One of the major problems with advertising over the past 50 years has been the fact that most brands and companies have abused its use and application. Advertising agencies and their clients have manipulated consumers using clever slogans, persuasive headlines, NLP techniques and excessive glamour and exaggeration to package very ordinary products and services, which rarely meet the original promise of the brand.

It’s a true sign of the times to think so much money has been spent trying to sell the sizzle of the product rather than making the product itself and the experience of owning it more unique, memorable and relevant.

Traditional advertising is broken.

The advertising industry itself is structurally flawed. Its whole reason to exist is based on helping average brands sell average products. In the most part the advertising industry provides wallpaper over mediocrity. However, the shift in recent times with the advent of the social web and the socially savvy consumer has exposed the advertising industry even further and reinforced the sentiment that traditional advertising is nothing more than a tax on unremarkable thinking and products.

90% of brands are nothing more than average.

The truth is simple and scary. 90% of the companies on the planet have an average product, deliver an average customer experience, have average engaged employees and make an average amount of profit – nothing wrong with that if average is what we aspire to. However, consumer expectations are fashioned by the advertising they see which always over hypes the sizzle and hence the double-edged sword.

Average = Crap.

The main problem is that average in the social world = crap. And therein lies the critical problem. For 90% of the planets “average brands” the social world is a graveyard. Yet for those 10% of brands that deliver a remarkable product, a remarkable customer experience and have highly motivated employees the social world is a playground. These are the companies who are making real waves in the social world. Brands like Apple, Zappos, Starbucks, Facebook, Zynga, Cisco, YouTube and many others are the brands to watch and learn from.

90% OF THE COMPANIES ON THE PLANET HAVE AN AVERAGE PRODUCT

The way this plays out is simple. As social media, word of mouth, reputation networks, peer recommendations and co-creation takes centre stage over the next few years the average brands will have to go back to the drawing board if they wish to compete. That means going back to basics. Understanding the reason WHY the company exists, creating and delivering remarkable products and customer experiences and engaging employees in ways that show true devotion and commitment to their audience and category.

It’s a utopian state of brands that are all aligned around a customer centric approach that benefits everyone.

Social Media forces us to ask some very basic questions.

So the real power behind the advent of social media is not in it’s obvious application of creating buzz around a great product and making sure the world gets to know it, but in the fact that it will force every other brand to re-evaluate its entire product and go-to-market strategy in order to survive.

The reality that traditional advertising can’t be a plaster on mediocrity is creating a paradigm shift in the world of advertising. Agencies and their clients need to recognise a very simple and obvious fact that often seems to get over looked – their allegiance should not be focused on the products they have to sell but on the consumers they wish to sell to.

This means starting with some very basic questions:

Why do we exist, beyond making a contribution to profits? What do we need to do to become a remarkable brand?

What will make our customers and employees feel compelled to want to co-create and innovate with us? What will success look like in the new world?

Standing still is not an option.

If you’re not already asking these questions of your brand you can bet some of your competitors already are.  After all, there is no time like the present to think about the future.