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The Ford Pinto was a crappy car. No doubt about it.

The Pinto was introduced in 1970 and sold over 100,000 units by January 1971.

Why?

The power of mass media

40 years ago you could take any product and sell it to people. You had to throw a lot of media money at it and somehow people would buy it. The commercial said it looked good, so it must look good. The print ad said it’s cool, so it must be cool. The radio spot said it’s breaking barriers, so it must be breaking barriers.

There was no Edmunds, no Twitter, no Facebook, no Google.

The Ford Pinto wouldn’t sell 100,000 units today

You can’t throw marketing dollars at a product problem anymore. It just doesn’t work.

40 years ago, the lipstick-on-a-pig routine worked.

Today, even major cosmetic surgery doesn’t do the job anymore.

You can scream “Beauty” all day long, it makes no difference as long as Google says “Pig”.

Marketing needs to be responsible for what gets made.

Many people wonder why brands switch agencies so quickly these days. Why CMO’s leave after less than 2 years.

It’s the product, stupid.

Marketing is powerful. But it’s not powerful enough to hide the truth about a product.

CMO’s and agencies will regain leverage when they finally realize that effective marketing is the by-product of a great product.

One day, an agency will stand up to the product team and say: “We can’t sell this effectively. Don’t throw your media money at a terrible product. Everybody will lose. Instead, put your money into product innovation. Effective marketing will follow.”

That’s my agency of the future.