Welcome To The Advertisingawesomeness. Forget The Product. Forget The Idea. Forget The Campaign.

The Light Version

This is the 300-page book "Welcome To The Advertisingawesomeness" put to a 20 minute read on Medium.

To say it upfront, I’m not a digital nor marketing expert. I believe no one is. It's changing too fast. I'm obsessed with the lasting impact businesses and their services can have using today's technology, new ways to do business and a people-focus which I will explain later. I understand the traditional advertising approach from my work at Jung von Matt, Springer & Jacoby, and Heimat. My turning point was my lecturing in Internet-related subjects. Today I facilitate workshops with businesses for them to see new market spaces.

I write this article because even though the marketing and advertising industry adapts by using digital technology it hasn’t fully realized that marketing as a whole has changed. With this article I provide a hands-on guide how to leave conventional marketing/advertising behind us and create today’s new modern marketing.

This is an overview of the concepts and thinking expressed in the book "Welcome To The Advertisingawesomeness. Forget The Product. Forget The Idea. Forget The Campaign.", which contained a working process and approach to develop today's new modern awesome marketing/advertising. It's about how to create new solutions for your client, but more importantly for the customers.

The feedback from "Welcome To The Advertisingawesomenss. Forget The Product. Forget The Idea. Forget The Campaign." was incredible. "Outstanding. Inspiring. True." {Jan Blumentritt, freelance creative director}, "Do you want to be Mad Man 2.0 — easy, just go download this book, read it and live by it!" {Lars Nørretranders, senior visual & concept advisor, Chimney Denmark}, "I found your book exremely spot on." {Anca-Mădălina Bolocan, strategic planner & digital advisor, lyhne & co.}. It's a wonder my head didn't explode! But among them was also this response: It sounds super interesting, but I just don't have the time to read a nearly 300-page book right now.

I believe in this “Welcome To The Advertisingawesomenss. Forget The Product. Forget The Idea. Forget The Campaign.” and want everyone to be able to hear about it. So if 300 pages are too many, then here you go!

Throughout this article are exercises and examples to help you apply these concepts. If you want more examples be sure check out the book “Welcome To The Advertisingawesomenss. Forget The Product. Forget The Idea. Forget The Campaign.”

If you have any feedback, simply send me a mail at helloitsmemike@gmail.com or on Twitter @himikebrandt.


Advertising/marketing has changed. That can be devastating when suddenly the portfolio looks outdated and people with different skills climb the career ladder in front of you. But it’s not all rocket science. And let’s face it, we are all trying. So this article provides tools and methods to develop today’s new modern advertising/marketing. Apply the tools and methods and you’ll rock, and your agency or brand rocks. Welcome to our trip to awesomeness!

Advertising/marketing in the past was all about the product. In the 1950's it was about "our product works best" {for example, Palmolive soap had the claim “Cleans deeper without irritation”, “Palmolive soap advertising — comparative advertising — 1955” on YouTube}, in the 1970's it changed to be more about the lifestyle it depicted, hip or cool, like Levi's or Coca-Cola. In the 1990's the change was for the attitude of the brand, like funny or rebellious, or weird like the soda Tango. However, all the focus was on the product or on the brand. The communication was aimed towards creating a demand or need for the product in order to sell more products.

Instead, today it's not about making people want things but rather making things people want. It is looking at people's needs and serving those needs. This people-focus over product-focus is the most important part in this article, that's why it is at the beginning. It is the overarching principle. In fact, it describes today's new modern marketing so well that I call it "people-focused marketing".

But bear in mind that people-focus is not the end goal. Modern brands serve beyond their customers, they serve their employees, their local community, the environment, they elevate their whole industry, they even serve society as a whole. I call this "community-focus" {inspired by Sandra Vandermerwe’s writing about the progression of customer focus divided into three eras, “Innovative Marketing, Volume 8, Issue 2, 2012”. This was also inspired by a presentation by David Erixon.}.

But first we have to become people-focused. So if we look at what people want we see that they are not interested in the product itself, but they are interested in what they get out of the product, the outcome. Theodore Levitt, a Harvard professor, stated it this way:

"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"

In fact, people don't buy the drill but the hole, that is the real value. That means for a company, their business is not the product, but the outcome for the consumers (in the following I'll refer to consumers as "people", because that is what they really are). So a company producing cars is not in the car-business, that would be product-focused, they are in the mobility-business, that is people-focused.

