I love watching and commenting on TV ads, just like most people in marketing. Especially the funny ones.
But it just irks me that someone is getting paid the millions of pounds shelled out on producing so much sell-no-product advertising … especially when that person getting the paycheck isn’t me!
Let me explain.
My intention today wasn’t to talk solely about TV ads. Rather, I wanted to talk about “brands.” Here’s the connection…
What you see on nearly all TV advertisements is what’s called “awareness advertising.” Or “brand advertising.” Simply because, the idea goes, the ads are intended to raise the prospect’s “awareness” of a product by stirring up all the right feelings that they hope will somehow attach themselves to the brand on offer.
But does it work?
Let me say this up front: I “get” brands. Really, I do. For instance, my car is “The ultimate driving machine”. The trainers I always buy mean that I can “Just do it”, and my phone is an iPhone.
In short, I’m a devotee of brands. For something so unimportant in the great scheme of the Universe as a pair of trainers, no less.
So, yes, I “get” brands.
You’ll meet people who would rather eat sand than drink a Pepsi. And Pepsi drinkers who believe all Coke drinkers need their heads testing. Some people will only stay at a Marriott. For others, it has to be a Holiday Inn. Still more travelers can’t sleep under any roof other than a Best Western.
Bud is the King of Beers. Unless you’re a Heineken man. Or maybe Grolsh is your brand. Stephen King. John Grisham. Tom Clancy. They’re all brands, of a sort.
SO it’s no wonder every MD aches to have their product or business become a known name or “brand” of the same calibre. Hence, millions of pounds spent on ads and production for commercial slots during the Cup Final or the Cricket Test Matches … even on renaming sports stadiums. (So instead of honoring dead community leaders, the same stadiums now honor airline companies or sports retail chains and other such noble icons).
Because when it works, brand-based advertising can be an extremely powerful thing. When it works. The trouble is, nobody is ever really sure when it will work and when it will not. Or how long it will take, even if it does. And therein lies the problem.
The great brands that work, rarely work overnight. More often, their selling power is earned only after years of blood, sweat, tears, blunders, and – worse – a lot of money spent for, possibly, not as much sales in return.
Recently, I stumbled across the website for the great international advertising firm, Ogilvy & Mather.
David Ogilvy, of course, was the great British ad man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and built an empire on his classic approach to advertising. He’s no longer with us, but the agency is still around.
Ogilvy himself once said: “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”
Oh, and this: “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
Naturally, Ogilvy said a lot of things. And more than a few of them were in total support of the brand-advertising idea, about raising awareness and creating a feeling the prospect could carry to the marketplace. But you have to wonder … would a mission statement like that really lead you to the best possible selling power for your advertising dollar? Maybe.
Then again, maybe not.
Traditional, brand-driven advertisers understand one thing very, very well. They understand the emotional substructure of good advertising. If you don’t stir the heart, goes the reasoning, you can’t stir the wallet. That’s why Cup Final advertisers will work hard – and spend millions – to leave you laughing. Or crying. Or angry.
It’s also how many mainstream ad agencies sell their own products – especially their creative services – to marketing directors and business owners. They show them campaigns that let the company feel hip, funny, crusading, or cool about themselves too.
But one thing often left out of the equation is that emotion alone can’t handle all the incredibly hard work it takes to buy your brand a place in your customer’s subconscious.
A recent issue of the publication “Brandweek” in America reported research pulled from eight different ad studies, and conducted by – surprise, surprise – The Center for Emotional Marketing. In the compiled analysis, ads that provoked a big emotional response had no trouble cutting through clutter.
But rarely did they ever change customer buying behavior or increase a company’s market share. And these results, by the way, came from food and health companies, beauty product companies, hi-tech and car makers, and more.
In almost no case did purely emotional advertising – which is almost exclusively the style favored by brand advertisers – build businesses.
Emotion mattered, yes. But only in ads that also informed the customer about the product. And that actually worked to tie those emotions to the product. All the better if the ad could ask for the purchase right there. Just as we do all the time in direct-response advertising.
So how does all this relate to brands?
The fact is, a “brand” name product or company can be a great asset to any company. But defining what that brand is and what it will mean to your customers is complicated. It could take years to accomplish. And other than spending millions on advertising that does little more than create an ambience around your product, there’s much more that’s much easier that you can do.
When counting your abstract assets, for instance, try putting the customer relationship AHEAD of brand on the ledger sheet. And the product? Channel money into making it the best it can be, both in quality and in the manner it satisfies your customers’ deepest desires.
Let those two things inform what you say in your ads to customers, and you might come up with a lot of ads that are neither hip nor funny. But on the balance sheet, you’ll come up with better and faster-rising sales figures than the bulk of brand advertisers, virtually every time.
PLEASE NOTE: This post has been adapted from an article written by John Forde, of ‘Early To Rise‘.
P.S. I’m preparing my work schedule for the final four months of the year, so if you’d like, we can jump on the phone together for an hour, and I’ll identify where your weaknesses are, and map out a follow-up strategy that will make BIG improvements to your sales over the coming months and years.
Simply go here to book your slot in my diary, and tell me a little bit about your business, and your ambitions and goals.