NDO Creative


The thoughts, musings, and recent blog posts on design thinking and communications, from the team at NDO*Creative.

Psst! Your Customers Don't Like Advertising

Have you ever wanted to be advertised to? Do you explicitly want to be sold something? Do you truly enjoy being marketed to?

If you replied "no" to any of the above - you're not alone. And if it was yes across the board, you're a stone-cold psychopath. Kidding! You're probably in marketing or advertising if you did say yes (which, by default, makes you a little crazy anyways).

Most people want a particular benefit when looking for a product or service to help improve their quality of life in some way. For the most part, we make decisions as individuals to help improve either our quality of life or provide benefit to those around us.

You want more money. You want a cooler haircut. You’d love if your inbox wasn’t so unruly. You want your Google Calendar alerts to sync up with your phone alerts so that you don't forget your kids at school (again).

You want your problems solved through the purchases you make. Every dollar you spend in this world is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

So, what does any of this have to do with advertising, branding, and marketing? The manner in which you present your product or service’s value might be more important than the value itself.

Zag While Everyone Zigs

One of our favourite books here at NDO, "Zag" by Marty Neumeier, helps to explain the current branding ecosystem we live in, as well as the differences between marketing, branding, and advertising as terms. The image below depicts one of our favourite explanations of these differences:

Taken from Marty Neumeier's "ZAG" on the differences between branding, advertising, and marketing.

Taken from Marty Neumeier's "ZAG" on the differences between branding, advertising, and marketing.

Marketing relies on the outward projection of a message from company to end-user: "I'm a great lover", in this example. Public Relations relies on the referral of a message from another party: "Trust me, he's...", while advertising relies on repetitive messaging delivered to the end-user – whether warranted or not.

Branding, however, is when the end-user openly communicates an understanding of the brand's value proposition(s). 

Branding isn't about what your company says it is: it's about what your end-user says you are.

Good branding emanates from every touch-point of a company, whether digital or in print. With design being the silent ambassador of your brand in most cases, the UX/UI of your site, your customer service, the content you produce, and your social media are all touch-points of user interaction, thus becoming essential assets towards your brand image and voice. 

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.
— Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder

Lessons Learned

We love this book (and no, we're not receiving any sponsorship/kickback for saying so). In fact, we read it right before launching this agency; it's helped us tremendously in shaping how we voice our value proposition and company story on our website, social media, and even the client work we do.

Here's a few of the biggest lessons we learned from the book that you can apply to build your brand equity:

Clutter Is The Enemy

We live in a world where everything is more and everything is faster. It’s estimated that we’ve gone from seeing around 500 ads a day in the 1970’s, up to 5’000 a day – a 10x increase.

The key to building successful buying tribes is to develop a message that cuts through the clutter by having your message directed to a specific demographic, on a specific platform, with a certain context and value in mind.

You'd rather have someone really understand your message than a massive group of people "sort of" get it.

Customer Loyalty Isn't Just A Program

Similar to the main idea in "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook" by Gary Vaynerchuk, customer loyalty is built through endless amounts of giving value before asking for a return. When companies are loyal to customers before any ask of a major sale, trust is built over time.

The longer you give – especially with the content your brand produces that adds value to end-user lives – the more trust you build. Brand transparency at every touch-point of your brand is key; so is synonymous messaging among them.

Every Touchpoint Is An Impact Point

Whether that's Medium, Instagram, Snapchat, websites, a print brochure or a handshake from the CEO of a company, every single touchpoint is an impact point for your brand image. Remember this with every message sent: all touch-points can be considered points of customer service.

Don't Offer More: Offer Different

Have you ever read Seth Godin's "Purple Cow"? If you drive by a field endless times and see cows of the same type, eventually you start to ignore them; if you drove by a field of cows and saw a single purple cow, your attention would be drawn to it – and so would your curiousity.

In an ecosystem where brands are offering things for cheaper prices, newer colours, and faster speeds. If your brand is thinking long term, radical differentiation in the marketplace is often frowned upon initially, but yields greater returns in the long run (like Tesla cars, for example).

Rather than trying to please everyone at the high risk of pleasing no one, pick a demographic. Pick an audience. Be loyal to them and offer something of value – something radically different, if possible.


People like being on the winning side of things. As such, people don't like being "sold to", but do enjoy buying in tribes. The more your brand represents a tribe or a collective of impact-driven thinkers rather than a company that just wants to sell, trust is built in a tribal way. Focus your selling efforts not on just the individual, but towards a UBT: Unique Buying Tribe.

Customers consciously ask themselves "If I buy this, what does it make me and what benefits do I get?". Customers sub-consciously ask "If I buy this, do I become a part of this group, with this status, and these values?"

What are your thoughts on branding? Do you agree with the points above or have your own? Let us know in the comments below, and for more insights – check out the free podcast we run for creatives, by creatives.