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.

Real Estate Study Shows What Advertising Works

In real estate advertising, a recent study shows that print and digital ads are a powerful combination. Seeking to determine effects of both print and digital advertising on effectively selling a home, the study found:

Homes for sale that are advertised in both print and online are 20% more likely to be sold than those that use just one medium.

Furthermore, the study showed that “properties that used a combination of both print and online advertising had lower discount levels and spent less time on the market.” The study, considered the first of its kind,  was conducted by News Limited, the majority owner owelcome matf Australia’s website realestate.com.au,  to determine what marketing worked in moving more than a half million properties within a 12 month period.

Previously, realtors swapped information on what they thought worked or didn’t in advertising campaigns, but the field was sorely lacking in valid statistical data. The industry in the U.S. is great at tracking metrics on homes for sale, homes listed, and prices achieved, but has a lack of information on what fosters the sale. The Australian study starts to shed light on advertising effectiveness that can be insightful not only for American realtors, but other small to medium-sized retail operations in the U.S, namely:

  • Inventory that sells fast tends to not to have to be discounted.
  • Using a combination of print and digital advertising increases exposure for items you have to sell.
  • The added exposure can increase your advertising return by up to 20%.

The Walk-away: When creating your media plan to sell inventory, don’t just think of one medium. Print and digital are a strong combination. Because of their strong local reach, the print/digital combo should be the foundation of any local advertising program, with other medium added for effect.

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.

Why Market Research Can Be Misleading

If it’s true that “Numbers don’t lie,” how come so much data is misinterpreted? According to Nate Silver, now popular political data blogger and tracker for the New York Times, numbers can be misleading when analysts don’t have the historical context for interpreting them. For instance, in retrospect, Silver in his book The Signal and The Noise, notes that although data existed to strongly suggest the 9-11 attack on The World Trade Center, humans did not have the experience to correctly interpret the signals. Silver writes, “the 9/11 Commission deduced, the most important source of failure in advance of the attacks was our lack of imagination.” In other words, we could not imagine or conceive of such a horrendous attack, so no matter what the data indicated, the intelligence community could not see it.

In business, false interpretations of data are not as critical as with the intelligence community, but ignoring trends and/or the failure to imagine possibilities can lead to businesses going out of business long before their times. It’s why market research is important in making business decisions from next year’s color trends for fashion houses to the copy and graphics choices in an ad. If we always produce the same ads, or always stock the same inventory as the year before, our business will appear stale to our consumers, and we will ultimately fail to be positioned correctly in the near or longer-term future.

How can you get data? Trade associations are always a key source as are consumer surveys you do on your own. The value of the former is that the data is usually analyzed by a credible industry executive. The danger in the latter is bias or misinterpretation.

One of the best customer surveys is done by GoDaddy, the url management and web hosting service. After every service call a simple questionnaire is sent to each customer with just two short questions. Was your question or issue answered to your satisfaction? Would you recommend our service to others? Each question has a ranking from 1-5, with 5 being strongly agree.The simplicity of the questions allows for little misinterpretation of the data and doesn’t allow GoDaddy to determine new products or services, but does allow them an ongoing benchmark of their customer service. It highlights how highly GoDaddy considers it’s customer service as key differentiating factor, and gives clues to effective market research.

  • Only ask questions that supply meaningful answers – those you know you can interpret and use the data to change behavior. In Go Daddy’s case they can use the scores to easily understand which CSRs are worth promoting, or weeding out.
  • Don’t ask too many questions, or consumers will jump ship. No one has enough time to take more than a few seconds to answer questions.
  • Don’t ask questions if you won’t do anything with the data. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. When framing a question, ask yourself, “what will I do with this information once I know it?” If the answer is “nothing,” abandon the question.

The Walk-away: When it comes to using data for determining advertising decisions, don’t go it alone. Ad effectiveness depends on many factors including but not limited to resulting sales. The questions, research methodology, and analysis are best left to experts.

The Public Relations Value in Disaster Recovery

This past Sunday, the ACHLA sponsored a walk to highlight the vibrancy of the Atlantic City boardwalk post Sandy. News coverage around the nation left the impression that the boardwalk had been decimated. Nothing could be farther from the truth either in AC or OC – Ocean City. Both boardwalks are open for business. But, as Al Reis and Jack Trout noted in their now classic book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, once an idea takes hold it’s hard to unlodge.

That’s where the walk came in. It wasn’t to raise money. It was to raise awareness. If people stay away from Atlantic City and other boardwalk communities, the monetary damage from Sandy can be unnecessarily greater. Sandy was an Act of God. Bad PR is an Act of Mankind. Both require a concerted effort for real disaster recovery.

News coverage claims close to 600 people attended the Sunday walk. I was one of them. I can’t substantiate the number, but I can substantiate the energy on the boardwalk and the fact that almost everywhere you looked, the boardwalk was clean, undamaged, and open for business.