That is why Nike didn't see themselves in the "sportswear and apparel-business" (product-focused), they see themselves in the "having a great experience while doing sport-business" (people-focused). If they would be product-focused they would only improve on their sport shoes and apparel. With a people-focus their business area is much wider (and so are the needs of people). That allowed Nike to come up with the Nike+ Fuelband.

You may have noticed, when you define your business from the outcome of the people your business area becomes wider. And that opens you up to many opportunities. That is the purpose. Now you are able to serve people's needs fully and truly.

So our job as ad agency or consultancy is to define the business of our clients from the outcome of the people (or if you are at a brand, your task would be to define your brands business from the outcome of the people). I call this:

It's answering Theodore Levitt's famous question:

"What business are you in?"

And when you answer that question and define your clients business your job as ad agency or consultancy is redefined too. To stay with the Nike example, your job is not to sell more sportswear and apparel, to sell more product, but to help Nike give people a great experience doing sport and make money doing that.

Now let's look at the steps of how to easily define your clients business.

  1. Write down your clients product. Then cross it out.
  2. Now write what outcome people will get from that product. Be specific.
  3. If you end up with a couple of definitions go over your notes and select one definition or merge a couple of definitions into one.
  4. Now you have an idea of which business your client really is in and you are ready to start working on a higher level.

When we define the client's business, there are two factors which I believe are important to keep in the back of our mind: First, we know that markets evolve and change, so be ahead of change. Don't merely define the business area as it is today. Project current changes to how it might be in two years, in five years, in ten years.

Secondly, you might want to not only go with the status quo of people's current behavior and needs, but change their behavior for the better. You might want to lead people. Like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and Elon Musk did because they had a vision.

Now before we end this first part of forgetting the product I want to give some examples to make sure you really get the concept of people-focus.

The company Kodak saw themselves in the “photographic film business”. They were product-focused. They constantly improved their product and innovated around it. Then came Flickr, Facebook, and Instagram. They said, we are in the “organizing and sharing memories business”, they were people-focused. They saw people’s needs and served them using digital technology. They offered the ability to organize your pictures, share them, and connect with people through images. The result: Kodak is history and Instagram was sold for $1 billion, and Facebook changed the world {the example of the failure of Kodak is widely discussed. For instance, “The last Kodak moment?”, Jan. 14th 2013, The Economist.}.

Imagine one of your clients is a bank. Legacy companies are product-focused, so banks only innovate around their product. But if you would forget the product and define the business the client is in from the outcome of the people — imagine you would have come up with something like Kickstarter, Bitcoin, PayPal, or Apple Pay for a bank before startups and other guys did. You would be the hero, the bank would sky rocket and so would your agency.

One guy {Marc Giget is founder of a series of organizations studying innovation and the impact of new technology on society.} once said:

“No candle-maker has become a bulb manufacturer, no carriage-maker has become a car producer, and the post office did not invent the email.”

Unfortunately that is true, because most of our clients are product-focused. Therefore, it is our role as ad agency or consultancy to help them be people-focused to better serve people.

In the past, advertising was about the big idea. The big idea was developed with the product in mind (product-focus) and the purpose was to create demand. We don’t do that anymore. Today it’s not about the idea, the message, but about being useful (people-focus). So let’s forget the idea. Today we find out what people’s needs are within our defined business area. We then add value where people’s needs are not served, and these solutions to add value are today’s advertising/marketing. At the end we prototype and test our solutions so we have solutions that work. The result: happy customers and therefore a happy client. And we might get a Cannes Lion.

There are three ways to identify people's needs: putting yourself into the shoes of the people, leaving the office, and using data. You should use all three ways always. Let's start with:

In our mind we go through the activities a person does while he, let’s use the example of “having a great experience doing sport”, goes for a run. By looking at his activities and goals we find his needs. This is all done from our chair and takes about twenty minutes. A great tool to help us in putting yourself into the shoes of the people is the Customer Activity Cycle model (in the following I’ll refer to it as the CAC model) {the CAC model is developed by Sandra Vandermerwe. Today the Customer Activity Cycle model is commonly used in marketing.}.

The CAC model divides people’s activities into three phases: pre-, during-, and post-phase. In the pre-phase people decide what to do, whether to make a purchase and which product to buy. In the during-phase people purchase the product and use it. In the post-phase people renew, update, review, measure, and share.

