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I recently purchased a new digital TV. Normally, Circuit City (CC) would have been on my list as one store in which to shop, but the struggles the company was facing (followed by its decision to declare bankruptcy) made me nervous.
I was sure I could somehow get my TV serviced under the manufacturer's warranty if something were to go wrong, but I figured it would be more of a hassle if the retailer from whom I purchased the TV wasn't there to back me up. So I went elsewhere.
This principle, which I call "the fear of warranty," is one of the reasons why GM (GM) is doing everything it can to avoid the bankruptcy process. People tend to feel less comfortable doing business with companies they perceive are on the ropes.
But I submit that the principle holds true at the other end of the spectrum as well. Brands that are setting the world on fire make people feel more confident about (and perhaps even more intelligent for) doing business with them. And one very visible signal a brand can send about its momentum is how consistently it advertises.
You probably have at least a vague familiarity with the names Michael Beschloss and Doris Kearns Goodwin. They're the Presidential historians who always seem to be called upon by the television networks to provide expert commentary during campaign seasons. They really seem to know their stuff.
Of course, you and I can't say with certainty whether or not they are the most qualified historians to comment on Presidential elections. Oh, sure, they are intelligent, studied academics who provide interesting insights. But there are probably many other capable people who could do the same.
What makes us believe that Beschloss and Goodwin are the leading experts is the fact that they are visibly and consistently out there, presumably because they've been vetted by people who should know. The fact that we see them on TV all the time is, in and of itself, proof of their leading expertise. Simply put, their visibility leads to credibility.
The same thing is true with products and services we see advertised day after day. The more visible a brand is, the more opportunities it earns to build trust with its customers and prospects.
Consider some of today's most successful products and services. Without each of us personally spending a great deal of time and effort researching, testing and comparing competitive alternatives, we don't really know whether Nike (NKE) makes a better shoe, Michelin (MICP.PA) manufactures a better tire, or Verizon(VZ) has created a better network. Instead, we entrust at least some of our judgment to the momentum these brands appear to have in the marketplace.
In some respects it doesn't even matter what their ads say; the simple fact that each of these brands is actively and consistently "in the game" speaks volumes—especially in challenging economic times—and generates genuine momentum for their brands.
In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki makes the case that "together all of us know more than any one of us does." He says, "Markets are made up of diverse people with different levels of information and intelligence, and yet when you put all those people together and they start buying and selling, they come up with generally intelligent decisions."
In the world of advertising, consistency is like a scorecard on the wisdom of crowds. People know that advertising is expensive, so the more a company advertises, the more successful it must be. And the more successful it is, the more it means that other people are choosing it. Which means that it may be a good idea for you and I to choose it as well.
Your brand can benefit from this power of positive momentum. Through your initial advertising efforts, people will learn that that you exist. With repeated exposure, they'll learn that you're stable. With even more repeated exposure, they'll assume you're successful—after all, based on your ability to sustain a long-term advertising program, you'd have to be.
The specific content of your ads is, of course, of vital importance as well—Beschloss and Goodwin wouldn't last long if they were misleading, annoying, or ignorant. But what's true of your career, of sports, and of life in general is also true of advertising: never underestimate the power of simply showing up.