We Can Change the World -- Really

The Key Is to Focus Less on Advertising, and It Will Help Our Industry

By Published on .

We can change the world. It sounds crazy, but it's true. In fact, if our ultimate goal is to create breakthrough brands, we have no choice but to make lives better.

At this point, I think we can all agree that advertising is going through a revolution. Search, social, mobile and ad avoidance technologies have disrupted this industry. The notion of building a brand through interruptive messaging is antiquated. Consumers have too much information at their fingertips. Traditional tools for influence no longer work as well as they once did.

This industry is filled with some of the smartest and most creative people in the world. The brands that are producing incredible results are simply taking that expertise and pointing it inward at their own behavior rather than outward at messaging. Great brands are created by starting with a platform that improves people's lives.

Look at top performing companies in the world. They still use advertising, but their brands are based on something more than simply creating great products and great ads. For example, Under Armour invests in innovation to help athletes perform better, Amazon invests in removing friction from the buying process, Chipotle invests in relationships with small family farms and Red Bull invests in pushing the limits of human potential.

Enriching peoples' lives creates brand evangelists who can carry a story forward much more effectively than paid media ever could. Yet, most brands are trying to create gimmicks on Facebook to help customers spread the word. That's not useful. The action item is to first look inward and stand for something bigger than the rudimentary characteristics of a product. You need to champion creativity, athleticism, the environment, happiness, inner beauty or even something as mundane as frictionless commerce.

Ironically, focusing less on advertising creates opportunities for great ads. Under Armour, Apple, Zappos and other brands with a strong brand platform have some of the most compelling ads because true stories are always the most compelling. More importantly, companies like Red Bull, Chipotle and Patagonia prove that advertising no longer needs to be interruptive. When companies first build a compelling brand platform, the creative canvas is virtually unlimited. That's why Red Bull was able to increase marketing metrics exponentially when it sponsored Felix Baumgartner's jump from outer space.

This is the most exciting time in the history of advertising for those of us not hamstrung by legacy systems and legacy profit models. When we first focus on behavior, we can create immersive marketing experiences. Consumers will give us much more time and attention than they would to a TV or banner ad. The age of transparency forces us to reconsider everything we've done for decades and move forward in a completely new environment. It's forcing us to change the world and never look back, because that's the only way to create a breakthrough brand.

Jeff Rosenblum is founding partner of Questus, a digitally-led advertising agency with offices in New York and San Francisco.
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