How to Multiply Ad Effectiveness

multi-legsIn an new booklet called What Business Are You In?, media consultants Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance give a quick 50-page overview of what most businesses need to know to start a sensible marketing plan. Many businesses ask “what media should I be in?” The answer on page 29 states:

“Your communication plan should identify the vehicles and platforms that will best connect with your consumer… How can you best reach your consumer multiple times in multiple ways at multiple times of day that will inspire multiple sales opportunities and occasions?”

In case you missed it, the key word is “multiple.”  In advertising this is frequently called “Frequency,” and is often overlooked by small- and medium-sized businesses.

Ad studies show that consumers need to be “touched” several times to integrate a message into their psyches.  One quarter-page ad run four times is more powerful than one full-page ad, because of frequency. This is not to denigrate full-page ads.  Size does matter, and one full-page ad run four times is more powerful than both a quarter-page ad run four times, or a full-page ad run one time.

This is not just a print formula. It’s an ad formula. For instance, one 30-second spot on radio is more likely to not only be heard, but remembered if it’s run multiple times either over a day, week, or month. It’s the reason you’ll sometimes hear one 30-second ad run twice in the same minute.  We know people hear without listening, listen without retaining, and only retain after a message breaks through to their brains after multiple repeats. As our mothers long suspected, things really do go in one ear and out the other. The goal of effective advertising is to get the message stuck in a brain before it exits out the other ear.

When considering an ad campaign, frequency can’t be discussed frequently enough. It’s what makes one message into multiple messages and multiplies the effectiveness of any ad campaign. Even famous Superbowl TV commercials don’t run once. They just get their debut at the Superbowl and then, if they don’t bomb with the public, are the start of a usually much longer campaign.

 The Walk-Away:  A step is not a walk. One ad is not a campaign. To get anywhere in advertising, make sure your ads aren’t just one step forward, but a true walk toward getting you the results you want.

Print Ads Used in Phenemy Positioning War

It started at the Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of 2013, then moved to a full page ad in major nationphone legsal papers, only to be countered in the same papers soon thereafter.  What is it?  The newest phone ad wars between AT&T and T-Mobile!

Newspapers love ad wars almost as much as oil companies like price wars, and divorce lawyers like contentious divorces.  But, besides bringing in unexpected ad revenue, there are lessons to be learned from these phenemy (phone enemy) ad campaigns and not all of them are positive.

Companies have two basic ways to get their side of the story out — PR and advertising.  Effective PRcan get company spokespeople on pundit talk shows and inches in commentary sections of newspapers. If done really well, it can get the company quoted in an actual news article. But there are never any guarantees with PR.  On the other, Advertising does guarantee placements. It’s why during strikes, elections, employee recognition periods, and even phone wars, you’ll see a proliferation of print ads, because nothing tells a story better or quicker than a full-page ad in print.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear the recent AT&T and T-mobile ad wars were effective. Here’s why.

  • The campaign was limited to national publications.
  • It was based on a conference speech that was also limited to industry insiders.
  • The company with the leadership position gave free press to the competitor.

Here’s what happened. The new CEO of T-mobile made a snide remark about AT&T. Few might have heard the comment or given it credence since AT&T has the leadership position. But, instead of letting the comment slide, AT&T came out fighting with limited national ads. Most people never saw the ads, but others started talking about it as it hit the trades. In essence, AT&T gave a broader voice to the initial T-mobile argument.

The AT&T ads could have worked if they had been more widespread, but the creative also gave unnecessary ink to T-mobile. The AT&T ads claimed T-mobile had two times the dropped calls, two times the failed calls, and 50% slower download speeds. This drew added attention to the ongoing complaint about AT&Ts own dropped calls rather than playing to its strengths.

As noted in the now classic marketing text “Positioning The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, “At almost every step of the way, the leading brand has the advantage.”  By responding to the T-mobile posturing, AT&T gave up some of that advantage and opened minds to the possibility that T-mobile may be right. Or, as T-mobile’s CMO Mike Sievert said to Advertising Age, “AT&T doth protest too much.”

broken legCheck out the AT&T and T-mobile ads and judge for yourself.  Then, take a step back and think how the full page ad space could have been used more effectively, because a full page is a terrible thing to waste.

