#TBT: You Are Your Marketing (Because Nothing Else Works)

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: You Are Your Marketing (Because Nothing Else Works). [This article was originally published in 2009.] You may remember: You Are Your Marketing Part I and Part II.

One of Google’s worst ideas was trying to sell traditional media. Specifically, it went into the business a while back of selling radio ad time and print ad space. I told you when they killed the print ad program, and now they’ve killed the radio program. Here’s the key (and rather poetically written) tidbit:

“Like Napoleon marching into an abandoned Moscow, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have led Google’s advance into traditional advertising only to find nothing to loot. Now begins Google’s long imperial retreat, starting with 40 layoffs.”

Nothing to loot. Exactly right.

And why not? Because the effectiveness of these forms of advertising is asymptotically approaching zero.

So not zero and maybe never quite zero, but getting closer and closer every day and already very low.

I want everyone in our industry to understand this for one important reason: If you are trying to advertise your way to success, you probably don’t have enough money.

If you’re a big organization (like, say, Major League Baseball), there might not be enough money in the world to advertise your way to success.

Why? Think of advertising the way you think of measles: It’s out there. For all you know, the environment around you is absolutely crawling with the measles virus, 10 times more than ever.

But you don’t care. You’re immune. You don’t see it or feel it. It’s invisible and has no impact on you.

Same thing with advertising.

If you run advertising on your own site, go take a look at it now (in another window). See that ad space? You might as well put a big black box over it like they use to conceal the identity of someone who hasn’t agreed to be on camera.

Now, of course, not all advertising is equally ineffective. Leading the uselessness parade is probably print advertising. Honestly, for the kind of money you spend for a big ad in a big paper, you’d be better off paying someone to drive around in a clown car in a busy part of L.A., San Francisco or New York throwing Almond Joy bars at people and screaming the name of your company. (Plus, that sounds kinda fun, and who doesn’t like Almond Joy bars? Full disclosure: We don’t work with Almond Joy.)

But seriously, that’s going to be about as effective as a print ad.

So instead, you have to BE your marketing. It’s not a product which you then market. It’s a product that communicates its own specialness directly and which you then work day and night to foster conversations about.

And generating a conversation about something boring is hard. Like carpet tiles.

Unless, of course, you’re talking about Flor carpet tiles, which are not only stylish and nicely priced, but which are made by a company moving toward have zero negative environmental impact, despite the fact that its products are made from petrochemicals. Dig into what Flor and its parent Interface are doing, and you’ll see how interesting it is.

And guess what? Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface, told us at TED last week that since their campaign for zero impact started a decade or so ago, their sales have doubled.

They are their own marketing. You should be, too.

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