Great advertising – Part One

Charles Haskell Revson’s (Revlon) famous quote says it all. When asked by a woman what Revlon’s product was he replied “My dear lady, on the factory floors, our product is cosmetics. But in the department stores, our product is hope.”

Build your brand

We live in the age of image. Today, marketing is imaging, where your products or businesses images are invariably the difference between market success or failure. Consumer loyalty is no longer driven by functional competitive benefits. Instead, perceptual and emotional differences are paramount.

We are dealing with the emotional bonding of the consumer to your business product or service. The game in imaging and branding is not to convince or persuade, but to build a relationship.

Advertising’s job isn’t just about selling; it’s about nurturing, reinforcing and bonding. To some this will sound nonsensical – surely advertising’s sole function is to sell stuff. It is, but no longer by the text book conventional wisdom of hard sell.

Great enduring advertising campaigns do not try to push anyone; they don’t try to cajole or convert; they deliberately avoid exercising pressure. They are not attempting to get people to change their minds, but rather reinforce how they already feel and bond those human dimensions to your brand – they’re preaching to the converted.

Don’t say “Please think about me logically”, instead say “Feel it, don’t think about. Commit, don’t decide.”

By bonding your brand to people’s aspirations and dreams, you are correctly using your advertising to reinforce existing, favourable attitudes. We should accept our audience as they are. We should work within their frames of reference; we should share their emotions.

Strong images offer the consumer everything that strong products and services do. But they offer much, much more. They have another dimension that attracts, that builds a relationship between themselves and the consumer.

Don’t overload your communication

Simplicity is often a forgotten principle of good communication. People are far more likely to remember a single-minded proposition. The lengthier and more complex any communication becomes, the less likely that anything will be retained.

In advertising, as in any human communication, less is more.

Throughout history, the world’s greatest communicators have observed this dictum. They’ve been gifted with the ability to distil often-complex notions into simple, and nearly always emotional, one-liners. It is also the distinguishing hallmark of all great enduring advertising campaigns.

Some years ago, research showed that 85% of all television and radio advertising was simply ignored.

More recent research confirms that the majority of all advertising matter is not even processed by the brain. The television or radio may be switched on, but not the consumer’s mind. Eighty percent of the time the medium’s output is insufficiently seductive to distract us from even the most humdrum of the everyday household and work routines.

Edward de Bono laments “It has been clearly shown that the average student’s concentration lapses after 20 minutes and that around 90% of material spoken in a lecture is forgotten.”

Winston Churchill was even more emphatic. His frequent wartime requests were prefaced: “Pray let me have this by this evening on one side of a single piece of paper.”

So keep it simple. Less is more.

Stand out of the crowd

Your first goal should be to get your ads noticed – to do that you’ll need impact.

This may seem a modest and fundamental objective, but we fail to achieve this in an overwhelming majority of cases. Apply a simple test.

How many ads really pull you up in your tracks? How many do you remember from scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed ten minutes ago? How many do you remember from this morning’s newspaper? And how many from last night’s television session or this morning from the radio?
According to statistics you’ve forgotten 85% of the television commercials you saw last night.

A study cited in Newsweek magazine put advertising recall at a minuscule 7%.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal reported that of 25,000 people polled to nominate most outstanding commercials, over a third were at a loss to cite a single one. Despite the fact that the typical person sees and hears about 4,000 television and radio commercials a month, let alone online, social, press, print, out-of-home and mailers.

Without a big idea, brilliantly executed, we have no impact. Without impact your ads will be ignored. A big idea, by definition, overwhelms the past, the safe and the tried and true. Big ideas are creative breakthroughs and sadly they’re all too rare.

Of course, the big idea makes even the bravest and boldest businessperson nervous; you have to commit to it, to take the risk. There is no comfortable point of reference. A big advertising success, or back to sounding and looking like everyone else – most take the easier softer way, cross their fingers shut their eyes and hope for the best.

Bland, safe, mediocre advertising is all around us. Bored cynical consumers are all around us. Breaking the rules isn’t enough – success involves taking risks. Therefore, the greatest risk we can take is to take no risk at all.