The Walk-Away:  Advertising should never be done defensively or off your main message because instead of giving a campaign legs, it creates confusion.  It’s more like trying to run on a broken leg. All you get is more injured.

Advertising Extends Seasonal Sales Cycles

Being in a seasonal business can mean one of three things:

  1. Your business is seasonal catering to a defined seasonal market. Summer amusement parks fall into this category.
  2. Your business is located in a seasonal market, but isn’t generally considered seasonal. Grocery stores that cater to local residents, but see an increase in sales during tourism seasons share this category.
  3. Your industry is considered seasonal.  Many retail businesses fall into this segment, with high holiday and back-to-school selling seasons.

carlegsRegardless of your category, great marketing helps you either broaden your season length, or create additional seasons. For instance, some category 1 B&Bs previously known only as for summer destinations have successfully positioned themselves as off-season resorts in addition to their regular high season. By advertising these new selling propositions to both standard clientele and new customers looking for different or more cost-effective vacation experiences, these B&Bs have effectively created a second sales season that didn’t exist several years ago.

When in a category 3 business with a seasonal selling cycle, it’s important to stay abreast of ever-changing consumer trends to ensure that what has traditionally been your key selling season hasn’t changed the game. The auto industry is a great example of how consumer shopping patterns have shifted just within a two-year time period.

Take a look at the table below from the US Census, which tracks retail sales by category every year. In 2010, two years after the recession hit high gear, auto sales by auto dealers were highest in December as consumers waited for late year models to go on sale.

Percentage of Auto Sales by Auto Dealers in 2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
7.3%
7.2%
8.4%
8.3%
8.5%
8.4%
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
8.4%
8.5%
8.1%
8.3%
8.6%
10.2%

Sales in December were 2-3 points higher than any other time of the year with January and February being the off season. Traditional car advertising followed this pattern, tending to run heavier during the holiday seasons and staying low during the early winter months.

But, buying patterns have changed and if a car dealer today is still buying advertising based on the 2010 model, they would be missing a significant amount of  2012 buyers, who are far more consistent in buying cars throughout the year. Check out the buying patterns for 2012 below.

Percentage of Auto Sales by Auto Dealers in 2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
8.0%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
8.2%
8.4%
8.6%
8.4%
8.7%
8.8%

This new data set shows that consumers are actively buying cars all year long with December still being a key buying month, but no one group of months being significantly different from the others. What was once a semi-seasonal business has evened out.

What this means is advertisers not adjusting their media plans to attract consumers all year long are missing those consumers who are actively in the market at any point in time. The data is available from the government for most key industrial codes.

The Walk-away: Assumptions made about key selling times of the year can cause businesses to unnecessarily miss key selling opportunities. The recent past is not always a good indication of current or future buying trends.

SOURCE: Monthly Retail and Food Service Sales, 2012 Sales, census data, http://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/excel/mrtssales92-present.xls

Visibility and Traffic in Advertising

billboard_77386345What do business locations and advertising have in common? Both, if chosen and used carefully, bring the two elements of visibility and traffic to foster business growth. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) generally have an easier time understanding the importance of location and visibility in choosing real estate than they do with choosing advertising, but the principles are the same.

A business that can’t easily be found loses traffic – both planned and serendipitous. If a trip to a business is planned, and it’s too hard to find the location, a consumer can simply give up. And if the location is not easily seen from main roads, a business can lose impulse traffic from those just passing by.

The same holds true for business advertising regardless of medium. For instance, outdoor bulletins on unlit billboards can’t be seen at night and the extra fee for billboards with lighting is likely worth the expense in added visibility for evening hours particularly during winter months. On TV, ads positioned at 2AM or even 2PM have far less visibility than ads positioned during prime time or news hours. In newspapers, ads positioned on key editorial pages and designed large enough to dominate share of space gain much higher visibility than ads that are smaller and stacked with other ads. There are different ad positions for higher visibility and targeted to specific audience based on your advertising objectives.

The key to ad visibility is clarity and not making a consumer choose between viewing your ad or someone else’s. It’s the reason that half billboards (where two advertisers each take one half of a billboard) are never recommended. Motorists barely have time to read one ad while speeding by at 60 mph, much less two.

