Will Advertising Prevail over Automation?


Picture a future where automobile companies no longer sell cars as goods, but rather, services. Your two-car garage is now obsolete with the fleet of self-driving cars waiting for you to hail them. After checking emails and news updates on your way to work, you enter your open-floor office (no one ever liked cubicles anyways) and begin the day summoning your Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to compile relevant data at a rate more efficient than 100 interns combined. As you now have enough demographic and psychographic data to pinpoint every nuance of your client, now what? If AI eventually becomes capable of interpreting that data too, won’t that mean businesses will kick you to the curb and just buy a robotic Donald Draper for themselves?


Fortunately, the proliferation of automation and AI won’t be able to crack the code for the future of advertising — only you can. Considering that this future is dawning on us as I write this piece, it’s best to get ahead of the curve and start selling what consumers of the future will be shopping for: social goods.


Simply put, a social good is a good or service that benefits the largest number of people in the largest possible way. Tesla has capitalized on this concept so well that it became the largest automobile company by market share after only about a decade of operation; all with an advertising budget of $0. While GM was spending billions annually on ads touting ‘a new backup camera and improved seat warmers’ on their 2016 models, Tesla was selling vehicles that mitigated pollution and environmental harm by emitting zero emissions, selling self-driving capabilities that enable the elderly with the ability to visit the pharmacy and their families, and further exemplified its stewardship to the customer in doing away with the repugnant dealership process. The cars are great, but it is still no match for the love of their exuding stewardship.


While the future of advertising lends itself to the need for selling social goods, now is the best opportunity to get ahead of the ever-changing curve. Though every product requires unique strategies to harness this idea, here are a few axioms digital marketers can use to start selling more social goods:


Adopt a New Lens

First and foremost, adopt a new lens that allows you to focus on consumers outside your current audience. A great example of this is the app “Pocket Points” that was created by students at CSU Chico. The company initially focused on creating an app that teachers could implement to prevent students from using their phones in class. After months without a single school on board, the creators took a step back and realized their app could was not a social good if teachers were the sole beneficiaries. After working with local businesses and considering what students would like, “Pocket Points” created a system where students could earn points for each minute their phones were deactivated in class which could later be cashed in for discounts and freebies at restaurants and other participating businesses. When it was clear that universities, their students, and surrounding businesses would benefit from the app, what could now be touted as a social good found its way onto hundreds of campuses in a matter of months.


Sell the Passion Behind a Product

The next step is to make evident the passions of your company. Toms founder Blake Mycoskie sold consumers on his passion after leaving Argentina as a competitor on the Amazing Race with a call-to-action to ease the suffering that locals endured by not having access to shoes. While some salespeople can dupe even the most vigilant buyer at a car dealership, passion can’t be feigned. Harness the burning passion underlying the origins of your client’s product, and that alone will positively differentiate a product from other competitors.


Be Audacious

The final step is to refrain from constantly using competitors as a template for how to advertise. While there is undoubtedly a time and place for applying innovative and creative techniques drawn from companies in your industry, do not refrain from plotting audaciously creative approaches simply because it’s not the norm. While proposing funky, dancing hamsters as the solution to a slump in car sales is about as outlandish as it gets, this tactic won the hearts of many consumers and drove up Kia Soul sales.


Browse the websites of Fortune 500 companies that you perceive positively and see how their homepages sell purpose along with the product. Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Cisco, Nestle and Starbucks are companies with some of the highest scores in corporate social responsibility. Unsurprisingly, all these companies market social goods on the intro page to their sites. While the future of advertising is uncertain, the prophecy of social goods running our economy is one of the few that we advertisers should make sense of.


Data drives results, but unlike Tesla, data won’t drive itself to the finish line. If you’re looking for the right tactics and tools to give you that competitive edge, contact us today.


Social Factor

Author: Social Factor

Digital Strategy, Strategy