Advertising is failure

Steve Rubel sent me some questions for his AdAge column and I sent him some answers. A snippet:

Mr. Rubel: Are customer service and peer-to-peer advocacy the new advertising? And if so, how does that change the ad industry?

Mr. Jarvis: Advertising is failure.

If you have a great product or service customers sell for you and a great relationship with those customers, you don’t need to advertise.

OK, that’s going too far. There is still a need to advertise — because customers don’t know about your product or a change in it or because, in the case of Apple, you want to add a gloss to the product and its customers. But in the book, I suggest that marketers should imagine stopping all advertising and then ask where they would spend their first dollar.

In an age when competition and pricing are opened up online and when your product is your ad, you need to spend your first dollar on the quality of your product or service. If you’re Zappos, you spend the next dollar on customer service and call that marketing. If the next dollar goes to advertising, there has to be a reason — and if the product is good enough, that reason may fade away. . . .

Mr. Rubel: If Google were a Super Bowl ad, what would it look like?

Mr. Jarvis: It wouldn’t. Google does not treat us as a mass. And it has better ways to spend its money.