The Walk-away: One key to advertising success is to insure that ad placement gives you a great location for consumers to see you and that the ad is positioned  in such a way as to be clearly visible without fighting with other ads for consumer attention.

Six Types of Ads for Effective Marketing

group legs 45363100How do you know if an ad works? If your only answer is “by sales,” then you’re missing the point of most advertising and are likely shorting yourself on the full marketing power ads can bring to your marketing mix. Here are 6 of the more common categories of ads and how they might work for you:

1. Image Ads – Used to make your brand top of mind for key audiences. By definition, these tend to be larger-sized ads, beautiful, well-designed with little writing but a big message, because they are geared to create an “image.” They are generally done by large brands, but should not be ignored by smaller retailers and brands. If possible, co-op dollars can be used to help promote image ads locally.

2. Traffic Drivers – Also frequently considered loss leader ads. These are used to get customers into a store enticed by a great bargain. The upselling and real potential sales come after the customer is at your site. Inserts and sales circulars are generally traffic driver ads.

3. Impulse Sales – Used to create demand for a product that may be unknown to a consumer. It’s a type of traffic driver, but unlike the loss leader can be for a high-end item such as the iPad mini or Google Nexus tablet during the holiday season. A key point of an impulse sale ad is “limited time” or “limited inventory.”  Mobile ads are generally impulse sale ads, but print and online display ads can create impulse as well.

4. Foundational Positioning Ads – These are used to differentiate you from the competition and introduce you to new customers. Grand Opening ads if done well can be positioning ads, creating a foundation for letting the consumer know who you are and why you are worth a try. These types of ads can and should be run in some periodic schedule so your value proposition is clear at all times. Portions of a foundational ad can be included in other ads, and frequently summarized are seen as tag lines, but a true foundational ad tends to be larger and provide proof of performance or positioning.

5. Good Neighbor Ads – In a sense, they are a type of foundational ad, but with a very specific purpose of proving your involvement and commitment to the community. They are distinctly separate from sales and can be sponsorship ads of charitable organizations, or “hats off” ads to local service providers. They only ring true if done outside of any disaster PR efforts. For instance, BP ads for the Gulf Coast are not Good Neighbor Ads. They are mia culpa ads used to regain some lost reputation. Good Neighbor ads are truly philanthropic and in line with a company’s mission or local commitment to a cause. They create affinity for like-minded consumers, but have no sales initiative.

6. Employee Motivational Ads – Many company’s say employees are their greatest asset, and way too few take out ads to let the world know how much they value their employees. These can include service award ads, welcome our new employee ads, honor our high service level employee ads. It’s hard to measure the goodwill they create, but they are usually framed and pinned to employee’s walls to show how much the external publicity is valued internally.

All ads, by definition, are Engagement Ads . They should make people want to be affiliated or involved with your brand, product or service to some degree or another. But, they are not all geared toward an instant or short-term sales.

The Walk-away: Ultimately every business needs sales to stay in business, but different ads serve different purposes. Each is a worthwhile investment if you are clear on your goals and are measuring results accordingly.

Put Benefits in Your Ad Headlines

Advertisers and marketers frequently make one huge blunder. They forget about benefits. They get so focused on WHAT they have to sell, they forget to tell consumers WHY they should buy. The Why’s can take many forms:

  • Why buy from you
  • Why the product/service will make life easier for them
  • Why now
  • Why something is different

In advertising, you don’t have to answer all “why’s” at one time. In fact, you shouldn’t. But, as a rule of thumb, every ad should address at least one “why” prominently somewhere in the ad, preferably the headline or in the lead.

This was highlighted recently in Scarborough research pulled for a local auto dealer. The data showed that the primary reasons consumers from Atlantic and Cape May counties bought a car from a dealer within the last year had less to do with model selections and price and more to do with service, warranty and a dealer’s reputation. For those who actually purchased cars within the last 12 months of the research, service indexed 265 while price/value indexed 100 and model selection surprisingly indexed 85. With 100 as the baseline, this means, that an adult in the market for new cars is 165% more likely to buy based on service and 15% less likely to buy based on model. Although price is a consideration, it doesn’t rate higher than a dealer’s reputation or concerns about  service and the warranty. Local consumers want cars that won’t cost them a fortune after they’ve driven off the lot!

