In the army, I was an unwilling soldier. The highlight of my career was when, in supply school, we were inspected by a general who specifically told me to get my hair cut. (It was the ’60s, for God’s sake. Didn’t he realize my hair was a statement?) But what can you expect of an organization that thought it made sense to have people paint coal white when preparing for important visitors? I guess I was a rebel, but it seemed to me the Army had its priorities all wrong.
Advertising agencies often get their priorities wrong, as well. Consider, for example, the six elements that determine the success of a campaign. These are in order of their importance to success.
Before a company invests time, energy and money in developing new products, altering existing products, or repositioning a product line or brand, they should strive to make sure their loyal audience and potential new purchasers want or need the product or changes. Remember “New Coke”? This 1980’s marketing debacle arose because the corporation was so intent on out-Pepsi-ing Pepsi® that they never thought to ask if Coke® drinkers actually wanted their preferred beverage to taste like Pepsi. The resulting uproar was brand-damaging and a PR nightmare. Always consider the consumer/audience FIRST.
- Product and Positioning
A new product idea, product change, or repositioning will have more effect on marketing success than anything else you do. Introducing a deluxe model that sells for more but doesn’t cost much more is a good idea. That’s why “new” or “improved” are key success words for advertising headlines. As you meet with your clients, keep this very important fact in mind. Customers, whether they are retail consumers or some level of business-to-business buyer, are almost always interested in looking at something new and improved.
Many agencies simply prefer their own visceral feelings about a product or a campaign rather than going to the expense of testing. This is absolutely incorrect. Proper testing of a new product or a new advertising campaign may literally save the day for the client and the agency. One of my clients increased the response level of a direct mail campaign we did for him by 30% in a market that many considered saturated, by changing the length, application form and look of a direct mail pack. Always test before roll-out. You will be smarter for it.
Even the most persuasive communication on earth cannot work if sent to the wrong people. Find out who the prospects are and market as directly to them as possible.
- The Offer
The right offer has a dramatic effect on the impact of a campaign, far more than creative. After all, prospects are usually more interested in what they get than in what you say. If you are not including an offer in each and every advertisement, direct mail piece, radio ad, television ad, or for that matter, anything your agency produces for a client, you are not in touch with today’s economic realities.
Ad agencies, marketers, clients, and advertising trade publications all love to dawdle on creative because any fool can have views on one word versus another, one photograph versus another, one envelope color or another. Creative is important, granted. The marketplace is very busy today, filled with all sorts of “buy me, try me” ads, etc. But enough is enough. I would like to have a dollar for every “aesthetic” correction I’ve seen written on proofs. I would retire tomorrow. If my clients had written their corrections before proof stages, they too would be much richer. In fact, I believe many agencies AND clients concentrate their efforts on exactly the wrong areas. Execution is less critical than the IDEA. Look closely at where your people spend their time. You will probably learn a lot and make much more money.