In a recent, well-written blog, Kristen Zhivago – whose commentaries I read and respect – raised the interesting hypothesis that shoppers write so many reviews and articles on the Internet about products and services they have purchased, that the paid advertising aimed at influencing them is becoming irrelevant. She observes that, in effect, the experience of an unbiased purchaser is often more effective than a paid ad or commercial and by sharing experiences online, these stories obviate the value of advertising which is paid for.
Her argument has value but fails to recognize that the message being delivered by the advertiser is largely (albeit not exclusively) designed to promote first-time sales and is likely to be premised on research which enables an advance understanding of the attitudes and emotions of the prospective purchaser about the proposed purchase. While the buyer’s experience may have been unsatisfactory and preclude a second purchase, the initial experience being discussed online may actually have been stimulated by the paid advertising in the first place.
So, while a bad experience may prevent a repeat purchase, what it may also contribute to -if there is enough consumer dissatisfaction -is forcing the manufacturer to make product improvements which he can then advertise to stimulate a second or new purchase. The conclusion? Paid advertising based on deep understanding of the consumer through research and experience will be hard to cast aside even in this Internet economy!