The inspirational quote I would have shared

I messed up.

Each Friday, we finish up our weekly staff meetings with an inspirational quote. For the first time it was my turn. And I completely forgot.

I was going to use a quote from Bill Bernbach — the “B” in ad agency DDB. I like the guy. I refer to him and his legacy when I’m trying to help clients and prospective clients understand and appreciate the way social media is redefining the entire marketing communications landscape. Bernbach is given credit for helping to launch a creative revolution in advertising around 1960, one that would forever alter the way in which marketers speak to consumers. The impact of social marketing is just as profound. I describe it as the second major revolution in marketing, with Bernbach’s being the first.

Bernbach was also a quote machine. Here are some of his gems:

“A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.”

“Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.”

“In communications, familiarity breeds apathy.”

“Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.”

“Our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise… not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.”

Today the quotes are a little dated. They came from an era when the best way to sell stuff was through TV ads. There were only three or three television stations in most markets and people watched shows in groups at predetermined times. The Internet wouldn’t come to people’s homes for another 35 years and digital video recorders were still 45 years away.

But replace the words “advertising” with “social media” in his quotes and they are just as relevant as they were in 1960.

Published by Keith McArthur

I'm a dad, writer, husband, publisher, kidney transplant recipient, brother, friend, ex-journalist, ex-PR guy, ex-business executive, learning to become happier, healthier and more productive.

2 thoughts on “The inspirational quote I would have shared

  1. i’m going to have to (for the first time) disagree with you on this one, Keith.

    In particular:

    “Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.”


    “[Social Media] doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.”

    I can’t agree with this. With social media, more and more companies can get access focus groups of 100s, if not 1000s or even 1,000,000s. This gives them a more fluid, circular product lifecycle where direct feedback, either in beta testing or in release, can and does make products better and better.

    Ergo, products that do access “social media” and that take advantage of it, do have an advantage over their competitors that don’t.

    Interested to read your thoughts on this…


  2. Ed,

    Thanks for the comment. You’re absolutely right. As a one-way communications device, advertising can’t improve a product. As a multi-way communications tool, social media can absolutely improve a product.

    I guess I was thinking more about subbing in “social media” in the first quote.

    That is:

    “A great [social media] campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it’s bad.”

    But maybe that’s not even true. A great social media campaign could contain a feedback loop that would allow a smart marketer to fix her bad product before it fails.

    Great comment. Thanks for setting me straight. 🙂

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