The Questionable Value of Modern Advertising

Return to Order criticizes modern advertising for creating dissatisfaction and constantly inciting consumers with promises of bigger and better products. The book recommends the more natural word-of-mouth advertising that utilizes personal experience with products and the calm influence of representative figures, which together choose products that help form a culture.

Such a perception of natural advertising may seem hopelessly outdated and impractical to modern ears. However, some marketing analysts claim that this outlook may not be so outdated after all.

Media advertising may be good at informing consumers about the availability and features of products, but personal communication about products is very widespread and by far more persuasive. Studies show that nearly 3.5 billion word-of-mouth conversations about products take place every day, 75 percent of which are face-to-face interactions, another 17 percent are held on the telephone. A mere seven percent take place online. Most of these conversations involve family and friends.

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Moreover, according to marketing professor James A Roberts, a recent study showed that approximately two-thirds of all sales of consumer items are based on word-of-mouth recommendations. Such natural advertising is found to be low in cost, easily spread, and much more credible and effective than other methods of advertising.

Media marketers also realize that a key target of their campaigns must be opinion leaders with their vast social network of relationships. Such representative characters at all levels in society can play a huge role in spreading the message about their products. They are perceived as “a font of information and the center of their social solar system,” claims Roberts. “The marketing premise is simple: convince these opinion leaders that your product is worthwhile, and they will spread this information to people throughout their vast social networks…” (James A. Roberts, Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy, New York: HarperOne, 2011, p. 231)

  • Bill the Bull

    One reason the need for mass advertising exists is simply that people no longer live in small authentic organic towns or neighborhoods where they know the butcher baker and candlestick maker by name.  They need information on where to get various items and services when in past times they would be able to simply walk 3 blocks down the street.  Additionally, people often commute to work now so they don’t actually spend most of their day in their own community – they are constantly living life as strangers in need of signs to tell them where to find things.