Advertising on my Mind

Given that yesterday was the SuperBowl, it seems timely that I should be writing a piece of my take on this conundrum called advertising.

As a consumer, Advertising is a drug. It catches you, as a toddler, when while you’re taking your first walking steps, you master jingles. When by the time you’ve entered kindergarten, you have logos tattooed on my minds to the extent that you can recognize the golden arches before you learn your alphabet, and you start equating the tick-mark to a popular shoe brand before you learn that it technically stands for ‘correct’. And then when you’re slightly older, you know taglines, brand icons and commercials by heart.

Yet, does advertising make you a buyer of the product? I’d say you buy into the story, and the brand, under the guise of which is cleverly enclosed some kind of product. Starbucks, not coffee. Tide, not detergent. Coca-cola, not soda.

So then, does advertising become selling, or does it become storytelling?

Now from the perspective of a marketing student, and not only a consumer. In my eyes, a happy marriage of the two. Storytelling with an intention to sell. A union of creativity and commerce. And added to that, in today’s context, purpose. For a millennial centric audience is no longer satisfied with a product that solves pain-points, and a brand that has a strong narrative. They’re also demanding one that chooses, adopts and safeguards regularly, values and principles that define its identity. A.k.a., brands that care.

Breaking it down further, I’d say that successful advertising comprises of three components – Heart, Mind and Wallet. Appealing to the Heart (we’re humans after all), Convincing the Mind (that the product you’re selling them is going to be more valuable than the money they’re going to spend on it), and impacting the Wallet (in favor of the brand of course!). And each of these, in my opinion, form the three parts of the triangle you might call advertising. Each as important and non-negotiable as the other.

I remember a professor of mine at grad school, explaining to us that advertising may be a ‘creative effort’, yet creativity is the process, not the means to an end. ‘We may be creative people, but we’re here to sell.” Creativity-on-demand, that’s what he would call advertising. And I think in my own way, I would, too.¬†Solving business problems with creative thinking. Or using Creativity to solve business problems. The same expression flipped in two ways.

What then essentially sells, in advertising? I’d say a great story that combines emotion and fact, yet one that leads to a superior product. And these are opposite end of the same spectrum. Simply put, your customer might buy into the story, yet if the product is inferior, she’s not coming back again. And on the other hand, you might have a great product, but if you’re not making an effort to break through the clutter by communicating your story well, chances are your product is never getting discovered amidst all the others on the shelf (or in that desktop/tablet/app window if we’re talking e-commerce).

As a consumer, and as a marketer, if I had to conclude here, I’d say advertising isn’t a definition that be universally coined and carved in stone. The overall core idea may be similar (people selling to people). Yet the term itself can mean many things.¬† An artistic effort with a purpose. A duping mechanism. Yet, an unnecessary evil. Call it what you may, but advertising in itself, I know is here to stay.

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