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We can’t make a bad product succeed, but we can make it fail faster.

February 04, 2019 | Marketing and Advertising

It's a lesson every advertiser knows by heart and every client should take to heart: good advertising only makes a bad product worse.

Adman, Bill Bernbach, put it this way:

If that sounds almost exactly like the title of this article, that's because we stole were inspired by Bill’s quote. Here’s another one:

In those two short quotes, Bill sums up the role and limit of advertising: to show the value of something, not to make it valuable. We can polish a diamond, but can’t produce one from coal. (That’s a myth, anyhow. Diamonds aren’t actually made from coal.)

Why do we bring this up?

Because there’s always the temptation to think better ads can sell lesser products, but it never works. We see this not only in product marketing, but also in recruitment marketing. We’re often asked to advertise hard-to-fill jobs. That’s no problem unless the job itself is full of problems. It’s hard to fill a leaky bucket.

In those situations, we can help a client identify what’s wrong—why the job isn’t competitive—but only they can make the changes to make it marketable. The good news is that, once a client does that, we should have no problem successfully advertising the new and improved product.


Just for fun, here are 25 of the biggest product fails in history.

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