The Fall of Advertising, The Rise of PR

Change of thought is the most potent change one can bring about. Personality is powerful, but reputation is supreme! The book by Al Ries and Laura Ries talks about thought change in a novel manner. Speaking of brands like Walmart, Redbull, Amazon, Yahoo!, Apple, Playstation, Starbucks etc. they highlight how the most successful brands in the world did not have to invest in advertising. In fact, they hardly advertised at all!

Although written in 2002 by the father-daughter pair the book aptly describes the need for third-party endorsement. Third-party endorsements are one of the most potent ways to build a brand. PR brings in an element of credibility that no advertisement can ever match up to.

When ad campaigns are made, you are defending a brand after it has been made using other tools and sources. PR is what goes into building the brand in the first place-it becomes doubly essential to strike the right cord with one’s potential customers. Change of thought is the most powerful way to influence a person. Ad campaigns are memorable but not a reflection of the brand’s credibility or the value it has to offer.

Brands spend a hefty amount of their budgets on large-scale campaigns which hardly impact the viewers’ minds. With PR at the forefront, the investment can be put to great use. A lasting impact and effectiveness are outcomes PR can achieve because of its nature. The relevance of PR has been debated time and again globally due to its lack of a standardized metric to measure the effectiveness or ROI of the campaign. Catchy taglines and statements of a click-bait nature can attract attention, leading to substandard ad copies making it to the cut. Although what makes them stay is the value the brand adds to their lives.

While it’s clear that the authors do not mean to diss or look down upon the field of advertising, the simple intent of the book is to highlight or shed light on the importance of an ignored function like PR. With PR at the helm of interactions and communication built with the outside world, advertising can build on the same and create positive affirmations about a business in the minds of its audiences. It is important that both disciplines work in tandem with one another.


By Charles Duhigg

Picture Credits:

Look at the above maze. It is a no-brainer, easy to cross and get to the chocolate. A seemingly dull animal like the rat could easily get through it to relish the chocolate lying at the end of the maze. But, that seemed difficult, the first time the rat was put through.
An experiment conducted by Dr Ann Graybiel is a professor and faculty member at MIT. She placed roundabout 150 neuro-sensors in the rat’s cranium which recorded that the first time around, it took 13 minutes for the marsupial to get to the hunk of chocolate.
Progressively, the rat’s moments became faster and much more rehearsed. All the while Dr Graybiel was recording all the activity in the brain. Her research then showed that as the rat got used to the maze pattern and got to the chocolate, its brain shut down. The activity levels were similar to when the rat was asleep. This is the Power of Habit!

Charles Duhigg, the author states in a Ted Talk conducted at the TedxTeachersCollege, that despite having an achievement such as the Pulitzer prize to his credit, he could not get himself to simply stop eating cookies at the cafeteria while working at the New York Times building. Duhigg describes habits to be a combination of the cue and the reward. Every habit has a cue to start and an expectation of reward in the end.

Celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani is an avid runner. In a YouTube video for 101 India, she describes a ‘crazy-high’ feeling she experiences at the end of her runs. This ‘crazy-high’ feeling or the craving for the Endorphin rush is the reward every runner is expecting at the end. Here, a cue could be the sea at the Marine drive, or just plainly placing workout clothes on the nightstand, the night before. The Habit Loop is comprised of the above elements — a cue, a routine, and a reward.
Further, Duhigg describes a study conducted by Walter Mischel author on a bunch of four-year-olds, called the Stanford Marshmallow Test. A marshmallow is placed on a plate in front of the kids. Walter says to the kids, that he would leave the room for ten minutes. The child has an option to eat or wait till he comes back. If the marshmallow is still on the plate when he comes back, the kid gets another one. The observations of this test stated that only 10-15% of the kids were able to resist eating the marshmallow. This is in fact a study in willpower. It was observed in fact, that the kids who were able to resist the Marshmallow were seen to do better at school, at work and in life. The observations of this test have been seconded by Dr Angela Duckworth a professor at the Pennsylvania University and author of the book ‘Grit’.

The Power of Habit is an elixir of information on how to maximise our capacity as humans and harness the power produced by habits. It describes in detail. From an individual context, the narrative moves to how businesses are essentially a product of the habits of their human resource. Duhigg describes how habits were the key factor in the success of Olympic swim champion Micheal Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the likes. After reading this book, one can surely say, “The distance between failure and success is a habit.”