The future of brand communication & advertising

Lord Leverhulme supposedly said, "I know half my advertising is wasted. I just don't know which half."

A recent paper titled "The Future of Advertising is Now" by Christopher Vollmer et al attempts to solve his lordship's dilemma, at least for the automobile industry. Clearly, Lord Leverhulme's assessment remains remarkably accurate, as this chart from the paper shows.

What's even more interesting is the huge impact that the Internet plays in consumer's purchase decisions. It seems that marketeers at the car companies don't understand this just yet.

We decided to buy a video camera a month ago. When we bought a digital camera a couple of years back, we went to a store, looked at all the options, talked to a friend who is a bit of an expert on photography and another friend who is an expert on gadgets, decided which features were most important to us, went back to the store, shortlisted two models, went to a few more stores, compared prices, chose the store with the lowest prices and then finally decided which camera to buy.

This time it was quite different. We did talk to our friends, but most of our research was on the Internet. We found a couple of sites with expert reviews on video cameras as well as actual user post-purchase feedback and decided which brand and model to buy based entirely on this research. We determined the lowest price by looking it up on eBay. We didn't even go to a store – the video camera was delivered to our home by the dealer.

The key factor in both purchases was the experience of actual users. The Internet enabled us to find people who had used the latest models. Therefore we were able to make a very well-informed choice. The role of advertising? A priori, none! Even in-store advertising didn't count in the second case. In reality, the brands we considered – JVC, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, Canon – have been advertising their technical expertise and quality for years. The advertising ensured that we considered their offerings. But that's it.

You can now find user opinions on everything from beach sandals to golf clubs on the Internet. Even mundane everyday products like soap are written about online by passionate users.

What are the implications for marketeers? I can think of a few:
1. Old-school mass communication will have less and less of an impact on purchase decisions. (Nothing new there, but it's still true.)
2. People are looking for the most credible source of information. The higher the involvement, the greater the investment in research. Figuring out how to engage with this research, to be aware of what actual users and influencers are saying about your brand or product is going to be critical, not in the future, but right now.

3. The Internet is a technical library where people can figure out how things really work, how much they really cost, how good they really are and where to get the lowest price. It is a democratic community where everyone can have their say and probably will. It is an entertainment & leisure medium where highly focused targeting is possible. It is a boundaryless, global network where national boundaries don't count.

Let me know if you can think of any more implications. Also, which firms really get this already? Do share any good examples that you can think of.


  1. […] Both Lord Leverhulme and American John Wanamaker are credited with saying “”I know half my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” […]

  2. Ashwani said

    So true. Internet has a great potential for marketers. Marketers can now spend much less and yield more results as compared to the traditional forms of advertising.

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