Growing by growing distribution

Kate Waters, Now
Byron Sharp, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

How does advertising work?

The purpose of brand advertising is to affect the buying behaviour of consumers. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The billions of dollars spent on brand advertising are spent to protect and build sales; logically, this can only happen by affecting buying behaviour and by increasing or restoring the probability that a consumer will choose your brand on any given purchase occasion.

Yet advertising is a weak force in the sense that it doesn't have the ability to change our opinions the way that recommendations from family and friends (and even authority figures) can. People tend not to pay advertising anywhere near as much attention as marketers would like, and when they do engage with it, consumers aren't push-overs - they largely discount persuasive claims (they know advertising is a biased message trying to sell them something). Ask yourself, of the probably hundreds of advertisements that you were exposed to yesterday, how many did you pay close attention to, and how many changed your mind about a brand? From a persuasion perspective the vast majority of advertising looks completely ineffectual.