The CAC model gives us a bit of structure. We walk in the shoes of a person, a person going for a run, starting in the pre-phase, going with him through the during-phase and the post-phase. Making sure we covered all activities.

One great thing about the CAC model is it reminds us of people’s activities and needs in the pre-, and post-phase. Those phases are often overlooked by legacy companies.

  1. Draw a circle and divide the circle into three equal parts. Name the three parts pre-phase, during-phase, and post-phase. In the middle of the circle write the defined business, for example "organizing and sharing memories business".
  2. Start with the pre-phase and write down the activities people are doing. Write them chronologically as well as you can.
  3. Write down people's goals, like "not missing out on memorable moments", "planning a vacation", "finding great destinations or upcoming events", "organizing and inviting people to join in an upcoming event", "getting a camera", and so forth.
  4. The activities and goals lead to people's needs. Write the needs above the activities and goals. Sometimes you are able to find the need directly without finding activities and goals first.
  5. Repeat the process for the during-, and post-phase.
  6. There you have it. You identified people's needs. Hurray!

The above example illustrates the use of the CAC model for the "organizing and sharing memories business".

Activities, goals, and needs are written on sticky-notes and placed to its right phase.

You can find a lot of needs by stepping into the shoes of the people, however, there are more to be found.

Nothing can replace the experience of actually meeting the people at their place. If you want to find the needs of mountain bikers, go take a ride with them or stand in a store that sells bikes and bike equipment. {Inspired by Steve Blank suggesting entrepreneurs in startups to get out of the building and meet customers, “The Lean Approach: Getting Out of the Building: Customer Development” on YouTube.}

Today data about people's behavior is easily accessible. These are some ways to get data: analytics software, apps, Internet of Things (physical things connected to the Internet), online profile, web content, corporate data, and online tools. Besides having a data analyst and data strategist in the agency, these are some simple free online tools for any creative or consultant to use:

  • www.similarweb.com — The site gives traffic statistics to a brand's website.
  • www.google.com/trends — The site shows how much activity your search words gets, how popular or trendy the word is.
  • www.wdyl.com — This site combines all Google services to show you content to your searchword.
  • www.sentiment140.com — This site will give a fast view of what people say about your brand, product or any topic on Twitter. It even gives you the percentage of positive and negative tweets.

For more examples about getting data check out the book "Welcome To The Advertisingawesomenss. Forget The Product. Forget The Idea. Forget The Campaign."

After you found the needs of the people and wrote them in the CAC model in chronological order you check whether each of them are currently served. Then you mark those which are not or only poorly served. These are the so called value gaps. {The term “value gap” is a commonly used term in marketing. For instance, the book “The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale” by Jeff Thull uses it in its title.}

  1. Look at each need you identified and wrote in your CAC model and see whether that need is presently being served. Use "Putting yourself into the shoes of the people", "Leaving the office", and "data" to identify value gaps.
  2. Mark the value gaps in the CAC model.
  3. Go over the needs which are served and see whether they could be served even better. If it could be served better, then mark them as well.

Also, check the common value gaps that I mention in the next chapter.

Obviously we need to close the value gaps. Next step is closing the value gaps by adding value.

We continue to use the CAC model, this time at each value gap we write possible ways to solve it. Taking the example of Kodak, this is the solution to add value for Instagram {Inspired by a presentation by David Erixon.}:

This is how it looks like with Nike+ Fuelband. Note that they didn't only add value in the during-phase, but in the pre-, and post-phase as well. {Inspired by a presentation by David Erixon.}

Other examples of solutions to add value are: The VIP Fridge Magnet for a pizza delivery company {you find the case film on YouTube under “The VIP Fridge Magnet”.}. Ordering your favorite pizza by phone takes time, now with a click of a button on your fridge you'll order your favorite pizza. They closed a value gap in the during-phase when people purchase.

The Marrow Donor Registry is another example. In the past becoming a bone marrow donor was a lengthy process {you find the case film on YouTube under “Help I want to save a life”.}. The ad agency solved it by making over-the-counter bandages into simple marrow donor kits. So, when people accidently should cut themselves, the first drop of blood is sent away in a ready envelope to DKMS America, saving lives.

Other examples you can check out on YouTube are the "Inspired by Iceland" campaign, and "KLM Meet & Seat".

