Thursday, April 26, 2007

Advertising Puffery...

"When you go on a date, you dress up and say nice lies so the other person likes you."
– anonymous 8-year-old boy (paraphrase)

In advertising, we’d call that Puffery. Puffery is exaggerating your selling claims to make your product or service look it’s best. For example saying "World’s Best Apples."

The FTC defines Puffery as "exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined." And the FTC says it’s acceptable and expected marketing behavior.

Calling your product safest or cheapest is not puffery. You have to substantiate those kinds of claims. But saying your product is "greatest," "best" or "tastiest" is all a matter of opinion. That is acceptable as "Puffery."

But just because Puffery is legal, doesn’t mean it’s effective.

Unlike in dating, most consumers are not easily lulled into believing every claim. In fact, a classic study showed that realistic product claims are more effective than extreme puffery (Journal of Marketing Research, 1987).

Sorry, I can’t cite any scholarly research about dating claims!

So, although, polishing your apples before putting them on display can be a good idea, you might want to stop short of claiming they’re the world’s best. It may be legit, but you might sell more if you call them "sweet and juicy" or "tart and crunchy".

Sometimes honesty is the best marketing.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Buyer's Backache...

I woke up this morning aching. Actually, I've woke up aching every day this week. Which you might say is a sign it's time to get a new mattress. The problem is I just got a new mattress last week.

Beth and I got one of these giant mattresses you almost need a ladder to get on. I think my mattress is as high as my kitchen counters. Really. I can sit on my bed and my legs don't touch the floor. This morning, as I sat with my legs dangling, I started to experience buyer's remorse, You know that niggling feeling you sometimes get after you make a big purchase decision and feel you may have made a bad choice: Was it the right one? Did I pay too much? Did I pay too little? Could I have done without it? Is it the right color?

The AMS marketing dictionary defines buyer's remorse as: "The insecurity that a buyer feels about the appropriateness of the purchase decision after the decision has been made. It also is called 'post purchase dissonance'."

It's a common form of what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance". It's quite natural. You get outside messages that conflict with your decision leaving you feeling you may have made a bad decision. It happens most to people buying big-ticket items like a house or a car. The more you pay, the more likely you are to second-guess yourself. In fact, when I Googled "buyer's remorse" it listed about 71,400 citations -- 62,400 included the word "home".

How does a marketer deal with buyer's remorse? Marketing follow-thru.

First assure the customer he made the right decision. Do it right away. The salesperson saying "good choice" and the literature congratulating you on your purchase does more than you'd think. If your product is in a package the package should keep them sold by answering post-purchase questions, like about your warranty. Show other happy customers in your literature.

Second, follow-up. Be sure everything is working. Fix any problems quickly. Our mattress salesman called the other day. Beth told him I was not making a good adjustment. He assured her most people need a couple of weeks to feel comfortable on a new mattress. And If I'm still uncomfortable in a couple weeks, we can exchange it for a softer one anytime within 30 days.

Third, keep advertising to them. Every time I get a new car, I am amazed at how often I see others in the same make or model. And when I select a new brand, I have a heightened awareness of ads for that brand. It's part of the natural way we deal with change and uncertainty by looking for affirmation.

Finally, welcome your customer to your community. Get them to join online forums, clubs, classes, or wear branded "logowear". Overcome their remorse with a reassuring sense of clubiness or community. This technique has worked wonders for Apple Computer, Harley-Davidson and Borders -- not just to deal with remorse, but to build die-hard, loyal followings. Obviously, not every option fits every product. (I don't think I'd join the Sealy mattress club or wear a Sealy T-shirt!) But think outside the box.

Remember buyer's remorse is an emotion. As long as your product is performing as expected, just a little reassurance can help overcome it.

If, however your product is giving your customer a backache... I'll let you know.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, April 20, 2007

Marketing vs. Sales...

"Marketing spreads out the corn, by the lake, to attract the ducks. Then, Sales shoots the ducks."

-- Eli Goldratt (paraphrased)

When sales are down, marketing blames sales and sales blames marketing. There's a natural tension there.

But, all things being equal, it's both their fault.

If marketing isn't priming the pump for sales, there aren't enough leads or inquires to close. If sales isn't doing their job, the leads won't turn into sales.

But it's much more complicated than that. For instance, if marketing isn't using techniques to pre-sell and pre-qualify leads, it's wasting sales time and lowering the lead-to-close ratio. If sales isn't following up on leads fast enough, they're wasting marketing's efforts.

I think the duck hunter analogy is great. If they work together, they get the job done.

A problem I see often is sales expecting marketing to close sales for them so all they have to do is write-up the order. Good advertising can prime the pump by creating demand. A good marketing system can manage leads to qualify the best. But most sales-driven companies need a good salesperson to close the sale and manage the account.

Unfortunately both good duck hunters and people willing stand in the line of fire tossing out corn are hard to find. Getting them to work together is sometimes even harder.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Marketing Strategy: Bad Will...

Most people toss junk mail. I study it.

This week, I got two subscription offers from the same magazine for the "guaranteed low rate." When I compared them, one price was higher. I thought the guarantee promised me the lowest price. It didn't. Read carefully: I'm guaranteed a low rate -- not the lowest. It's a clever copywriter's gimmick. And, to me, it's misleading.

My verdict might not hold up in a court of law. But in the court of customer opinion, misleading ads can lose sales and generate bad will in the process. Yesterday, Beth quizzed me in the grocery store: "How many grams of fiber do you think are in 7-grain bread?"

"Less than the 12-grain bread." I said picking up a nearby loaf.

