A Great Product Needs No Advertising


Not all blogs are broken. Some still get it. They get it hard and consistently. Like Andy Sernovitz. Andy says that advertising is the price of being boring, explaining:

“…There is a direct relationship between being buzzworthy — earning word of mouth — and how much you’ll have to pay to promote yourself through paid marketing.”

If you *get* one thing today, get that. It’s a lot easier to market a great product than a mediocre one. Because great products don’t need to be advertised, they just are.

  • If the cure for cancer was released tomorrow, no one would have to advertise it. It would simply explode.
  • If you wrote a blog post that entertained while saying something completely new, you wouldn’t have to pay or annoy people to promote it for you. People would trip over themselves to be the one that “discovered” the content.
  • If you developed an easy way to solve someone’s biggest problem, you’d only have to show them once to hook them. And then they’d tell all their friends.
  • If you took a complicated process and broke it down to one Must Do step, the old way would be replaced and you’d become a hero.

If you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars marketing and advertising your product, then create one that people can’t live without and that solves their biggest problem. Something that does it easier, faster, and better than what’s out there.

When I was younger my mother would lock me and my brothers outside on a nice day and force us into entertaining ourselves. At 10am on a Summer day, out we’d go and we wouldn’t be allowed back in until dinner. Smart people are never bored and will always find something creative to do with their time. Smart business owners don’t have to rely on advertising to be successful. They know how to create something that just is, something that challenges us, makes life simpler or something we want to be associated with.

It’s a concept I wish more businesses understood. Its mind blowing the “products” or “services” people try to market. Sure, we can watch you throw thousands into an SEO or search engine marketing campaign…but you’re still not going to see results. Not because we’re not good at what we do, but because your product sucks. Good marketing won’t change that.

Instead, save your marketing cash and invest it in the core product. And yes, I just did tell you to save your dollars on marketing and actually use it for product development. And if you don’t hear from me tomorrow, it’s because Rhea and Rae, my partners in the Internet marketing company I part own, have smothered me for saying so.

Your Comments

  • Tony

    While I get where you are going with the post Lisa I think you need to be careful with the semantics of what you are talking about. “Paid Marketing” that equals Advertising is the result of a product that is bad.

    But, building marketing into a product is not the result of a bad product. Marketing does involve things like audience research and development, good publicity and communication, and ensuring you are heard and scene by those that didn’t have the opportunity to see you before that marketing.

    I completely understand the post and where you are headed and agree to an extent, but the truth is, this post should be titled “A Great Product Needs No Advertising”…just sayin’ <3 :)

  • Lisa Barone

    Tony: For once, you’re actually totally right. ;) I should have used the word “advertising”, not “marketing”. In fact, I’m changing the title for you. Drinks on me at Advanced. ;) Thanks.

  • Tony

    For once eh?! Hrmph…we’re not talking…until you buy me that drink! :P

    It’s good you made that mistake, because, you were trying to teach everyone a lesson that Semantics does matter, right? :P

  • Lisa Barone

    Tony: Precisely. It’s kind of like how Yahoo needs advertising and Google doesn’t, right? [ducks]

    We love you, Tony. :)

  • Rhea Drysdale

    I’m not going to throttle you. I agree 100%. We can drive traffic, we can rank a site, we can improve conversions, we can “fix” a reputation, but none of that matters if the heart of a company, the product or customer service is weak. Fix the problem. We’ll help get it the attention it deserves when it’s ready.

    I love our clients. The ones that have signed with us are incredibly involved, pro-active, committed and awesome. We’re insanely blessed to have the relationships we do, because they make our jobs easier. I’m thinking of one client that knows they have a problem and they’ve got the entire company invested in changing things from the ground up. It’s inspiring to watch and help construct something that everyone believes in. The best part, it’s ultimately cheaper for the client because we can get them a strong return, faster than if we were marketing something mediocre.

    And yes, big discrepancy between advertising and marketing. We help good clients get found by people that need them. We aren’t paying people to try something they won’t benefit from.

    Great piece. :)

  • Joe Hall

    Awesome post! Seriously, this has been the guiding motivation for me in a lot of the things I do online. I think this kinda thing comes naturally to some people though. I am reminded of Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail and FriendFeed when he once said, “I like writing code. I like building product. I like making things that people like.” Those, with this mindset, seem to more times than not build products that don’t require much marketing.

  • Jamie Varon

    Greatness spreads. If something is excellent, it will be shared. That should be the goal.

    I find that a lot of businesses try to find something mediocre to sell and rely on advertising to saturate the market. As if a clever advertising scheme is more important than an outstanding product selection.

