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New year strategy: advertising

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Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark—you know what you’re doing but no one else does. That’s the smart, though politically incorrect, view of US advertising consultant Stuart H. Britt.

People trying to take their businesses to the next level know they have to tell their story. Advertising and public relations is the way to do it, but these do create a very thorny issue: the need to spend money! Siimon Reynolds, the then young whiz kid who shot to fame in the eighties with his bowling ball Grim Reaper commercial, once told me a business should be spending 5-10 per cent of its revenue on building its brand in the eyes of potential customers. He says historically big ads work better than small ones and that funny ads have a longer residual effect in customer’s minds.

Stop signs

Who doesn’t think of Yellow Pages when someone says, “not happy, Jan”? That ad has been etched onto our mental hard disks; and that’s what a great marketing campaign has to do. British humorist Stephen Leacock was joking when he defined advertising as “the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it,” but he is partly right—you do have to arrest human intelligence to get your message through.

Ideally, you use your advertising to sell a quality product or service that’s actually good for people, but I guess some businesses have salespeople successfully flogging products which are absolute crap! Can’t name them in case they have lawyers, but I reckon you can nominate some products and services that fit the bill.

Split personalities

The advertising theorists keep telling us that you have to address two people. US businessman William Feather summed it up this way, “The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men—the man he is and the man he wants to be!”

Ad evangelism

Others suggest a good ad should be like a good sermon in that it must not only comfort the afflicted, it must afflict the comfortable. So what’s it going to be? Will you be offering salvation with your product or be scaring the pants off people?

Think back over great ads of our time. The “not happy, Jan” ad had the big benefit of humour to help memory, but it worked by scaring businesses into remembering that if they forget to put their ad into the Yellow Pages directory, then they would miss out on business for a year. That’s why Jan was seen getting out of the office after she realised her mistake.

Big bangs

One thing is for certain. You have to stand out from the crowd, and advertising and public relations is the way to do it. But how do you get a great bang for your buck? American film producer, Joe Levine, reflected on selling quality when he observed, “You can fool all of the people all of the time, if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough.” And even though we know US film companies do this, we still keep giving them another chance. It says something about our consumer loyalty and how predicable we can be.

Pulling the wool

Honestly, I don’t know why we keep getting fooled by banks when they have proved to us that they are designed to be a sneaky partner, diddling us of fees by playing on our lack of organisation. I suggest a small business, unlike a bank or an insurance company, can’t afford to disappoint their customer base regularly, and so you have to promise and deliver quality in your marketing messages.

UK ad expert David Ogilvy thought what you say was critically important in marketing messages. “Content is more important than form,” he argued as long ago as 1958. “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.”

Plan it or can it

So this gives us the starting point. Alan H. Meyer, a US ad executive, got it right when he told us, “The best ad is a good product.” However, a lot of great products get left on the shelf and so you have to have a great marketing plan.

Once the product or service is great, go for a PR campaign using a professional with a good track record. Ask for testimonials and talk to past clients.

And as Richard Branson advised me some years ago; if that works, use ads to make sure your lights are on while you’re winking at the customers.

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. 

Published on: Friday, December 18, 2009

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