In A World of Remarkable Products, Will We Need Advertising?
Word of mouth is a force to be reckoned with, but it isn't a new force. People have always talked about the products they use. The tweeting, chatting, e-mailing, and all-around instantaneous forms of communication, that's new, and it has brought our attention back to the power of word of mouth, and consequently the power of designing products that get talked about. If companies do a better job creating products that are valuable and remarkable, will that render advertising useless? It depends on what you mean by advertising, but paying for a place in media will remain far from useless.
While changes in the business landscape may render traditional advertising less valuable, there are other ways that companies pay to be seen. For example, the work that fills and surrounds websites revolves around the need for companies to change perceptions, build brands, and drive sales. While interactive marketing is often less disruptive than a thirty second tv spot, it's nevertheless paid for. The user may not see it as advertising, but when they find a brand on Google it's because of SEO (or PPC). When they get a message from a brand on Facebook, it's from someone who is getting paid to send those messages. When a user reads content on a brand website, that content is written with marketing objectives in mind.
Ultimately, the question is: what is advertising? If you mean the thirty second television spot and radio ads, it may be dead. It's cheaper to build a good product and let people talk about it than spend your way to market share with these types of advertisements. But, if you mean paying to change perceptions, to get attention, and to drive sales, well, that isn't going anywhere.