What large companies still don’t get about marketing innovation

Though we are fairly well into the internet economy where brands can communicate directly with customers in a variety of ways through social networks, one belief from the old order still holds true: incumbent brands believe that in order to win the hearts and minds of customers, that they can out-market upstarts that gain loyalty through the great products and services they deliver.

There are only a handful of companies that can both make great products and advertising. We continually marvel at products and services from visionary companies like Apple, Google, Uber and others who gain our loyalty the product and service excellence; you can actually feel their dedication.

Ok-ness is the enemy of greatness

Advertising is a powerful mechanism incumbents have, but when was the last time you became loyal because of an ad? Much worse, have you ever become loyal to a brand because their crappy product inspired you?

Probably not.

Because businesses like Apple, Google, Nike, Uber, Zappos and others have been able to elevate people’s expectations, crappy products launched with great advertising no longer make the same impact as before. The reason is simple: good enough is not enough.

As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, says:

“In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”


Using advertising to claim your product is better than others does not make it an innovation; it makes it a me-too. But then again, what most large organizations care about is making a profit, not making great products and services that will capture people’s imaginations. And though the “out-market” strategy still works to stimulate some demand for incumbents hell bent on short-term gains, the products they are launching are “quick hitters” that solve an inconvenience for customers; but customers are not in any way loyal to them.

For businesses that believe that out-marketing is the shortest path to innovation, I have a message for you: advertising is the price you pay for being boring.

The best marketing is when a product and service blows our minds away. It makes us feel different and better, making a lasting impression on us. When this happens, we automatically want to tell everyone about it; provoking the holy grail of marketing: word of mouth.

Bottom line: Though innovation happens when people adopt a product or service, good enough is not enough. People are not stupid, their expectations have been raised by companies that pursue product and service excellence. So out-marketing with an inferior offering does not make you an innovator; it makes you a wannabe.