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Key to New Product Success: Avoid “Death by Brand Advertising”

Brand Advertising is Often the Wrong Choice for New Products

When you have a new product, the first order of business is getting consumers to love the product – love it so much they buy it.

Unfortunately, the ad/creative business is obsessed with brand advertising. And, sadly, choosing brand advertising for new products is a leading cause of Shelf Potato-dom. (With the term “brand advertising”, I refer to advertising that spends the bulk of time and energy building brand connections – often by saying either “this brand understand you” or “our brand’s cool will rub off on you if you buy our products”.)

Agencies tend toward “brand advertising” because they can focus mostly on making advertising that consumers “love”. That makes for a fun creative process. Even better, brand advertising makes the best portfolio pieces.

But using brand advertising at the wrong time can kill a product introduction because brand advertising leaves behind very little communication about the product. Consumers buy products when they know why they are meaningful to them and are quite harsh about this judgement. If consumer aren’t told meaningful reasons they’d want a product, then the product “doesn’t exist” (no matter how brilliant your engineering team). And, if the product doesn’t exist for consumers, then the profits don’t exist either.

Five Steps Can Turn Your Advertising from a Product Liability into Dramatic Success

Five key steps can keep your new products from suffering death by brand advertising:

Make the Product the Hero. It’s all too easy for the creative process to focus on the wrong hero – the actors, the clever writing, the art direction, the movie-like experience, or the agency/creative team. Keep your products from becoming shelf potatoes by making the product the hero in the advertising.

Trust That Consumers Care. Traditional agency teams often believe that consumers don’t want to know about products. I beg to differ. Love of product is a pre-historic human impulse – one that started when the first human kept a specific animal skin because it covered them better than other skins. If a product is worth inventing, people want to know what makes it meaningful.

Avoid the Staleness of Brochure Copy (but make great brochures). Product messages need fresh words. But, all-too-often the words around the product are as stale as those we find in most auto brochures (a waste of printing). Many creative teams and companies simply don’t have the instincts to make product oriented long copy interesting. So they deliver dull and “expected” copy that consumers will never hear.

Make An Offer. The single most critical thing you can do for your brand is to get your product into consumer hands. So use directive language that says “buy this product”. And make your communication so valuable to consumers that there’s a reason to act upon it.

Use Agencies with a New Product Specialty. Most agencies don’t have strong new product skills (though most will tell you they do). Most TV and video producers don’t either. And most designers and art directors don’t. With superb skills at crafting brilliant brand advertising, they don’t know how to make the product the hero. So look for an agency whose work shows they make new products succeed or regularly take existing products to new markets.

Product Oriented Advertising Breaks Through! When you make effective product-based advertising, your work will break through the clutter — without women on bicycles trailing 5 feet of hair from their armpits (whose ad was that, anyway?).

Ads like these are typical of the disembodied creative that agencies create attempting to break through consumer consciousness with creativity alone – and without product connections. Except a stray but clever creative idea won’t live in the consumer mind in a way that drives product sales (our minds don’t work that way).

By contrast, if your development team is any good, then your product will be quite unique – highly differentiated so that it delivers meaningful advantages. And a creative team that relies on those advantages, finds creative that breaks-through and sticks in the consumer mind.

And that means success — making your product a Shelf Potato candidate no longer.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

  1. February 14, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Sometimes it is hard to keep your product popular when there are so many other products to choose from on the market. Don’t let your priceless products fizzle.

  2. October 18, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Samsung is not a brand driven company–but rather a product driven. Even with all the sales, my Brand Love Index research shows that 48% of consumers are mainly Indifferent about Samsung brand–while some “Like It”. This contrasts to the frenzy that consumers have with 71% seeing Apple as a beloved brand and no one is Indifferent to the brand. Even the Sony brand still surprisingly outperforms Samsung, even though they’ve really been struggling to keep pace on anything electronics–TVs, phones, computers.

    • October 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      It sounds like you’re suggesting that Samsung is product driven and that contradicts this point. Except, Apple is one of the grand masters of using communication about product (in ads, in PR, in store) to generate the frenzy. From that frenzy comes the brand belovedness you note.

      Success requires the smart strategy and communication regardless of approach. And when it’s executed appropriately, then product builds brand far faster than communication about brand.

      Cheers…and thanks for the comment.


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