BUILD A RELATIONSHIP
The big trick is to relate your business’s products or services to appeal to people’s basic emotions, because nobody has ever changed their mind about anything important through logic.
Communication between human beings is basically, primarily and overwhelmingly emotional. Although we may wish it were otherwise, people are not so influenced by the facts. We have to somehow-or-other solve the business of finding the emotion that is going to touch them.
We have passed through the era of the USP (Unique Selling Point) and entered the age of brand. The advertising game has consequently changed dramatically. Yet most of its participants still play to yesterday’s out-dated rules. Today a business’s product or service image – their emotional, perceptual and intangible qualities – will overpower their functional attributes. The heart will over rule the head when it comes to motivating purchase.
Typically, the functional differences between competing businesses are minimal. The search for the point of difference, the USP, has become increasingly fruitless. Too often a USP is illusory, or at best, trivial.
What are the real competitive differences between beer brands? Or soft drink brands? Or a Sony hi-fi and a Sanyo hi-fi sold at the same price? Or the car rental companies or the airlines? Not to mention facial tissues and practically every consumer category? Very little. And any feature or performance edge is rapidly neutralised.
Powerful image labels, once given, are almost irreversible. We wear ‘image’, we eat ‘image’ and we drink ‘branded’ water. We drive ‘brands’. What better example of a branded vehicle than Mercedes Benz or BMW? We fly brands, we take branded holidays, and we dine at branded restaurants paying with branded credit cards. Increasingly we send our children to branded schools.
Branding works from the micro to the macro. We buy brands of pets and work for branded corporations. Even the country we live in has its own distinctive image and identity.
Image. Image. Image. Advertisers must come to terms with the reality that today the most valuable assets they have are their perceived images – not their products, not their price, expertise or integrity, not even their technology. Anyone can make a soft drink similar to Coca-Cola but only Coca-Cola is the real thing. Only Coke is it. Brand loyalty is simply more enduringly harnessed by communicating powerful emotional images, rather than boring, rational argument.
Sell the sizzle rather than the steak.
Advertising is about bonding, about relationships and relationships are all about emotion.
SPEAK THE RIGHT LANGUAGE
Whilst enjoying the benefits of a global village, human beings are also reacting against it, and seeking to celebrate their own personal cultures. Thus the world is not one common global community, one common market.
Every country has its own distinctive culture. The British are unbendingly British; Americans, noisily American; the French eclectically French, and so on. And within those national cultures, specific subcultures abound and proliferate.
The Scot is not a Cockney. The Texan stands out in a Manhattan crowd. And similarly the Geordie kid from Newcastle is easily spotted in the streets of London. Unless advertising is a comfortable and natural fit into a market’s local culture, and speaks the colloquial street language of the ordinary people, it will be devoid of empathy. It will therefore be ignored.
All great advertising campaigns celebrate each market’s local culture and idiom.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE
Since the medium is the message, unless we tailor our advertising to be in sympathy with the essential character of each medium, it will fail. There’s no point telling a rational story in the essentially emotional medium of television; or shouting from the rooftops over the person-to-person medium of radio. The print ad in the afternoon tabloid should have a different feel from the one that appears on the morning broadsheet; and online ads also need to fit within the tone of the real-estate in which they sit.
Television is big, bold and public. Its entertainment driven. Its most popular programs are light entertainment or movies and sport. All the top rating programs contain nothing too cerebral, nothing that requires too much thought or viewer input.
People use television to relax, amuse and distract themselves. Advertising that doesn’t fit into this framework of viewer behaviour will be ignored. There are simply too many other distractions.
Radio is much more intimate, amusing, private and personal. On television, brands are mass brands; on radio it is my brand.
Press is logical, literal, analytical and rational. It demands audience input to have any impact at all.
Banner-blindness is a new phrase coined for the challenges around our inability to see single ads amongst the prolific number of ads online. Even Google recently detailed that over half the ads they serve are not even seen by online users; so light, colour and movement in your digital ads are key.
Make sure your ads utilise all the assets of the media in which it sits.
HELP PEOPLE REMEMBER YOU
The great enduring advertising campaigns have a slogan, a line. The best have the business name, product or service permanently integrated within it or alongside it. Think of the tag lines “I’m loving it” or “Just do it.” We immediately know the brands these refer to.
As Stephen Covey has written “Begin with the end in mind”. That is, start with the slogan then write the advertisement. The Beatles, always began with the title of a song and then wrote backwards to create hit songs.
The hook line “Nike. Just Do it!” is a great example.
A hook line such as that – like so many other famous slogans – work all the harder because they have gone beyond advertising ‘copy’ to be part of colloquial street language.
“Toyota. Oh What a Feeling!” “Coke is it”. “Enjoy Coke”.
If your advertising is built around a big idea that survives time, you’ll have a campaign. If your advertising is to forge an enduring bond between the consumer and your business, product or service, then it will not if you constantly change direction.
Campaigns, not one off advertisements, are your ultimate goal. If your advertising cannot withstand endless repetition, it will fail. Individual advertisements within a campaign eventually wear-out, but a campaign need never wear out. Irrelevant, insulting or boring advertising cannot withstand repetition. Nor can advertising based around a joke, transient fashion or craze. But if you appeal to basic human emotions you’ll never be irrelevant, irritating or boring, and the greater the repetition, the greater the emotional arousal.
DEPLOY AND MAINTAIN A TWO-PRONGED STRATEGY
There are two distinct ways in which you should approach your advertising strategy.
We’ve discussed the importance of brand and awareness advertising but what about retail advertising. The call to action. Retail advertising should work alongside your brand campaigning. The same feel, the same look, the same sound and the same goal, but of course the core content will now likely be price, event, seasonal or scarcity-based designed to drive activity when you need it.
Brand advertising treated in the ways we’ve detailed will maximise the results of any retail advertising. Think about McDonalds for a moment, one of the most successful marketers in the world, they combine Brand and Call-to-Action advertising with stunning success.
Commonly many advertisers make the mistake of deploying only Call-to-Action advertising without the foundation of building awareness – concentrating on short term Retail advertising is not enough. It will bring limited success and it won’t get you the return on investment you deserve.
Unfortunately, most advertisers think short bursts of advertising will do. They see their advertising as tactical, something used to fix a problem (often when its already too late), placing unfair demands on the return on their investment.
Advertising needs to be an overarching strategy for your business and not a tactic pushed out to fill holes in your cash flow.
HERO, EMOTION, RECALL
When you build a brand ad make sure that your business, product or service is the hero in the ad; that you include a relevant emotion; and that most importantly, you make your ads easy to remember by stripping away irrelevant and unimportant information.
In the end you’ll be best served by using your intuition, trusting your ideas and taking risks.