I remember the 'Where's the Beef' and the 'Bud Bowl' ads as much as the next person...highly entertaining and I'm sure they won a ton of awards by people in the advertising business self congratulating themselves. They were very memorable.
The issue for advertisers? I almost never eat at Wendy's or drink Bud unless there are no other options. And you might say I am a bit of a curmudgeon and an outlier...but I just don't think so. Was there really ROI on those campaigns?
The issue for me? Neither of those advertisements mattered. They didn't offer any compelling reason why my life - or anyone else's - would be any better for either consuming the product or sitting through the advertisement itself. And another beef (OK that was a pun!) is that the 'good' advertising is aspirational (i.e. it makes you feel bad because you don't have what is on offer) and the bad advertising displays foolish people making bad decisions that you are supposed to avoid by buying something (which makes you feel bad because you're expected to be just smart enough to not be one of the really dumb people in the ad). What is with making people feel badly about themselves for corporate profit? But I digress.
The exception to my general disdain for advertising is when it supports things I care about with relevant information that matters. Let me say it again...because this is the secret...relevant information that matters. For example I live in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston we have a local laundromat/car wash which advertises on local cable news. The ad is completely ridiculous and kind of silly but it 1) supports local news which I care about and 2) I occasionally need a convenient car wash so it is relevant. But the ad itself would never win any awards. Ditto the local restaurant ads that advertise in the JP Gazette...but they give my neighborhood its character and they matter to me both because I go out to eat locally and it is associated with content that I want to support.
Taking an example of a mass consumer campaign the Dove 'Real Beauty' campaign is one of the better types of things coming out of marketing agencies these days. Sure it highlighted a brand but it also provided education and programing for teenage girls who notoriously struggle with their body image. That matters to me.
Notice how all of these are traditional marketing examples? Well everything I'm talking about becomes infinitely more important if you want people to proactively talk about your product or service in a positive way online. It has to matter...and it has to matter beyond just doing the job it is expected to do. For example, I'll keep buying my toothpaste because I like the taste...but I'm not going to talk about it...ditto for most of the other things I purchase unless the product or experience is really truly exceptional. So you have two choices - make the purchase of a product about something bigger than just buying the product or offer a truly exceptional product/service. If my toothpaste company gave a free tube of toothpaste to a foodbank for every tube I bought? I am much more likely to talk about that because it matters.
The hard part, of course, is making it matter...and authentically meaning it. Making marketing meaningful is even harder in the B2B space because the goal is make your core audience rock stars in their own organizations which takes content, coaching, and time...and then get them to attribute some of that success back to you. Choose your customers wisely.
So, make your company matter whether it's by actually solving the world's energy crisis or by solving a much more mundane need but contributing to a bigger cause in the process.
Maybe I'm crazy - Maybe I am part of the fringe...but the fring will start teaching the majority of the market to expect more from the companies with which they do business. How are you going to make your business matter?