Knowing this information, now take a look at most auto ads in newspapers and other media outlets. Almost every ad hypes make, model and price. This works for national manufacturer ads as the big three want to entice you to look at their latest models, none of which they sell directly to consumers. But, if you’re a dealer, the data shows that your local ads should promote your service record, warranties and reputation. Sadly, there are few examples of these to show.

The Walk-away: If you can’t answer at least one “why” question in your ad copy, it’s time to ask yourself a different question: “Why are you spending your money on advertising?” If it’s to gain customers, then at least address the question why someone should buy from you versus a competitor. Pick a  “why” question and  address it in your ad copy! Make sure your ad answers that question clearly and prominently so the right customers drive to your door.

Market Research: More Lessons from Political Campaigns

Presidential elections always bring out the big guns in terms of pundits, pollsters and politicos. As always, there are many things to be learned for business marketing from political marketing – both good and bad. Here are some take-aways on market research.

Pundits are wrong 50% of the time. Opinions matter, which is why opinion leaders and early adopters are so important in marketing plans. But the opinions that matter are those who either vote or can influence a voter. People pay attention to pundits because of their perceived ability to influence, but the truth is New York Times blogger Nate Silver has conclusively proven that pundits are wrong 50% of the time. His new book, The Signal and the Noise, finds that pundit predictions are as consistent as a coin toss. In your business, who are the real opinion leaders that can drive traffic to you? It’s more likely a PTA president than a political leader.

Pollsters also get it wrong. Pollsters are the market research arm of many campaigns, so how come with modern models and algorithms they also don’t always get it right? According to Sarah Dutton, Deputy Director of Surveys for CBS news, most polls are “snap shots in time” rather than predictions. See her explanation in this video from CBS Sunday Morning.

For businesses, the moral is to be careful of research results. If the questions aren’t right, the answers won’t give you what you need for future planning. Here’s a case in point. Years ago, when asked if they needed a fax machine, most businesses said “no.” Within 1-5 years of that survey, fax machines were critical to day-to-day business. The reason for the missed predictions was that the people asked had no experience of fax machines to know they even desired one. Today, the question is moot.

Numbers guys get trendy. Aggregators such as Nate Silver tend to get closer to the truth because they combine all the polls and crunch the numbers to figure out actual odds. There’s a reason bookies make money. They understand odds. It’s the reason aggregators also do well. They can compile the wisdom of everyone else and figure out trends and patterns. For businesses, the lesson is to differentiate between one snap shot of feedback from an emerging trend. It’s the trends that will tell you your odds of success or failure.

The Walk-away: In a place like Atlantic City that runs on odds and gambling stakes, it’s interesting to know that a semi-pro poker player and baseball statistician aficionado, Nate Silver, has a current better track record in predicting elections than pundits. It shows that numbers matter, and whether you’re counting cards, runs batted in, electoral votes, or foot traffic – you need to be working with a full deck to understand your odds for interpreting outcomes in business as well as politics and poker.

Credible Ads are Placed in Trusted Media Sources

When it comes to consumer trust, traditional media still rules the day. A digital report released this summer by Triton Digital, shows that newspapers, radio and TV each outweigh internet-only news sources in terms of trust. Reported in e-Marketer under the title “Traditional Media Still Most Trusted Sources of Info,” the article concludes … “with time and attention –and trust—still focused on traditional media, TV, radio and print are not to be neglected.”  Both Triton Digital and eMarketer are services dedicated to digital growth trends, giving the report significance as one of those “eating crow” times when digital gurus formally admit the power of print and broadcast.

In this increasingly digital world, people have frequently confused news with news delivery trends. Findings from a January Pew Research study note: “People are no longer taking one path to access news.” Consumer appetites for news today are extremely healthy, but instead of reading three newspapers as their grandfathers did, today’s consumers gather news from three or more platforms frequently including print, desktops, and mobile devices as sources for their daily news consumption.

The Pew survey also reported in e-Marketer found: “ that when seeking news, the highest percentage of consumers went directly to a news organization’s website or app, which suggests that pre-existing relationships are what drive readers to particular news outlets.” The reason boils down to trust.

