“The best, most creative advertising you ever write will pale in comparison to word-of-mouth.” – my copywriting professor at the outset of our first class, 1995

  • Fact: Every company on the planet has a product or service.
  • Fact: The better the product or service, the more people will use (buy) it.
  • Fact: People will tell others about their experiences with your product or service. For good and bad.

I know it’s hard to believe, but the idea of word-of-mouth has been around a lot longer than 2010 when everyone was jumping aboard social media. Social media has simply expedited word-of-mouth. Again, for good and bad.

When I talk to entrepreneurs, my advice is always the same—focus on the product or service you sell. Focus on the backroom operations to ensure a smooth experience for your customers. Focus on refining your processes so that they run as smoothly as possible. Focus on the legal.

Do not worry about your marketing and advertising. Not at first, anyway.

Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs trying to launch a company tend to start marketing before the foundation is set. That’s because marketing is fun! Right? Creative stuff that gets people talking!

Some of the worst advertising I’ve ever seen is the result of overzealous entrepreneurs who were just sure that their concepts for messaging were spot on.

Look, unless you have an internal marketing department with a balance of experience from the traditional world and the digital age, you’re going to have to partner with an external resource for your marketing and advertising. Accept this, and then focus on making whatever it is you make as awesome as possible. When you do that, you’ve already done the most important thing regarding your marketing.

When it does come time to tie the marketing into the product/service, ensure you’re working with a team you trust. And whatever you do, do not fall for the dog and pony circus. That’s almost always a sign to avoid those shops.

At my company, Out of the Ether, we only work with companies that make great things and that need help with branding, websites, and digital marketing. We are a two-person shop consisting of a writer-designer team with one foot in the traditional world, and the other in digital. We focus on telling the truth of a brand. Because, yes, while you have to attract attention to your brand, once your prospects arrive on your website they want an authentic experience. And there’s nothing more authentic than a truthful narrative.

It’s been my experience that anything short of the truth in advertising invariably results in bad things. People don’t like to be fooled.



When the product or service is strong, legitimate, useful, and reliable, there’s no reason to do anything except tell the truth. The truth is authentic. Interesting. Real. And when the product or service reinforces the narrative, people come back. And they’ll talk.

Launching a company isn’t brain surgery:

  1. Focus on making good shit.
  2. Accept that you have to outsource your marketing and work with people you trust.
  3. Tell the truth.

See? Business isn’t that complicated.

“Always tell the truth, there’s less to remember.” – my boss at a headhunting firm in Manhattan, 1992



The Legend of Black Africa - My 4/20 Story

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.