  1. The value gaps you identified might be generic and general, now describe them so they become specific, detailed value gaps. For example, with the VIP Fridge Magnet, the general value gap is that ordering is a hassle. Looking closer we see that people decide to get pizza when they are in their kitchen opening their fridge to see that it's relatively empty. And we might see that people usually order their favorite pizza.
  2. Quickly brainstorm to come up with many possible solutions to add value. To stay with the pizza example, you could simplify the menu card, an app where you just press on images, or you just say your name on the phone and they would know what you ordered last time.
  3. Now you have brainstormed and have gotten out the usual and obvious ones, the boring ones, but it's important to get them out and on paper. Now, go and find a solution more systematically by going through different areas in your mind which might offer solutions to add value. One area might be digital technology, for example. Browse through different technologies, like facial recognition, Internet of Things, etc. You might think of different devices, like smartphone, wearables, etc. And you could think of existing digital services, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. At the end try to combine specific digital technologies and digital services and see whether that leads to a solution (in the book "Welcome To The Advertisingawesomeness" I talk about API and tech mashups). Digital technology is just one area, go through other areas, like traditional media, interface design and UX (User Experience), event, customer service, retail design, business models and business transformation, etc. You might think of the Internet of Things and realize that you don'’ need an app, you could just press a button somewhere which then does something on the Internet — like ordering your favorite pizza. And why not put the button on the fridge door, that's the physical location of the value gap, that's where the hungry people are. And there you have it, the VIP Fridge Magnet!
  4. From the many possible solutions you now choose the one which serves the need best.
  5. If you have a couple of value gaps, find solutions to add value for each single one, and later on try to combine those solutions.
  6. Now you step back and look at an entire pre-phase, for example, or a large portion of that phase, and see whether that could be improved. Look at the bigger picture. See whether you can transform it all at once.

After you come up with solutions to add value it's time to build them fast and rough. We are used to building prototypes, we make storyboards for TVC's and we put first layouts on cardboard for presentations. We just have to do it for other solutions as well. Especially as today's solutions are complex it helps understand an abstract concept.

But overall the new thing with prototypes is that we will use them to test our solutions. We'll test them internally, with the client, and with the people. At the end we have solutions which work. And at a pitch or presentation we have an advantage when we can prove with data that our solution works.

  1. Test your solution by doing a "user journey map". It's mentally walking in the shoes of the people through your solution. Starting with the first situation people interact with your solution, then going to the next one and so forth. Write down which expectations the people have, whether the expectations were met by the solution — hopefully beyond their expectation. This is a way to test your solution whithin the agency or consultancy.
  2. Make a prototype. Do it early in the process. Prototypes come in many forms, like in form of a sketch, a paper prototype, even for a website, an interactive prototype, or a prototype shortly before the final production, like a beta-version.
  3. Improve your prototype as you learn from the testing. And test it again and again — improve it until it works.
  4. Now you have a solution that you know works. You even have the data to prove it. Now the client will most likely buy it. Hurray — there you have it, your awesome advertising!
  5. The people, the company, and technological progress are not static. So it is necessary to continually adapt the solution by testing, learning and improving it.

Advertising/marketing in the past came in form of campaigns because it was "message" or product-focused instead of "being useful" or people-focused. Today the forms of advertising are different because they are people-focused, because advertising serves people's needs.

That means, if a brand doesn't do today's forms there will be value gaps. So this chapter describes today's new forms of advertising and at the same time marks them as value gaps if not done. And in my experience any brand struggles with them to a greater or lesser degree, so they are common value gaps. So when you are in your working process at "Awesomeness no 3: Identifying value gaps", go through the following seven common value gaps and see in which way this could be an opportunity for you to add value.

This refers to the CAC model. {Sandra Vandermerwe writes about it while introducing the CAC model in her book “Breaking Through”.} It means that you want to be in the pre-phase as early as possible. And you want to stay in the post-phase as long as possible.

You want to be earlier in the pre-phase than your competitor so that you can influence the people in the right direction for them. And you want to be in early because there are real needs people have and if they are not served you have unhappy people.

To find the specific value gaps in the early pre-phase we look at the activities of the people in the pre-phase and work our way back in time by asking ourselves, "What is the activity before this one?" repeatedly. For example, activities of people in the pre-phase who prepare to go running on a regular basis might be checking the weather forecast, setting the alarm clock, putting out running gear, get sufficient sleep. Now we ask, "What is the activity before this one?" And we ask the question again and again.

