Four concepts that can make a big difference in your advertising

newspaper-clutterMost every time I listen to a radio spot in my car,  see a TV spot on cable or fan through the pages of a magazine (trade or consumer),  I find myself wincing.  Ad after ad tells the same sad story: money spent leading to no results.  In fact, I’d venture to say that better than 85% – 90% of the ads lay the same leaden egg.  Oh, the humanity!

If you’re questioning whether your advertising is doing what you paid it to do, odds are it’s not.  And although there are master classes you might take in advertising creativity, marketing strategy and media planning, it’s very likely the problem falls within four main areas.  Checking off each point, you can estimate your ad’s effectiveness even before you place it.  I mean it.

Here then are the four fundamental concepts that can make a meaningful difference in how successful your next advertising effort is.

1) Have a something compelling to say.  And by that, I mean not just compelling to you and your staff, but to a completely disinterested audience.  If you’ve followed my posts for any length of time, you know that I frequently observe that people don’t like advertising, and completely ignore the boring or hard-to-figure-out kind.  So whatever you have to say must go the distance to alter their indifference.  Don’t just tell your audience you’re “a leader in the industry” or that you’ve been around for three generations. They’ve heard that so many times before from you and your competitors that it means nothing to them.  Instead tell them something they don’t know, something that might even surprise them.  You can tell when someone’s ad is truly compelling when you think, “Gee, I didn’t know that!”  We sometimes call that a “sticky” message, one that has staying power after the reader has turned the page or flipped the channel.

2)  Sell, don’t just tell.  One of the most egregious mistakes advertisers make is simply laying out all the features of their product or service and expect the audience to figure out why that’s important to them.  Often that’s done in the form of five or seven bullet points, such as:

  • 85 years of experience
  • XXXXX number of customers
  • Available day or night
  • Proven technology
  • Best warranty available
  • Multi-lingual staff

or in Business-to-Business ads (snatched from the pages of a recent trade pub):

  • Proven Products
  • Superior Service
  • Implementation
  • Dedicated Staff
  • Customizable by end-user

Yikes! There’s no emotion in that.  There’s no selling.  There’s no story or connection.  Instead of praying that maybe one or two bullets might hit home with some member of the audience – or worse, trying to be all things to all people – why not focus on one point at a time and spell out why that point really matters.  People don’t buy bullets.  They don’t buy features.  But they do buy benefits and ideas that add value to their lives.  Always be thinking, from their point of view, “what’s in it for me?

3)   Be your own brand and not a clone of others.  All too often, within any given industry, I see ads in which the logos and contact information are interchangeable, one company’s with another’s. None stand out, all look alike, and thus all the players are perceived as a commodity. Here’s a question for you: If your logo was blocked out of your ad or commercial, would the audience still know it’s yours?  Take, for instance, Jack-In-The-Box. Their commercials are radically different from McDonalds’. BMW’s ads are unmistakably theirs and not Mercedes’.  It’s a matter of message but also a matter of style,  personality and consistency.  The more striking and distinctive your ads are, the stronger competitive impact they’ll make, while your competitions’ ads could be just anybody’s.  Dare to be Different!

4)  Tell the same story across all your platforms.  With all the buzz about Social Media, it strikes me as odd that most business Facebook pages and outbound Tweets have little in common with their owners’ main marketing messages.  In part that’s because the marketing messages themselves aren’t that well-defined.  But it’s also because the marketers don’t appreciate the importance of speaking with the same voice at any touchpoint.  Good marketing is a collective enterprise and an erosive processes.  For instance, if your main story is about how your company has been around for over 100 years, use your Facebook pages to talk about the early days of your firm, the companies you’ve served, etc.  Make sure your phone hold-message tells the same story.  Make sure you hold special events or promotions that support the theme. If you don’t keep hammering away at the same selling proposition at every touchpoint, then each effort conflicts with every other.

While hardly a full compendium of marketing knowledge, if you make the effort to assure your advertising and marketing is consistent with these four points, you’ll be far out in front of 85% of your competition. And that’s the goal, to create ads your customers will react to and that your competition will hate.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

This entry was posted in Advertising, Branding, Creativity, Direct Response, Marketing, New Business, Online Marketing, Sales & Marketing, Social Media, Strategic Planning, Strategy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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