out there, how it can be used, and why its beneficial, companies bombard consumers with the messages to buy now, buy quickly, and buy often — without demonstrating the benefit. These brands attempt to build a market share based on price and perceived value, versus real benefit.

Randy West of SCG pointed this out in his post about the struggle national retail brands are having against private level (store) brands. According to the research he presents, private label brands have been gaining on many national brands in the past couple years. And quickly. Other research suggests that consumers believe the biggest difference between name-brand and store-brand goods is the advertising budget. Many consumers think the quality of the store brand is just as good as the name brand.

And few name-brand companies have proved the consumer wrong.

Randy's key point is this: in order for name brands to stay in the front of the mind of the consumer, they must offer unique goods and product lines that store brands would find difficult to match. The value in the name brand is in its innovative products, not how inexpensive it is. The name brand sets the tone on what the product should accomplish that makes people's lives easier. A name brand should never fall in comparison to a store brand.

And padding that separation is where advertising comes in. Making sure consumers know the difference between the name brand and store brand is how advertising helps. Advertising shows the public that the name brand isn't in it just for profit, but what it is doing is providing unique, innovative products and services that the consumer couldn't find elsewhere.

Improve your products and services, and advertising will follow. You cannot use advertising to bandage broken or outdated offerings.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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