There are a lot of statistics about how many ads the average person sees per day. An answer given in a recent TEDx talk proposed somewhere between 300-700 messages. Brands spend a lot of time thinking about how to cut through the noise with their ads. Yet, is it all necessary?

Significantly, some of the most innovative and quickly growing brands in the world–to include Aesop, Zara, and Kiehl’s–have never advertised. While their continued refusal to advertise may seem counterintuitive, it is, arguably, the foundation of their success. This is because it has allowed them to conserve their time, energy, and resources for different areas.

So where does this excess energy go? How do certain brands  thrive in the absence of advertisements? And what can we learn from them?

Aesop, Zara, and Kiehl’s have one main thing in common: they do not let their unspent resources go to waste. Instead, they use it to become the thought leaders in their markets.

Aesop redirects its resources to focus on ingredient and formulation costs. It uses about 80% of its product spend on this as opposed to the industry average of 10%. This focus on product development and innovation–a focus which is not tied to promotions or production deadlines–assures the highest quality.

Moreover, they are able to meticulously present Aesop’s aspirational lifestyle. Their sophisticated stores and the no-nonsense nature of their products fit seamlessly so there is no rupture between their brand and their store.  In such a way, Aesop has become the head of the slow-beauty movement.

Like Aesop, Zara has made its a thought leader in its category for its fast-fashion and ethos of affordable luxury. It invests its additional resources to use to create a new process–one which continually changes up their line to create a sense of “now-or-never” purchases. It also spends incredible amounts of money on store fronts so that their personality is clear.

As a final example, Kiehl’s also invests in customer interactions rather than advertising. Because of this, it is able to offer its consumers low pressure purchases as it offers generous samples for them to try the product before they buy it. Furthermore, it means that they can afford a 100% money back guarantee.

By spending their resources on maintaining product quality, increasing production speed, or strengthening consumer interactions, Aesop, Zara, and Kiehl’s maintain an edge on over their competition. In such a way, they can be a model for any upcoming brands that a small (or non-existent!) advertising budget is not a death sentence–it is an invitation to discover what matters most to your brand.

Image by Houang Stephane/flickr/CCBY2.0