Believe it or not, advertising is dead. Or, at least, ‘advertising’ as we once we knew it is dead – and we might very well have killed it. The question that should be asked however, is not how this happened, but if we ever really knew ‘advertising’ at all?

It’s quite simple really: for decades, money-driven marketing tactics have been used to push products and raise profit margins for businesses and brands alike. Outside a idealistic marketplace where goods and services actually add value to people’s lives, there has always existed a product or service willing to be sold for profit over practicality – and, as Michael Corleone would kindly inform you, ‘it’s not personal Sonny, it’s strictly business’. The truth is that profiteering for the sake of profiteering has become very uncool; and consumers everywhere are becoming increasingly aware of the bargaining power that businesses actually have. On top of that, we’re increasingly disheartened by media messages that throw ‘stuff’ in our faces.

Really think about it: for the first time in human history, we have access to more information than we know what to do with, literally. So, why on earth would we stay the same? Any singular individual who is trying to market a product or service to another, and thinks that it can be done in the same way as 10 years ago – or even 5 years ago, for that matter – is greatly disillusioned.

The truth? Building great brands is about understanding people. But more than that, it’s about really knowing what makes them tick, and how your offering’s value-proposition is so unique that they choose to opt in. Easier said than done, it’s about creating conversations around your product or service. It’s a paradigm shift and a relatively new playing field – but played correctly, the dividends will grow your brand organically.

First, there’s awareness – and embracing the shift is one of the greatest steps to becoming an aware brand. Brands with great awareness are closer to reaching Maslow’s equivalent of self-actualisation in the business space. They know who they are and who they are speaking to, but more importantly, they have the knowledge necessary to criticize their own movements.

This leads to authenticity, the second rule. Brands who are inauthentic in their communication will be singled out, isolated and left to dissolve in a pool of ambiguous communication. The key outlook here is consistent, informed and honest communication, internally and externally, always. Your staff is part of the paradigm shift too, and that’s a key takeout. Treating your staff as brand ambassadors and custodians, as opposed to mere employees, will create ownership and build your business from the inside out. If you lead them as they wish to be led, they will do as you wish to be done.

Lastly, a business-brand offering defined by relevance will be the saving grace to your profit margins. People have been buying ‘stuff’ for ages; so what makes you think they should buy more of your product or service simply because it’s available? As stated before, opting in to a purchase should be the goal; anything other than this is a display of questionable loyalty.

The new brand paradigm will be need to be consistently aligned with all your touch points – that is, every time a consumer interacts with your brand, the look, touch, sight, sound and feel should be relatively the same. It’s a grand endeavor with exciting possibilities, and as a business owner and brand custodian, you should be jumping at the opportunity to speak with your consumers in a way that has never been more congruent with the natural human psyche – confident, suave and clear.

In the end, it’s all about being real and present in a time when the world needs it most – do it with grace; and make them an offer they can’t refuse.