    I recently wrote a post over at my blog about this same thing and got some comments from people saying that good doesn’t spread and you need to overpromote to get yourself out there. And, while I totally understand that you need to do marketing to even be relevant and noticed, your clever marketing campaign is not a substitute for great customer service or consistent quality content.

    I feel like your blog here at Outspoken Media is a great example of excellence spreading. Sure, it won’t be overnight, but you are building up your credibility as an industry leader and that will spread like wildfire eventually. I mean, really, every post you put out, Lisa, is quality and puts a ton of people in their place. And, you aren’t shoving Outspoken Media into everyone’s faces – at least, not that I see. ;-)

  • Mark

    Well, I guess even my heros can be wrong once in awhile. This reads suspiciously like ‘our product will sell itself’ which is a phrase that any marketer with any experience has heard fall from the mouths of engineers on a regular basis. Marketing and advertising, while related, aren’t interchangeable terms. I personally haven’t seen too many successful products that have succeeded without marketing help. Unless you mean something like Twitter, which is free. And I would argue that all of the buzz Twitter got in the beginning was solely a function of word of mouth, unless you count blogs as traditional word of mouth and not marketing vehicles.

    Even WOM about the best products get lost amidst the bombardment of messages from the info-sphere. It’s also clear that the best (whatever that relative term means to you) products often fail in the marketplace, despite stellar WOM and massive ‘marketing’ spending.

    And, let’s face it, today’s easier, faster, and better solution is tomorrow’s has-been. Consumers won’t wait around but will take what seems to be good enough to solve most problems. I’m still waiting for my personal flying car that I was promised back in the late 50s, but for now, I’ll settle for my Toyota.

  • Lisa Barone

    Jamie: Completely agreed that you can’t rely on advertising to find quality in something that just isn’t there. Start with a great product and the rest will follow. People like to spread and talk about exciting things. That’s how you create natural buzz — the kind you don’t pay for or have to annoy people to generate. :)

    Thanks for the blog compliment, BTW. I’m actually a big fan of your blog so it’s good to see your face here. :)

    Mark: You’re right that “advertising” and “marketing” are NOT interchangeable and I think that’s where I flubbed with this post. I used them as if they are. You’re right that even great products need good marketing, but if the quality is there then they don’t always need to be “advertised”, IMO. That’s the point I was going for but I flubbed myself with the word confusion. I appreciate people like you coming to set me straight. So thanks on that front.

    I think great products, the ones that really help people, will find their way through the noise and the clutter. Because as you said, it’s not about finding the quick fix or easiest solution of today. It’s about simplifying the process from the core and really changing how things are done, not just putting a bandaid on it that will rub off with the next fad.

  • Mark


    Totally agree on the advertising issue. Besides, it’s so hard to test ad results, excepting PPC, I gave up on ads back in 1998. Thanks for being outspoken. It gives us all something to aspire to! :)

  • OMZen

    Great post overall.

    Like they say ” the best marketing strategy is to have the best product in its class”

    ..But then originality is a rare commodity in this age of “spin managers”

  • Can You Guess Who Do You Have A Clue?

    Andy ignores that a lot of word of mouth is earned not because something is remarkable, but because the promoter is networked out the wazoo. It’s called the AllTop Theory of Marketing.

  • Can You Guess Who Do You Have A Clue?

    @Tony: ““Paid Marketing” that equals Advertising is the result of a product that is bad.”

    Or it’s the result of a product that is new. People can’t search for something they don’t yet know they need. Hence infomercials for snuggies. And content network campaigns for fleshlights. LOL ;)

  • Genuine Chris Johnson

    MAKING the product is marketing. Making the experience is marketing, all of it sits together.

  • Pete Stevens

    I think you are dead wrong, and somewhat naive. Many companies lead markets with inferior technology and product – Microsoft. A great product is not enough. You need to hit all the elements of marketing or at least lead in a few. And it needs to be targeted at a segment. A Rolex is a great watch, but its not priced for me. As Marketing guru Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. A great product is important, but its not enough.

  • Lisa Barone

    Pete: A great product is targeted at a segment. That makes whats it great. It fills something specific and it does it better and simpler than anything else. The greater your product, the less you’re going to have to advertise it.

  • Kite

    Whilst I think that it’s generally true that the better the product the less advertisement it needs, I wonder how much this article applies to the fashion industry, which isn’t about needs or functions so much as desires and glamour and peer pressure.

    Aggressive exposure seems to be most of the battle won, as long as the product isn’t a complete turkey. It certainly doesn’t have to be “best” – what is best anyway with fashion?

  • Dan

    Nice article .. :)

  • amit

    This is a universal truth.A great product needs no advertising.That is always recognized by their quality.You can take example of “apple”.
    Anyway,I have read your lots of blog post and I can say you are amzing in your work.I appreciate your work always.