What Al Gore would say about marketing in your industry

The former vice president achieved some level of Hollywood stardom a few years back for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”  As narrator, Mr. Gore spoke about the harm we are doing to the environment – the inconvenient truths we would just as soon ignore, but at our peril.

There are some inconvenient truths as well about marketing, facts and realities we would prefer were not the case, but we continue to go on marketing as if they weren’t so. Let’s be honest, every marketer would love to think that their adoring public is anxiously awaiting each next word from the company, ready to gulp it down like a house pet awaiting its supper.

Like the song says, “It ain’t necessarily so!”

So here’s Inconvenient Truth #1:  “Good” numbers aren’t always good numbers.  While media plans are always based on the number of eyeballs delivered, not everything can be measured on a spreadsheet.  For example, given a dollar amount, you can reach ten thousand people between midnight and 6 am on local cable.  Or with four times that amount, you can reach a thousand people between 6 am and 10 am.  Numbers alone would dictate the former choice.  But if you consider that your overnight spots are running alongside ads for weight-loss pills, video retrospectives of Liberace, sex-enhancement products, and the two-for-one mattress special at Benny’s Bedding, all targeting people who can’t sleep at night, the context isn’t that appealing.  Also, too much exposure (thanks to cheap media) can kill an ad, just like having your favorite uncle overstay his welcome. Media buying is both a science and an art.  It’s just not as simple as 1+1=2.  Having the right media selection leveraged with strategic messaging and surprising creative, the math can be 1+1=5.

Inconvenient Truth #2: More companies save themselves into bankruptcy than spend themselves there.  The way to assure your remaining invisible to your public is to market at a level that is below the general noise level.  If you want to compete for attention and win at marketing, you have to commit to being in the game. Yes, appearing on page two in the paper with a half page ad costs money, and so does a cable schedule on premium channels at prime time.  But as Woody Allen wisely observed, 80% of success is just “showing up.”  You don’t show up with a fractional space ad hiding in the corner of the page.  And you don’t show up with free creative from the cable company or an inexpensive catalog ad that people expect and thus ignore.  Marketing is a self-fulfilling prophesy: if you believe in it , and spend to win, it will work.  And the opposite is true as well.

Inconvenient Truth #3:  Results are not an overnight occurrence.  In marketing, it’s a process of erosion.  One has to continually chip away at the indifference, the avoidance, the skepticism and the cynicism.   It may take a year or longer before results take hold.  Familiar brands like Apple, Wells Fargo Bank, New Balance athletic shoes, HoneyBaked Ham and Western Bagel did not start out as overnight sensations; why should your business be any different?  These hugely successful companies got that way because they consistently invested in their marketing.  No “start-stop-start-stop” approach but one of showing up unceasingly. It starts with the understanding that marketing is indeed an investment and not an expense.  Plus it requires this additional essential ingredient: patience.

So let’s be real, let’s be honest, and let’s accept these inconvenient truths as a wake-up call to create significant change for your business.   There’s nothing more convenient than new customers buying your products and company revenues rising.

(c) 2012 LA ads – A Marketing Agency

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