08/05/2009 02:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

You're Spending Too Much On Advertising

The following is an excerpt from my book, Brandwashed: What's Wrong with Marketing, and How We Can Fix It

Chances Are, You're Spending Too Much on Advertising

Traditional brand advertising isn't creating a wake. In most cases it should be having one.

Let's look at products like they're the Big Man on Campus. He's the good-looking athlete that everyone is drawn to, and there's no question that his image sells itself. The other hot commodity is the new kid in school, as he's an unexplored novelty. Now think of how many guys like these two are in the population of man. Probably less than 1%. The same goes for brands that sell themselves strictly on image or novelty. For the 1%, brand advertising might very well be the best place to spend the majority of marketing dollars. For the other 99%, we need to work a little smarter.

Thanks in part to shareholders and investors and a shrinking economy, smart marketing spends are more important than ever. And, as advertising and media traditionally are the priciest elements of any marketing equation, marketers need to make certain their spends are well managed. If the first part of a marketing spend is on advertising, chances are the consumer and her engagement within the retail landscape is getting short changed. Awareness without sales is worthless. Sales without media-driven awareness is possible with a strong in-store marketing strategy.

Take this example: a client was losing market share (the percentage of consumers who choose his product over his competitor's product). His product had been a Big Man on Campus, but it had long since graduated and was seen more as a nice guy who lived down the street without the flash he once had or would have again. The brand manager upped his advertising spend, relying on image, and still lost sales. He lacked the consumercentric and retailcentric strategy necessary to reverse his dipping sales. The tools he used successfully in the past were not going to benefit him in the future.

The most efficient marketing spends begin first with considering the consumer at point of purchase. Media spends are becoming less effective in reaching target audiences, and will only wane as technology continues to improve. The retail environment, however, will remain the place to reach consumers efficiently and effectively. Rather than the marquee player, advertising is best served as support to a consumercentric marketing strategy.

Technology (cable, internet, etc.), influx of consumer products and an ever-increasing fight for consumer mindshare has lessened the role of traditional advertising within the marketing paradigm. Consumer generated content within the under 35 audience is white hot, as was witnessed by the top performing TV spots that ran during last year's Superbowl (Doritos "Crash the Superbowl" being one example). TiVo and other such pieces of hardware are making TV advertising obsolete.

What the industry has termed as "non-traditional" media (e.g., the internet, mobile messaging) is becoming the norm, as consumers are not experiencing advertising in the same way they did even 5 years ago.

With a slowing economy, manufacturers and retailers must fight even harder to make sales. A cooperative, targeted effort focused at retail rather than large ad spends can deliver more sales more efficiently and more effectively. Just as in physics, the most power is generated at the moment of impact.