submit to reddit

By B.L. Ochman

Can you even remember one of this year’s Super Bowl ads? If you can’t, you’re certainly not alone.

The reason so many fossilized companies still throw that kind of money into such traditional advertising is that companies still apparently want to believe there’s a magic bullet that will create “buzz” and “go viral.”

But there is not – never was, and never will be – a magic bullet that makes a brand popular, memorable, or trustworthy.

There are so many other ways for brands to spend money to build what really matters: trust, a great reputation, and admiration.

For every watershed masterpiece like the 1984 ad that introduced the Apple McIntosh there are 300 ads featuring long-dead Fred Astaire re-mastered into a vacuum ad or GoDaddy ads (any one will do) or Holiday Inns’ “Bob Johnson” transsexual commercial or the upside down clown who poured a bottle of Bud Light in his butt, And every one of those lame ads cost millions.

All of these ads come from companies and agencies that still believe advertising helps control the message consumers get from their brands.

Times have changed. Media has changed. And the consumer has changed. The consumer is in charge now, and pouring money into flashy ads is a lot like pouring it down the drain or the clown, as the case may be.

Here are several much better ways to spend $3.5 million (or less!) to enhance a brand:

Do something meaningful for a charitable cause. Great examples:
1. Macy’s “Believe” campaign which donated $1 million to the Make-a-Wish foundation after people sent 1 million letters to Macy’s Santa
2. Starbucks “Create Jobs USA” campaign donated $5 million to a fund that would provide low-cost loans to community businesses and 2) encouraging consumers to show their support by purchasing a $5 bracelet at Starbucks with all funds going to the loan fund. More than $1 million was donated by customers in the first two weeks, bring the total contribution to $6 million.
3. Charity Water: Five years in, people have helped them fund more than 4,000 projects around the world to serve over two million people with clean drinking water.

Provide stellar customer service. Top examples include:
1. Zappos
2. LL Bean
3. Nordstrom

Companies that focus on customer service every day – not just once a year – create brand evangelists who help spread the word for them in ways no ad ever will.

Research has repeatedly proven that people trust real and vitrual friends over brands, brands still don’t accept the facts and continue to throw money away on pointless advertising.

Be trustworthy. Trust is earned, not bought. The annual Harris Poll Reputation Study rates companies on 20 different attributes which are then grouped into six different reputation dimensions: Emotional Appeal, Products & Services, Social Responsibility, Vision & Leadership, Workplace Environment, and Financial Performance.

For 2011, Apple wins by a mile.

• Financial Performance – Apple
• Products & Services – Apple
• Vision & Leadership – Apple
• Workplace Environment – Apple
• Social Responsibility – Whole Foods
• Emotional Appeal –

The pattern here is that a brand has to be something people can care about, not just something they can buy.