A new business book,The Trust Edge,by David Horsager delves into the elements needed for businesses of any type to gain consumer trust.  Not surprisingly, he finds that  trust is not built overnight. Hence, it should be  no surprise in the higher level of consumer trust  in more established news sources who have honed their reporting skills over time.

How does this affect advertising? By affiliation, an advertiser associated with a credible media source has higher perceived “trust” value with consumers. Is it any surprise then that Google just reported it’s average cost per click has fallen by 15% compared with the same time last year?

The Walk-away: All that glitters is not gold. New devices are engaging for games and email, and also give consumers greater access to news. But when news and information is wanted over Angry Birds, consumers use those devices to find credible, trusted news sources. These landing pages are the places you should consider for ad placements, so you, too, can be found by consumers actively seeking credible resources.

Media Planning Requires Data over Ego

Here are three key tips for creating an effective media plan that gets your ad message out to potential customers:

  1. Never assume you are the customer.
  2. Don’t buy media to reach customers for your company based on your own habits.
  3. Don’t buy media based on your family’s media habits, particularly your mother’s.

The first two tips were recently re-emphasized in a study presented by the Media Behavior Institute  (MBI) during Advertising Week. As reported in Media Daily News, it found that “media pros are much more likely to be heavy users of digital media – particularly mobile and social – and are much less likely to use traditional media such as TV and radio than average customers.”

Since media pros are frequently those making media buy recommendations to business owners, it’s important to always look at data when evaluating a media plan. Can you define your core demographic and geographic reach? Is the media buy based on reach numbers targeted to your potential customers where they live and work?

Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are more likely to shoot from the hip and buy media that is either inexpensive or matches their own viewing habits. It’s the key reason behind so many car dealers pitching themselves and their families on late night local TV.  It’s an ego buy, not necessarily an effective buy — hence tip 3. Just because your mother saw you, doesn’t mean a potential customer did, nor was necessarily motivated to buy.

When buying media keep in mind this quote from MBI’s executive director of marketing Mike Bloxham:

“We all view the world from our own eyes. If we find as a community that we are markedly different from the communities that we are trying to communicate with and engage for our brand clients, that is a real challenge.”

The only antidote is data. Ask for it from any media or ad agency representative and then make your media buy accordingly. The key is objectivity. Keep your ego and mother out of it and you’ll increase your chances for an effective decision.

The Walk-away:  As your mother used to say – Never judge another person until you’ve walked in his or her shoes. Advertising is the same. Write an ad from the customer’s point of view and place it based on the customer’s media habits not your own.

Ad Lessons from Political Campaigns – Part 2

‘Tis still the season of political advertising and now that both major party conventions are over, the real advertising begins. If you ever think the age of big media advertising is over, just check on political campaigns. Yes, modern campaigns now effectively use social media, BUT (and it’s a big BUT) in addition to mainstream media, not in replacement of it. Why?

Candidates Need to Be Credible.

Just because a candidate says he’s the greatest doesn’t cut it. People can too easily ignore that message

The key is gaining credibility in endorsements. It’s the reason candidates value them so highly. People like to know what others are thinking and endorsement lets them jump on a trusted bandwagon. Consider your business as a candidate for consumer trust and dollars. To gain their trust, or vote, you need to be credible.

How can you gain credibility? Do what the candidates do. Get interviewed, get written about, get quoted.

How to apply it: Read the business and other sections of your newspaper and look for opportunities to pitch yourself to the appropriate editor. If there’s a new business section, send the business editor a press release on your new opening. If there’s an ongoing feature on wellness, and your business is in fitness, let the editor know what your area of expertise is and how you can offer information that may be of use in a story.

Not sure how to get started? Contact a local PR pro. If you’re comfortable doing your own PR, just make sure you’re pitching the right people about your story or area of expertise. Here’s one way to electronically pitch a story to The Press. But the best way is to get a name and contact them directly.

THEN:  If you’re printed, promote your coverage. Put a quote in an ad; frame the article and hang it up in your business; tweet about it on Twitter, or post a link to the story in Facebook. You can now promote  your increased credibility just as the candidates do!

The Walk-away: People are more receptive to advertising messages from credible sources. Use third-party mentions  by a credible source as proof that you’ve got “great legs, and soon the rest of the community will be checking out your “legs” (ahem, ad claims) as well.