Why you should chuck your ad campaign

September 22, 2011: 1:53 PM ET

Vying for a customer's mental space is becoming an increasingly crowded rat race. So perhaps the best branding strategy may be to opt out of advertising altogether.

By Shelley DuBois, writer-reporter

FORTUNE -- Look around, anywhere really, and you'll see the upshot of somebody trying to sell you something. Big companies try to cover all the bases -- everything from billboards in Times Square to pithy tweets -- to hit the algorithm that will put their brand on your brain.

It's a rat race, vying for all that mental space, especially when customers are growing more skeptical. The result of the ad deluge is that, for some companies, the best strategy is to opt out.

Take Signature Bank (SBNY), one of the companies on Fortune's 2011 fastest-growing companies list. Without any advertising, it has grown significantly, from about $50 million when it launched in 2001 to $13.1 billion in assets this year. This past quarter, the bank had a net income of $36.6 million, up by 64% from the previous year.

In many ways, the bank is especially suited for the no-ad tactic: it targets New York-based small businesses, and offers clients one point of contact for all banking services. A client can call Signature to set up a line of credit for a business and then ask about financing a house in the Hamptons in the next breath. These aren't customers who chose their bank based off of ads at a Yankee's game, says CEO Joe DePaolo. Instead, they rely on recommendations from friends and associates. More

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