Doing so will mean we ended up in the early pre-phase. It's that simple. And remember, if we're already serving very early in the pre-phase, there is always an opportunity to get in even earlier, serving people even better. Until you reach a certain point when there are truly no more activities relating to an early pre-phase for a particular business. But I don't know of any company having reached that point.

To go from the activities to the needs and finally to arrive at the value gaps I explained in "Identifying value gaps".

The same goes for the late post-phase. To find the specific value gaps in the late post-phase the method is similar to what we've done in the early pre-phase. This time we ask "What is the activity after this one?" And you might repeat the question again and again because there is always an opportunity to stay even longer.

Today people are always online. They are reachable and respond immediately. Being always-on is a given thing, it's expected. For companies it means to continually interact through social media and their own platform, on their website or through their app, and in general having a constant flow of content. Instead of big campaigns companies put many small things out fast and often. This is what ad people coined "365 days advertising" {for example Frank Striefler and Erik Hanson, TBWA/Media Arts Lab, in their article “Media Arts Monday: Goodbye 360 degrees. Hello 365 days.” at psfk.com.}.

Practically it's done by creating a platform on which you constantly put new content, update, add features, and scale it. This could be an app, a website, even a physical space in the real world.

Communication started out as a live performance. There is something about getting an immediate response. Fortunately the Internet is all about the "now", and live. Companies can see in real-time what people think and do, and they can respond in real-time.

It's a given thing. And if a company doesn't respond immediately it's a value gap which needs to be fixed.

Co-creation is when ad people or consultants (or teams within a brand) together with the people create advertising/marketing, products and services. People might not care about a brand or a product, but they care about improving their lives, so as companies strive to improve people's lives, people want to be involved and empowered.

Another reason for co-creation is that ad people or consultants will never fully know the people they create advertising/marketing for. The people are the experts of their lives.

Co-creation can be done through workshops or by running a co-creation community online, for example. For both, and this is crucially important, the agency or consultancy never asks people to create something for the brand, instead the agency or consultancy enables the people to create something for themselves. And don't be disappointed by the output. What is most interesting is not the actual stuff produced, but the directions of the output, the underlying themes. And your job is to take it to the next level and then involve the people again and again.

If a company wants to give people a great experience it has to be part of people's real world. Here people experience with all their senses. A company being just online can never give people that full experience.

It's like a rock band: They can make great records and videos to give people a great music experience. But nothing tops a live concert, that's a whole body, all senses experience.

People are different, they have different needs. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. That means to truly serve people's needs a brand knows my needs, ambitions, aspiration, and goals.

Personalization works well with apps, a personalized site, a digital product, and with the Internet of Things, because those places get data about a person's behavior.

People want to buy good products from good companies. They want to know what a product consists of. And they want to know whether a company treats their employees well, the environment, and the local community, and serves society. In fact, they not only want to know, they know because the web creates transparency. People can see behind the facade. If it doesn't look good it's a value gap.

That is what gets me excited, advertising/marketing is not working on the facade, it's making a company truly good. What I mean with "good": It's when companies move from product-focus (serving themselves), to people-focus (serving consumers) to community-focus. And I mentioned community-focus in the first chapter as the ultimate goal.

We now went through the new working process, from defining the business to finding people's needs in that area, then seeing which needs are not served, and coming up with a solution to add value, serving those needs. And prototyping and testing the solution to make sure it works. It's not rocket science. But it's different to the way advertising/marketing worked before. But just start with the first point, defining the business of your client. And then step by step go from there. Below I put an overview of the new working process so you can easily refer to it and follow up on yourself. Now go and be awesome!

  1. Answer the question: What business is the client really in?
  • Be ahead of change
  • Lead people

2. Identify people's needs.

  • Put yourself into the shoes of the people
  • Leave the office
  • Use data

3. Identify value gaps. Remember the seven most common ones: getting in earlier and staying longer, always-on, real-time, co-creation, in the real world, personal, transparent.

4. Close the value gaps by adding value. Use the CAC model.

5. Prototype and test your solution to add value.

You can get the full book on Amazon.

(This article I made first available as a free download PDF, now I put it on Medium, hope that is more convenient.)