So when public perception is wrong, how do you go about changing it? The answer is an integrated, strong campaign. Advertising alone isn’t enough. But advertising combined with PR and a full marketing toolkit can be a powerful agent for change. PR takes spokespeople to talk to news organizations outside the area, press releases and targeted articles to travel publications and sites, and a full court press of social media and traditional media options.

And what about the Do AC ad campaign? It’s being run by some very smart people,who have already revamped to account for Sandy positioning. Their latest headline? “Nothing Can Hold Back The City Where Anything is Possible.” Why? Because, just promoting DoAC won’t work post-Sandy as no one wants to get away to someplace devastated in their minds. The key is to show, prove and entice people to see AC as it really is – and perhaps as a social responsibility for rebuilding NJ.

There’s a model out there already. It’s called Bourbon Street post Katrina. The Gulf Coast made sure to let people know it was open for business and that by visiting you were helping to rebuild New Orleans. It was almost a public duty to visit New Orleans in 2005. Emotion is a key factor in PR and advertising. Don’t be afraid to use it.

What can you do as a small business at the Jersey Shore? Use your email list to let customers know you’re open for business. Aggressively use your web site to foster sales. Post on all your social media sites with pictures to show ongoing vibrancy of your business. Entice people to help support the commercial growth of The Shore. Advertise to show you’re here to stay. Use emotion. Don’t be afraid to say Jersey Strong, or Rebuilding the Shore in your ads. It’s what people want to see happen. Show you’re a part of the fiber that makes the Jersey Shore a national treasure.

The Walk-away: Disaster happens. Don’t let it be the end of you. Stake your flag (or foot) in the sand and use advertising, PR, email, social media and every message channel open to you to encourage customers to come back sooner rather than later. Be Jersey Strong. As an aside, if your business is  a collection drop for any charity, please make sure the public knows by emailing an alert to PressitForward@PressofAc.com,  the new listing service also started on Sunday called PressItForward.

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.

Why Great Advertising Can Be Grammatically Incorrect

“Advertising is the spoken word in print.”

This is one of 52 small ideas that make a big impact from “The Little Blue Book of Advertising.”

What it means is: Grammar is best reserved for college essays, and may not have a place in effective advertising. Don’t agree? Take a moment to try and …

Think Different.

Remember that effective tag line from the 1997 Apple campaign? If not, here’s the TV spot that is still studied today as a classic. It still serves to position Apple as the product for alternative thinkers. By all accounts it worked as effective advertising. And, it’s grammatically incorrect. To get an A on an English exam, the copywriter would have written it “think differently,” and it would not have resonated or had the ad impact it did.

Advertising is fundamentally meant to “speak to” an intended audience, which is why the spoken tone is considered more effective than the grammatically correct written word.

If you’re proofing an ad for either yourself or someone else, here’s a tip:

Don’t read it quietly.

Read.

It.

Aloud.

Does the ad sound right? This tip holds for print ads as much as for radio spots. In print, readers read the ad in their own voices in their heads. Make sure the ad sounds right and it will have a better chance of resonating with your intended customers. And, if need be, keep it grammatically incorrect.

The Walk-away: Even in print, ads are meant to be ‘spoken’. If your ad doesn’t resonate in a genuine voice in a reader’s head they will discount your message as disingenuous. People like to do business with people who either “sound” like them, sound as they aspire to be.

 

Post originally appeared on AdsWithLegs blog created for The Press of Atlantic City, October 2012.

Update Your Ads to Resonate with Today’s Consumers

Times have changed. Has your advertising?

If your ad message, look and feel is the same as it was 5 or even 10 years ago, it’s time you got a makeover. Ads are like fashion. They need to stay up with the times, and yes – times have changed.

In colleges around the country, students of advertising are learning that they can study the culture of various times by looking at ads. That’s because ads need to be current with lifestyles in order to resonate with consumers.

Magazine ads during World War II depict patriotic themes from women working in factories to men fighting in the fields, whereas ads from the Cold War era show a very different slice of life – women in aprons happily baking and tending to the home and men suited up for the office. These images were product agnostic and seen in promotions for everything from motor oil to fashion.

Hindsight is 20-20 and it’s easy to see now why neither type of ad imagery would work in today’s world. Not as obvious, but equally important, is the fact that ads from the early start of the Millenium also won’t work in this decade. Ten years is a new generation and requires a new generation of ads.

What ad messaging and imagery will work today? Look critically at ads that resonate with you as a consumer and consider how you might incorporate those elements in your own ads. Consider the audience you want to reach and what their current concerns may be. Although ads have changed from decade to decade, ad goals have not. Your goal is always to provide images and copy that motivate your potential target audience to take action and feel that they are getting their needs met with your products and services. Some times those needs are subliminal such as the need for security, coolness, and rarely are about price, even during a recession.

Take a new look at your ad copy. Does it speak to today’s consumer’s issues or desires? If not, you have a strong clue why your ads may not be working as they did in the past. It’s time for your long overdue makeover and to get your ads into present times.

The Walk-away: If you want your business to be relevant and resonate with today’s consumers, don’t date yourself with ad copy and graphics from 5-10 years ago. Give your ads updated legs that can walk the talk of the times.