by Rolf Gutknecht, Agent of Change (c) 2012
I had a phone conversation with a prospective new client (I’ll name her Amelia) last week and during our talk, I mentioned having seen a cable TV ad that her company had run recently and was wondering if it had produced growth in sales inquiries or better yet, generated more sales. Her response is something that I’ve heard more times than “Doan’s has pills.”
Amelia reported less-than-stellar performance, which didn’t really surprise me. But she fingered the blame on the media type…and not the marketing process or the message. The spot was flat-out boring and crammed with too many feature points. The message itself had no spark; the ad employed uninspiring, overused stock images that everyone has seen on other companies’ commercials; and while it had a lot of words attached to it, it said nothing. I know you know the kind of ad. You see them every day in trade publications, direct mail, online and yes, even on TV.
When I politely asked her if maybe it wasn’t the media but the message, my suggestion was immediately dismissed as “no, no. that’s not it. Cable just doesn’t work.” In this case it was TV but I’ve heard it for most every B2B and B2C media type there is. So I quoted to her legendary adman Bill Bernbach’s “golden rule”: “The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”
Now before I move on, please take another 15 seconds and read the above quote again and let it wash over you…it’s that important.
You see, what this timeless observation says applies to everything a marketing executive does in communicating a brand’s promise or a product’s sales message, and then needs to shine through like a huge Klieg light within your ads, your sales support material, your promotional initiatives, your tradeshow booth, your collateral and your website.
Taking the uninspired or predictable way out leads to self-inflicted mediocrity which we all know is like a communicable disease. It starts with a so-so idea and coupled with a lack of interestingness and imagination, it infects every aspect of your marketing to the point that regardless of how and where you present the message, your current and prospective customers will not give it two seconds of thought as it passes by, only to become part of the background noise and clutter.
I’m not sure about you but one of the main reasons I decided that advertising and marketing was what I wanted to pursue as a profession was because I loved coming up with marketing ideas that would make people sit up and take notice in a sea of indifference.
If you want your marketing to actually change the trajectory of sales, if you want yourself to be seen as an idea person rather than a “fulfiller” of marketing stuff, then the status quo is not an option. You need to create new truths for your company that people believe in because you say things “imaginatively, originally, freshly.” To do otherwise, especially in today’s economy, is unacceptable.