I have been writing about my fixation on learning about food and self healing of the body. I also mentioned that my dad passed away due to Cardiovascular Disease, so when I saw an article title “Foods that cleans your arteries naturally” I was naturally inclined to read it. Yes, the article has all the usual suspects, read it I will wait. Fruits, legumes, garlic, vegetables etc but what really caught my eye was the advertisement for Prince Polo in Icelandic (see image below).

Source: The Science of Eating

Source: The Science of Eating

As much as I used to like a bar of Prince Polo, I really did not need to be reminded of how great Prince Polo is and how long it has been entertaining the family, while I am reading about how to cleanse my arteries. This is the problem with advertising. In order to get in front of as many people as the product or service wants the best way is to stand on top of a building and scream out loud how awesome your product is. Well, I believe context matters. I now have a negative context to Prince Polo, there is a sickening feeling in my stomach about this product that I will never, ever buy it. Sorry Prince Polo you can thank Google and The Science of Eating blog.

I work with Startup Founders, Designers, Creatives and Software engineers, the conventional thinking by this group is that if you build it they will come. The truth is far from that, the other extreme is promote your product to such an extent that you turn off a lot of potential customers. Advertising is a great tool, but context, story and content matters. The wrong thing to do is to advertise a chocolate or candy in an article that is saying don’t eat those things. Machines don’t understand this, I am pretty sure the person in charge of The Science of Eating (they have 1.9m followers) is earning a living posting ads from Google, but they also do dis-service to their audience by not really looking at what kind of ads Google serves them. This is a problem. Every blog or website is the billboard and whatever ads get served on that billboard needs to have the right context.

I know a few of you who have read this blog post so far have subconsciously been sold Prince Polo, yes go ahead buy that prince polo the next time you are standing in a check out line but remember you just got sold. This is why I believe Advertising works. It is extremely effective. Here is a quote from Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters:

The U.S. advertising industry collects annual revenues of $150 billion and employs more than 600,000 people. At $450 billion annually, the U.S. sales industry is even bigger. When they hear that 3.2 million Americans work in sales, seasoned executives will suspect the number is low, but engineers may sigh in bewilderment. What could that many salespeople possibly be doing?

In Silicon Valley, nerds are skeptical of advertising, marketing, and sales because they seem superficial and irrational. But advertising matters because it works. It works on nerds, and it works on you. You may think that you’re an exception; that your preferences are authentic, and advertising only works on other people. It’s easy to resist the most obvious sales pitches, so we entertain a false confidence in our own independence of mind. But advertising doesn’t exist to make you buy a product right away; it exists to embed subtle impressions that will drive sales later. Anyone who can’t acknowledge its likely effect on himself is doubly deceived. 

Everybody Sells

Nerds might wish that distribution could be ignored and salesmen banished to another planet. All of us want to believe that we make up our own minds, that sales doesn’t work on us. But it’s not true. Everybody has a product to sell-no matter whether you’re an employee, a founder, or an investor. It’s true even if your company consists of just you and your computer. Look around. If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson.