Is your ad really sealing the deal, or is it just bring you leads and potential customers? As we were lost on the roads of Ireland, I couldn’t help but get a picture of what may be one of the best advertisements I’ve ever seen:
Are you thirsty yet? Obviously, this pub owner doesn’t want there to be any doubt as to the products and services he is offering. I don’t know a thing about this bar – its name, what town we were driving through – but I do know that its a place you can go to get a cold Heineken. I can’t even say I stopped in for a beer, but I do have a medical/dietary excuse that makes me immune to all forms of wheat and gluten-based advertising. I do kind of want a shot of rum though, now that I’m looking at it for a while…
But before I get too far off topic! This post is about the effect of your advertising. There are several approaches of advertising intent, and I’m going to smash them all and head straight for the sale.
The lowest form of advertising – in my humble opinion – is advertising designed to raise brand awareness or improve a brand’s popularity. Now give me a second, I know that branding is a popular social marketing meme and I have to be very specific before I’m accused of heresy.
Its all well and good that your organization plants trees in the rainforest or donates to education charities, but the fact that you’re promoting this instead of selling your product is a sign of a pre-existing problem. If the product is solid, something else has gone awry. Maybe you miscalculated the real costs of how it is produced and you’ve got a bad environmental reputation, or maybe you got caught up in some other scandal. Otherwise, a good product and happy customers is what brings the brand recognition. In the meantime, Monsanto and Goldman Sachs will continue to rely on the services of reputation managers.
The next best type of advertising generates interest in a product. These are the “mysterious” ads. Maybe a few glancing shots of a sporty new car or a spooky trailer encouraging viewers to seek further information elsewhere. These commercials get people asking questions, a few even go viral – but even this kind of buzz isn’t the “best” advertising or even the best brand of reputation management.
The best ads – without a doubt – are the ads that make a sale. As soon as the target audience sees the ad, they realize the product for sale is something they absolutely have to have ASAP. There are no special tricks, you just have to know your audience and provide the product they want to buy – and you have to make your offer to part with it generous and clear. And for all the talk of viral buzz and brand promotion, nothing is going to deliver the kind of loyal advocates that make this happen but having happy customers. Potential customers and even interested leads aren’t the people who give rave reviews everywhere they go and recommending your business to their friends and associates. Happy customers – return customers – these are the ones who will do your marketing and help to maintain your brand’s reputation. As long as you’re providing the product that they want, all you really have to do is make them aware of the product’s existance (and of course, the price needs to be right!)
If you’re selling a service or a free product (like blogs and other online services), the story is the same. If you’ve got the best blog or the best forum, you just need to spread awareness of the product. Any attempt to inflate the “brand’s reputation” can not go far from the core service being provided. Deliver what the customers want without externalizing your production costs, and you won’t have to worry about the popularity game: you’ll have already won.
I suppose then, this means I hold television infomercials in high regard. There is something to be said about how random one or two minute sales-pitches manage to push products we never knew we needed. Somehow though, the advertisers continue to make money selling these trinkets and odd tools and music collections at all hours of the night. Yet these days, the ads themselves can’t protect you from the reputation fall-out that accompanies a shoddy product. Even on the ultimate impulse purchase, home-shoppers can easily Google product reviews at the same time they dial the sales line. As long as your product is everything you claimed it is, you won’t have to worry too much about how your customers represent the brand.
But remember – before any of that can happen – people have to know your product exists, and they have to have a desire to buy it. Before that, everything else is an exercise in distraction.