I went to the supermarket the other day. I walked up and down the aisles slowly. I noticed something. They have a lot of stuff.
They have fresh stuff and canned stuff. They have packaged stuff and bottled stuff. They have new stuff and old stuff and expensive stuff and cheap stuff. They have stuff you eat and stuff you wear and stuff you peel and stuff you stuff.
They have Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and Crest toothpaste. They have Minute Maid orange juice and Tide detergent. They have Oreo cookies and Neutragena soap. They have Skippy peanut butter and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. They have Yoplait yogurt and Hormel bacon. They have Pampers and Glad wrap. They have Dole pineapples and Coors beer.
But there’s one thing they don’t have.
They don’t have any brands that were built by online advertising. None. I couldn’t find one.
No cream cheese or toothpaste. No orange juice or detergent. No cookies or soap. No peanut butter or ice cream or bacon or diapers or plastic wrap or pineapples or beer.
I couldn’t find any brands that were built by banner advertising. Or on Facebook. Or blogs. Or podcasts. Or QR codes. Or even Google, for that matter. No mayonnaise that was successfully launched on Pinterest. No breakfast cereal that owes its life to Instagram. No yogurt from YouTube or toothpaste from Twitter.
How can we explain this? Online advertising has been around for over 15 years. When TV was 15 years old as a major medium it had built hundreds of brands in dozens of categories. Or maybe it was thousands of brands in hundreds of categories.
It’s not as if brands stopped appearing 15 years ago. There are now about 40,000 items in a typical supermarket, almost triple what there were in the early 90’s. In the year 2000 alone over 9,000 new food items were introduced. We have whole new industries. We’ve had the most explosive growth in consumer electronics and technology products the world has ever seen. But where are the major mainstream non-web-native brands that have been built by online advertising?
Or is that not what online advertising is about? Is building brands too daunting a task for online advertising?
Maybe banner ads and social media and “content” are just effective enough to get a customer to the website of an already established brand. Maybe they’re a nice way to keep in touch with people who already know you and like you.
But maybe the heavy lifting of building a brand is too much to ask of online advertising.
If not, where are they? Where are the web-built Crests and the Oreos? The Doles and the Tides and the Coors? The Pampers and the Skippys? Where is the next Heinz that Mr. Buffett is going to pay $23 billion for? I did a search and I couldn’t find them in the supermarket.
Come to think of it, I skipped aisle 9. Maybe that’s where they are.
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