building online brands in no ad world image and link

It's A No Ad World

It would help if you read Anatolii Labinskyi's Change Is Coming To Digital Media in 2022 Forbes post (linked in Resources at the bottom of the page) to appreciate our five tips for building brands in a no ad world. Labinskyi, Founder CEO of Golden Stream Media, shares five essential survival strategies for digital advertising in 2022.

  1. Create An Ad Ecosystem
  2. Implement SMS Marketing
  3. Speak In Slang
  4. Take Advantage Of TikTok
  5. Prepare To Adapt With Apple

Labinskyi's post is a fountain of good ideas. We love #3 Speak In Slang. We discuss creating a unique online voice in Web Copy Tips - More Hemingway than Faulkner. Your audience DOES want you to speak informally. Here are just two powerful paragraphs from the Forbes post.

"Your audience just wants to speak informally. This year, make sure you’re talking to customers like you’re a real person. In many cases, slang is A-OK. Don’t shy from OMGs and emojis. People want to know that they’re in conversation with a human and not a machine.

The more you communicate like your customers, the more comfortable they’ll feel making a purchase from you. Of course, the seriousness of your product matters, but we’ve even seen financial institutions using slang and growing immensely because of it.""

Yes, sharing Labinskyi's Forbes post hedges our "no ad world," but the Internet is one big hedge. For many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), digital ad costs are too high. Online ads are the ultimate commodity. When online ad demand spikes, prices increase. As big brands allocate more ad spend to Facebook, Tik Tok, and Twitter, ad costs go up, squeezing SMBs out.

There's more good and bad online ad news for SMBs. First, only a few people click on ads. When less than 10% of viewers are likely to click on ads, your creative (ad copy and or images) must be beyond good. SMBs new to digital ads should read the Hubspot and Smart Insights posts we link at the bottom.

Here's the bad news. Building online brands without ads is more challenging too. Organic SEO, having customers find your website on Google's non-ad list, is being overtaken by those same big brands. Back in the day, big brands didn't know about SEO. Now they do, and Google loves them. Google wants to dump as much traffic to trusted sources as possible because traffic sent to big brand website sticks.

Don't jump off the roof yet. Exploring these five tips for building online brands without ads hurts less than jumping off a roof and will make you more money.

  • Create Community - Ask For Help
  • Develop An Annual Contest
  • Add An App
  • Produce A Game
  • Incentivize Sharing - Influencers

Create An Online Community

We begin with the hardest thing you will ever do - build an online community. I've built two online communities and it was my hardest marketing task and I sold Nutrasweet for six years. Think of an online community as sharing your website with influences, contributors, and stake holders. Creating online community is HARD because no one trusts you yet. And trust is the cornerstone of any community.

We know a few ways to earn online trust.

  • Share Authentic Stories
  • Have A Unique Voice (see use slang above)
  • Be Vulnerable - Ask For Help
  • Seed With Friends At First
  • Reward Contributors
Share Authentic Stories

Asking website visitors to share their stories before telling yours is a non-starter. Writing a great About page helps, but, more bad news, most website visitors won't click on your About page, a page we bet you spent way too much time writing. Better to slap, tickle, and publish your About page fast while looking for a hundred other ways to share stories. Funny stories about mistakes or times when customers helped your brand are among our favorite stories to share. Our question for this post (see below) is to ask what kind of authentic stories you like to share online?

Unique Voice

Web Copy - More Hemingway Than Faulkner (linked above) shares how to create a unique online voice so we'll only reiterate a few things. As Anatolii shared sounding "corporate" doesn't create trust. Jargon or industry speak has the same off-putting feel. Write with passion, conviciton, joy, and belief. Take stands. Be bold even doing so creates Twitter fires. No one will love your website if you water it down or avoid sounding vulnerable and human.

Ask For Help

Asking for help is HARD. As Dan Ariely in his books and Taleb shares in The Black Swan, we think we are more intelligent, funnier, and thinner than we are. Don't be too smart to ask for help and reward the tiny number of visitors willing to contribute. The 1 - 9 - 90 Rule says 1% of less than a web site's traffic will contribute. 9% will share and like with 90% of visitors reading. Every group is essential, but cherish contributors and those willing to share because there aren't many like them.

Seed With Friends

Before you ask a hundred friends (or so) contribute your website's initial pieces of user generated content (UGC) create an "Ask For Help" form. This is a big ask. "Ask for Help" forms tend to be long because they set up an important contributor reward - Contributor Profiles. We just created an ask for PatientsVoices.

ask for help form image

Reward Contributors

Someday, you may pay a handful of your best contributors as freelance writers. There are important and more democratic rewards too. Creating and publishing "Contributor Profile" pages on your website is a BIG reward. Here is a contributor profile example also from PatientsVoices. community contributor profile example

Featuring contributors on "member pages" is another way to share your website with contributors willing to provide user-generated content. Contributors become a loose-knit team when you add member pages featuring contributors.contributors page example

A community website developer's role should evolve from creator to curator. Other visitors know you value contributors and so are more willing to contribute. Your website's voice changes too from solo to chorus. Oh, and what's the first thing a contribution does when you publish their profile? They share a link to their profile page on your website. They advertise your site for the cost of a form, profiles, and member pages.

Develop An Annual Contest

Crowdsourcing by creating an annual contest is another way your website will gain traffic, links, shares, and Google SEO rank. If big brands such as P& G and General Mills innovate through crowdsourcing, so should you. Contests generally come in two forms - contests of skill and sweepstakes. I added the beggings of a contest to My NC Sculpture Contest will have rules, and entry form, and possibly another website.

Writing contest rules is one of the few exceptions to my "no lawyers" rule. Contests are legally complicated. Each state has different rules and regulations, so having your law dog look over your copy is a good idea. Sponsoring an annual contest creates trust and increases acceptance over time.


The majority of the world's web traffic comes from mobile devices. Why not take advantage of the smartphone and tablet trend by developing an app. Use to help find a developer and add cool features. Read Joel Swenson's to discover good app examples (linked in Resources bottom of the page).

You may pay a little to develop an app, but traffic arrives where you want, ready to buy, share, and contribute. In addition, apps drive conversions without ongoing ad or content development (i.e., SEO) costs. Think an app's return on investment looks excellent compared to millions in online ad costs? We agree.


When everyone has a loyalty program, do something different. Make your loyalty program a game. Use some of the how-to create community ideas shared above, such as an enrollment form, player profile, and players (instead of members) summary pages. Points become your unique currency. Find creative ways to "pay" intelligent, innovative, and influential "players." Like contests, it's not a bad idea to have a lawyer look over your game's terms.


Change Is Coming To Digital Media In 2022 Forbes.

Online Advertising Everything You Need To Know Hubspot.

Click Through Rates Everyting You Need To Know Smart Insight

Six Companies With Engaging Apps Mentor Mate

This Modern MBA video on why direct to consumer brands such as Casper lose money inspired me to write about building brands in a no ad world.

On My Linkedin

Friend Eric Garrison, CEO of World Trade Solutions, created a very cool "community in a box". Read my post about why every e-commerce team needs Eric's new app on LinkedIn.


What authentic stories do you share with visitors? Where do you advertise online? Do your ads work? Do they bring converting traffic to your website?

e: martin (at)