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Marketing: Going Back to Basics

18 Mar, 2001 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

Marketing: Going Back to Basics

I enjoy writing these monthly columns and discussing some of the marketing challenges or opportunities my clients face. However, I have to remember that my readers are looking to better their marketing efforts with the information and subsequent advice. Therefore, I felt this would be a good month to write a “Back to Basics” piece, since good marketing is all about good common sense. However, all of us have to be reminded from time to time the same way you need to remind your employees, customers and prospects what it is that separates you from the competition.

A Pattern For Successful Marketing

Frequency and consistency is the cornerstone of any successful marketing endeavor, whether it’s advertising, public relations, prospecting, direct mail or telemarketing. In other words, it’s better to target fewer prospects and impact them more times than it is reaching as many people as possible fewer times.

I’ve always used the sales analogy that if there are three buildings, would you want your reps to visit every office in all three buildings once or visit every office in one building three times. The right answer is the latter. Visiting every office once won’t net too many deals. However, visiting all the offices in one building three times is going to put your rep in a favorable position. They can develop relationships with individuals, begin to understand the prospect’s business and how paper flows through it and have a sincere, well-thought proposal. One visit may get some information like the buyer name and the current equipment, but closes will be rare.

The same is true in just about any marketing activity. Some people believe that great creative can overcome the need for frequency. “Produce a sensational ad or commercial; then you don’t have to purchase as much media” is the thought process. It’s wrong. Apple made a huge impact running their Orwellian-like Super Bowl ad once a number of years ago. However, the reason it was so successful wasn’t the impact it made during the Super Bowl. It was all the media attention they received for running an elaborately produced commercial in a very expensive time slot once. The attention was frequent, and it consistently positioned Apple as a leading edge company.

They tried to back it up the next year with their lemmings commercial, but didn’t come close to achieving the same results because they had already done something similar the year before. Others, including many dot com companies last year, have tried spending their annual advertising budget on one ad, usually during the Super Bowl or other high profile events like The Academy Awards, but no advertiser has duplicated Apple’s initial success.

Humans need repetition to fully comprehend what they’ve heard or seen, unless they’re one of the privileged few who have a photographic memory. Good creative, and sometimes bad, can speed up the comprehension with your prospects occasionally, but not always. During last year’s Super Bowl, EDS ran a commercial showing cowboys herding cats, playing off the old saying and relating it to their services. The commercial received very high marks immediately following the game. However, I was sitting next to an EDS executive about seven or eight months later and he confirmed my suspicion that lots of people remembered the ad, but very few could tell you what or who was being advertised.

Using Frequency For Profound Impact

Then, watching this year’s Super Bowl with a number of my buddies, EDS had another good commercial and several people blurted out that the advertiser was the same one that did herding cats. Not one of the guys who are all in pretty decent white collar jobs could remember who had sponsored the herding cats spot or the commercial we had watched only 15 seconds ago. This is not only a case study for encouraging EDS to have more frequency, but also one for keeping the message simple.

This last statement brings me to another basic. Never allow your method of execution to overshadow the selling message. Many advertisers try to use humor, but they overdo it and attempt to generate belly laughs. I’ve cited the example before, but Alka-Seltzer had every school kid going around saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” as their market share was going down the tubes.

Choosing Creative That Represents You Well

There’s nothing wrong with humor or fictional characters as long as your company also has that personality. If you have a staid, old line company, the worst thing you can do is ask your marketing firm to develop a superhero as the company spokesperson. Your employees won’t relate to the fun in your advertising and marketing because there’s no fun in their everyday job. The reverse is also true. If you’re a part of a vibrant, bleeding edge firm, don’t have a boring spokesperson projecting your company’s image.

I’ve had a number of clients that have used humor and/or fictional characters. One used a take-off on the Lone Ranger. We called the character the Copy Ranger and he and his sidekick Pronto were always solving problems for businesspeople. It wasn’t successful because it was a great idea or the execution was fantastic. It was successful because it represented the personality of the company. They hired someone to play the Copy Ranger and then took him and his horse, Toner, to all the local fairs and business functions. They also had life sized cardboard cut-outs of other characters, so people could have their pictures taken with them, along with Wanted Posters throughout their building to advertise promotions and other company events.

Keeping Things Simple

Another basic, which is a cousin of the basic I just discussed, is less is more. Too many advertisers figure that if they’re paying for space, they have to cram as much into as possible. This is true for most of the office equipment yellow page ads I see in my travels. The same is true for broadcast. Advertisers want as much information as they can get into a 60 second radio ad or 30 second TV commercial.

This type of approach works very for a Warehouse Sale, Parking Lot Sale or Going Out Of Business Sale, because a cluttered ad appeals to a “mooch” mentality. They like to think they’re getting a deal and clutter represents vulnerability to them.

But usually businesses advertise to get a particular message across. Clutter will not do that. Lots of white space or yellow space is required to get attention and sell your point. Don’t try to sell too many points in one ad. Some people will say one point per ad. I’m not quite as adamant about that issue as I am about others. Broadcast requires white space also. A 60 second radio commercial should have no more than 150 words and a good 30 second TV commercial needs to be limited to 60 words. The reason is your spokesperson needs time to interpret the material to make it as strong as possible. TV requires fewer words since the sense of sight becomes involved and too many words will take the focus off the visuals. Once again, if you’ve got a once-a-year sale, it’s not wrong to have a fast talking announcer that crams 200 words into 60 seconds.

Staying In Focus

The last, but probably most important basic, is tying all your marketing to your business objectives. Don’t spend money just because there is co-op or because you have a wild hair. Decide the track your business is on before you spend one dime. Choosing media, determining how much to spend on marketing materials, developing marketing strategies and selecting a method of execution should all fall out of a business plan and directly relate back to your business objectives. Many advertisers don’t adhere to this basic. Even some of the Super Bowl advertisers who plopped down $2.3 million per 30-second spot appeared to be trying to outdo each other creatively instead of following this basic.

That’s the Back to Basics discussion for this month. There are plenty of opportunities to be creative and develop the next great marketing idea or hook. But if you’re spending hard earned money, you’d be unwise to deviate from these four basics.

· Don’t spend money without linking the strategy to your business objectives.

· Frequency and consistency are the cornerstones of all marketing

· Less is more

· Never allow your method of execution to overshadow the selling message.

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