Product performance or brand story. What’s more important?

You can’t afford to be formulaic in your advertising. Don’t assume the product will sell itself.

“If dogs don’t like your dog food, the packaging doesn’t matter” – Stephen Denny

I love this quote.

There’s a clear truth here. Your product needs to perform.

No amount of clever advertising and brand storytelling will make your business successful unless you’re selling something that people want and at price they’re willing to pay.

Even Seth Godin, one of the greatest proponents of brand storytelling, will also tell you that you’ve got nothing without a good product.

He says, “The first step is to invent a thing worth making, a story worth telling, a contribution worth talking about.”

The point is that your advertising and marketing might be able to sell it once – get people to try it, to engage with you. But if it doesn’t do the job your customer needs it to do, no amount of advertising will help.

Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera, famously said, “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good”.

It’s a nice quote too. And brilliantly controversial.

But he was dead wrong.

Firstly your product is the first P in the marketing mix. Every business studies student knows that.

The fact is that the product has to come first – of course it does. But in a competitive world, the story has to be good too.

Remember this from Bill Bernbach:

“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”

Just because you’ve got a great product doesn’t mean it will sell.

Always remember that you’re selling in a highly competitive environment. Your customers have countless choices and they’re being bombarded with over 5,000 marketing messages a day, maybe 10,000. Or more.

That’s too much information for the human brain to retain. So we screen most of it out. Anything that’s not relevant. Anything we think we’ve seen before. Anything that’s not relevant or apparently useful. Chances are that out of the thousands of messages you saw yesterday, you won’t remember any of them.

Maybe a couple at most.

Either way, that’s a pretty poor hit rate.

So you can’t afford to be formulaic in your advertising. Don’t assume the product will sell itself.

If you don’t tell your brand story in an engaging way, you’ll lose out to a competitor who has an inferior (but adequate) product – just because they tell their story better.

If you’ve invested in a great product – make sure you invest in a great brand story too.