The Brand Age is Dead.
Updated: Jan 8
Moving forward, the key to delivering above average returns for shareholders hinges on a firm's ability to build truly remarkable, highly differentiated, data rich products that lead to R&R (not Rest & Relaxation, but Repeat Purchases & Referrals). The Brand Age is dead and the tailwinds have shifted. We now live in the Product Age. Let me explain...
In his new book, Post-Corona , Professor Scott Galloway talks about how the coronavirus reshuffled the deck of business norms, and accelerated the adoption of digital products by a decade. One of the biggest shifts that he highlights in Chapter 3 of the book is the transition from the Brand Age to the Product Age.
The Big 4 Ad Agency embody the Brand Age and Traditional. Over the last 5 years, more and more money is moving to digital advertising, into the hands of the digital duopoly of Facebook and Google.
The Brand Age can be characterized by average products for average people and big ad-spending on traditional media (out-of-home, print, radio, and tv). The gangster move, as Prof G would say, was to hire a madison avenue creative who could wordsmith a catchy phrase like, A Diamond Is Forever, and then promote the hell out of it. Everything essential ran through and was controlled by the Big 4 Ad Agencies. The entire advertising industrial complex was designed to mass-market mediocre products that were void of any real intrinsic value, and it worked for a really long time... until it didn't. What happened?
The Product Age | "I'm bigger, stronger, faster by design. I'm a lambo, you a nissan." ~ MGK lyrics
Salim Ismail is a serial entrepreneur, investor, and technologist. He is also the author of Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations are 10x Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours. In my opinion, Exponential Organizations, published in 2014, is the single best exposé on the tectonic shift from the Brand to Product Age. He captured the entire phenomena in the ExO formula shown below.
Exponential Organizations are product companies with lean and highly scalable business models. They don't artificially manufacture brand equity through advertising. Instead, they build superior products that leverage engagement, social, and network effects to build brand loyalty over time.
Product Age Thinking for Small Businesses Like Ours
Most of us aren't building exponential organizations that check the boxes of the ExO Formula 10 for 10. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't think exponentially and try to figure out how to deliver a truly remarkable, highly differentiated, data rich product. Seth Godin, author of This is Marketing, gives us a good brainstorming tool called, "The 3 Sentence Marketing Promise." This will help you articulate and think soberly about the problem your business solves, and the intrinsic value that your product creates for customers.
My product is for people who believe _______________
I will focus on people who want ______________
I promise that engaging with what I make will help you get ______________
We did a podcast book review of This is Marketing on our show, Books and Ideas for Entrepreneurs. It is worth listening to, as there are several other invaluable tools and concepts that we cover in the episode such as the 5 Step Marketing Plan and XY Positioning Tool.
Jerry Della Femina, a lauded American ad man, once said, "Sometimes, the advertising is better than the product." In the Brand Age, bad products could hide behind the glitz and the glam of Madison Avenue, but then came social, user generated content, reviews, forums, influencer marketing, and the proliferation of data which ushered in the Product Age. In today's digitally connected environment, a bad product will fry faster than an egg in hell, so forget about advertising induced brand building.
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