They were the same -- 1 gram of fiber. The whole wheat, on the other hand, had 3 times more. Maybe I'm a fool to think choking down 12-grain bread will put more fiber in my diet. But there's no deception here, just misperception.

Avoid trying to fool your customers. Honesty will earn you more than just brownie points. Remember: "Fool me once and I will never buy from you twice."

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ad Strategy: When less is more…

Advertising in fewer publications can cost-effectively improve your ad results. Five different studies by McGraw-Hill since 1950 came to the same conclusion: one or two trade journals will reach most of the readers covered by up to five publications – at a fraction of the cost.

A recent McGraw-Hill study of eight publications in four markets showed that, on average, the two leading publications reached 81% of the total market. Cahners reached the same conclusion in a study of 27 industries. In their findings, the first publication reached 86%, the second brought the total to 92%.

In our experience, repeat advertising in fewer publications improves ad impact. When the same people see the same brand name in the same publication, the results are multiplied. It will also earn you frequency discounts and value-added services from the publisher – like publicity and merchandising opportunities. So, don't spread your advertising too thin.

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Direct Mail Goldmining...

There's gold in them thar databases.

About 47% of all U.S. companies lease out their lists on a regular basis according to a survey by the U.S. Postal Service.

Next time you do a mailing, consider getting a list from a related business. The information is likely more on-target and better updated than other lists. Renting lists from trade journals also can be a good choice.

And, think of your customer/prospect list as a potential profit center. Use leads generated by your ads to build a database. Then consider what companies offer products or services that complement yours. Either offer to sell them your list or trade lists in a name-for-name exchange.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ad Repetition...

Haven’t I seen you before?

Frequency is important. Aftermarket advertisers with an ad in every issue of a trade journal for a year scored 65% better than advertisers that ran only 1 or 2 times a year in recall tests by Babcox Publications. And running an ad in every issue scored 30% better results than running in half the issues.

So, generally, it’s better to regularly run fractional ads than to run a big two-page spread one time. Why? Repetition aids in recall. And part of branding is repeating your name until becomes synonymous with your product. I prefer Colgate toothpaste because I've used it all my life. There's no other option in my mind.

Also, in our experience, the more often an ad runs the more leads it generates. Of course, there's a saturation point. So, track your results. When direct leads drop, revise your ad. But keep those ads running.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, April 09, 2007

Direct Mail Results...

Direct mail produces quick results. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get 25% of your total responses to a mailing after the first week, 50% within two weeks, and 75% by the end of the first month, according studies by the U.S. Postal Service. The final responses trickle in over the next month.

In our experience, a postcard promo series can be great end-of-year profit booster. Four or more mailers sent out fourth quarter can boost sales by reminding buyers of end of year purchasing decisions during the busy holiday season.

Generally, we suggest you send this mailing to prospects who responded to your ads but haven't yet made a purchase. This list group has identified a need, knows your brand name and has considered a purchase. They are self-qualified and generally more open to your offer. We’ve seen this type of direct mailer program boost end-of-year sales by 5 – 15%.

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Improve Your Direct Mail ROI...

Small changes can make a big dent in your mailing budget. In a survey by Target Marketing magazine, marketers say they're reducing direct mail costs by: switching vendors (26%), not mailing low response areas (22%), reducing weight (22%), merging/purging lists (15%),

The biggest cost of direct mail is postage. So reduce it -- either by cutting per piece postage or eliminating non-productive names. If you keep your own database, running it through NCOA (National Change of Address) and doing a merge/purge annually can pay for itself ten times over. And often, a new vendor can help you find other new ways to cut costs.

In my experience, if your database hasn't been updated in 18 months, you're wasting about 20% of your budget -- based on address changes alone. For instance, I got a telemarketing call last week for my dead grandmother. Really. I bought my grandparent’s home years ago -- and changed their number to my name. That database must be at least 7 years old! What a waste of money!

- Phil Sasso

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Internet Traffic

Why are end-users visiting your website? According to Forrester Research: Product Info (79%), Where To Buy (49%), Accessories (42%), New Products (37%), Tech Support (31%).

Knowing who’s visiting and why can help you improve customer service -- and sales. For instance, if they want accessories, make it as quick as possible to jump to accessories.

We encourage clients to put user manuals online free of charge. The marketing value of this is immeasurable. Users of this service have said they’re more inclined to buy this brand again because of it.

- Phil Sasso

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PR: One Thousand Words...

One Photo is Worth 1,000 Words.

Trade journal editors are about 10 times more likely to use a news release if it has a good photo, according to a recent survey of trade journal editors.

So, to get more placements just include a photo, right?

Wrong. The key phrase here is a GOOD photo. Editors have told me they get a LOT of awful photos – blurry, dark snapshots taken by an amateur and processed at Wal-Mart. In my experience, most editors prefer publication-quality digital images on disk – or better yet, the Web. It makes their work quicker and gives them a better result. In fact, we’ve developed an entire web site to provide editors with news releases and photos (

When published, product mentions with photos also tend to draw more sales leads. Why? Photos attract people’s attention more than words alone. Think about photos next time you’re paging through a trade journal -- and the next time you’re sending out a new release.

- Phil Sasso

Monday, April 02, 2007

Marketing QC...


Always double check. When you’re proofreading, get a second set of eyes to help you. Our brain tends to miss – or even correct details when we’ve looked at something too often.

A mistake that costs $50 to change at the design stage could cost $500 at pre-press and might cost $5,000 to change on press, according to the US Postal Service’s "Guide to Direct Marketing." A big enough mistake could even cost you your job!

Did you ever notice that most mistakes happen when you’re especially busy or rushing a project? The best solution is to plan ahead to give yourself ample time for quality control. And always make the time to double check.

- Phil Sasso