I’m torn by the idea of advertising being a failure.
On one level, Jarvis has a valid point: appealing brands do sell themselves with little need for conventional promotion.
But at same time, his argument may be an oversimplification of the issue.
All brands need to communicate in some way or other, and while mass-media advertising is not as effective as it used to be, brands still need to initiate interactions with their potential consumers.
Inherently appealing brands that seem to sell themselves do so mainly through word-of-mouth, but somebody, somewhere had to be the first to try the brand, and that trial invariably occurs as a result of some form of communication.
That communication may be in the form of a store front; in the form of a sales pitch; in the form of a website; call them what you will, they’re all still brand communications.
However, Jarvis’s comments support the need to reconsider our definition of effective marketing communications.
Instead of seeing ‘promotion’ as the key driver of sales, we would do better to explore the full scope of the marketing mix, making use of everything at our disposal to communicate with and influence the people we want to reach.
Because regardless of what you do, people only ever have one impression of your brand: the constantly evolving result of every interaction they’ve ever had with it, in the broader context of their life.
Perhaps advertising’s not a total failure, but it could probably try harder.