May 18, 2015
Take The Refrigerator Test
Despite all the yapping by marketing experts about the amazing power of online advertising, it has been my impression that, overall, digital advertising has been a weak force.
Yes, there have been some notable exceptions. Google has certainly replaced the yellow pages as the place people go when they are actively looking to buy something. Facebook can certainly make it easier for you to find left-handed plumbers who drink chocolate milk. And every now and then there's a big one-off social media success.
But if you believe, as I do, that the highest ambition of advertising is to build a successful brand, you have to wonder about the past twenty years. Where are the big non-web-native brands that have been built by online advertising?
Twenty years into their lives as mainstream media, tv, radio, print and billboards -- what we now call traditional media -- had built thousands of successful consumer brands in hundreds of categories (made-up number alert.)
People often ask me how I can maintain such an obviously unfashionable opinion about digital advertising? I tell them this: The proof is in your refrigerator.
Open your refrigerator and take everything out. Take out the juices, and beers, and jams, and cheeses, and snacks, and yogurt, and meats, and peanut butter, and mayonnaise, and...
Then make two piles. In one pile put all the brands that were built with traditional advertising. In the second pile put all the brands that were built by online advertising.
I think you will find that you have one pile.
By the way, if you are the guy who was going to write a comment that said, "Oh yeah, well you know everything we buy doesn't go in the refrigerator," don't bother. You can do the same test in your cupboard, your garage, your medicine cabinet, your closet and your desk and you'll come up with the same result.