Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Advertising: also not dead yet

It's long been one of the accepted touchstones of web triumphalism that advertising is doomed. A simpleminded summary might go like this: The ubiquity of networked data on the web combined with tools to empower and unite consumers will ultimately yield a world in which pure information rules.

Well, based on experiments performed at MIT, that might just not be 100% true. Not only did the experiments demonstrate a powerful, continuing impact from "messaging" (which we call advertising), but also suggested that far from obviating advertising results, the web could actually extend and strengthen the impact.

Francois Gossieaux at the blog emergence marketing reports results: It’s not the product that counts - it’s the information about the product… More details are available at predictably irrational. (I wonder why these kinds of blogs hate capital letters so much?)

I came across this thread at JOHO the Blog, site of musings by David Weinberger, noted along with many other accomplishments for helping write The Cluetrain Manifesto, a genuinely seminal work that explained how a networked global world would affect business. In it, he notes regretting almost from the start one of Cluetrain's observations: “We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.”

Says he now:

We are so not immune. Branding works. We think of Volvos as safe and the Ford Fiesta as a car for young folks. We think of Coke as the original and Pepsi as the copy. We can characterize someone as a “wearer of Birkenstocks.” Branding and advertising in some important sense work.

Now, we certainly can undo some of the cognitive damage advertising and branding do. Market conversations in fact often are about the ways in which a product’s promises and sloganeering don’t live up to its reality. But that’s a lot different than saying we’re immune to advertising. We’re not.

None of this means to suggest that the web hasn't had profound impacts on commerce, as with so much else in the world today. It has, and we need to be top of all that. Pay attention. Keep up. More information and background is available here, and at the sites mentioned above.

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