Friday, August 31, 2007

Eye Candy...

Recently, someone gave me a referral, telling me the prospect needed more colorful, flashier ads.

I appreciate the referral. But disagree with the prognosis. I believe the ads needed more substance, not more eye candy. Forgive me if I rant for a moment: Advertising is not about showmanship. It's about salesmanship. It's not about fine art. It's about using art and words to persuade prospects to buy your product or service.

In the mid-90's I did an informal study of automotive aftermarket advertising. My goal was to determine what made an ad motivate readers. A trade journal shared their advertiser Reader Service Card (RSC) summaries with me. I made the assumption that the more RSCs an ad got, the more motivating the ad was. I Cross-referenced the RSC summary to each ad I studied over a series of months. I learned that "flashiness" is rarely a determining factor in an ad generating leads. Bigger ads did draw slightly more leads. More frequent advertisers generated far more leads than infrequent. But being "flashy" (bright colors, trendy design, cute women) didn't seem to make a difference.

I noticed five common traits in the biggest lead-generating ads. One of the most interesting was that "benefit ads" generated more RSCs. Black and white "benefit ads" pulled better than color "non-benefit ads" ads in the same category.

A few years later I did a smaller study using a different trade journal. Same methodology. Same industry. Same basic result.

In 1997, a third aftermarket publisher did their own study. Different methodology. Parallel results. (In their study, ads with technical copy scored 14% higher than ads without technical copy. Something I never studied.)

I believe if you did the same research today you'd get the same findings -- in almost any industry. (But, in the Internet-age, you might need to modify your methodology slightly.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not against trendy design or bright colors. I often use them in our work. I'm against using flash as a substitute for substance.

When did you ever buy an item because the ad was flashy? You bought it because of a complex series of decisions related to various competing marketing messages. The higher the price, the longer and more complex the decisions. The flashiness of an ad is likely the least influencing factor.

For instance, I like the TV spots for Gatorade with athletes sweating in bright, Gatorade colors. But that doesn't make me want to run out and buy Gatorade. You?

Are your ads more about sizzle or substance? Do you have a USM (Unique Selling Message) that differentiates your offerings from the competition? Do your prospects and clients know why you're the best choice for them? Are all your marketing materials communicating that same message?

Do you think this tip would be better if I used no words and just lots of eye candy?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Small Town Marketing…

It’s another busy week here. But I’m never too busy to keep in touch. Here’s a Sasso Marketing Tip REMIX:

I walked into a small town hardware store when on vacation a few years back.

"Can I help you?" asked the owner. (I assume few customers just browse in a hardware store.)

"Sure. I need some batteries and a bike lock," I said.

"The bike locks are over here," he said leading me across the store. "But it looks like you have a lock in your hand. Are you looking for a cable or chain?"

"Uh, yeah. I guess your right. I need a cable."

"This one is real popular. It's plastic coated to resist rust and avoid scratching your bike."

"Thanks," I said, appreciating the personal service.

A bell rang and someone walked in the front door.

"Hey Bob. I'll be right with you," the owner said. "The batteries are here. Let me know if you need anything else."

As I looked at the batteries I overheard the owner talking to his customer.

"How's the new generator I sold you working?"

They talked for a while, the owner knowing more about the customer and his needs than I could have imagined. That's because he had a relationship with him.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has been all the buzz in marketing for years. It's all about using databases and technology to do exactly what that good small town merchant does. Get to know the customer and build a relationship.

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, founders of the "One to One Marketing" CRM franchise, say there are 4 basic steps to a CRM initiative:

1.) Identify your customers.
2.) Differentiate your customers.
3.) Interact with your customers.
4.) Customize your behavior toward your customer.

The days of cold, generic mass marketing are over. Mass customization is the future. Today, using a database you can create a custom mailer for a customer that matches his profile. Have a prospect interested in a red Corvette? Send them a personal follow-up postcard with a red Corvette on it while you send another prospect a postcard with a blue Malibu. This isn't science fiction. It's happening right now. In fact, I can do that right now.

As the internet expands the envelope with personalized emails and customized websites be aware that all that complicated technology is hoping to do one simple thing: connect with customers.

Just think, with all these modern technological advancements, the goal is to be more personal. Seems kind of old-fashioned, eh?

By the way, if I can ever be of service, feel free to drop me an email (, or give me a call (847.451.2246)

I’m here to serve.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Marketing Point Made...

Yesterday, I got feedback on my August 3 marketing tip. My tip was about outdoor freezer ads for TBS’s My Boys the cable sitcom about a female sports writer, her girlfriend and her pack of male pals.

I’ve never seen the show because I’m one of the rare 23% in the US without cable or satellite TV (Leichtman Research Group). And I’m probably a statistical oddity since I do have HDTV, satellite radio and DSL!

Perhaps I was wrong to assume the show was targeted to women. I spoke without a lot of due diligence. I met at least one male viewer yesterday.

So, let me clarify, my tip wasn’t a bash against the show.

I was challenging the effectiveness of advertising on the ice freezers at gas stations. And apparently a blog reader, Beth, (not MY Beth) is challenging me. That’s fair.

Since the freezer ads are a form of outdoor advertising, let me defer to the experts: The Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). “At least seven out of ten outdoor ads promote local businesses. The proportion of local advertising is even greater in non-urban areas”, according to the OAAA website.

Why? Perhaps because outdoor advertising is most effective for local businesses. And, back to my original point, it’s more measurable. If I call a real estate agent, chances are he’ll ask how I’ve heard of him and he can track results.

But to Beth’s defense, as I rethink it, I do find the idea of using non-traditional media an interesting idea. I like measurable media. But not every media can be measurable. And by not using the same media that all other TV sitcoms use, they are more likely to get noticed.

As Beth points out through her husband, I DID notice the ad and REMEMBER it.

Touché, Beth.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Customer Retention Marketing Splash...

Imagine it’s the hottest day of August. Sweltering, muggy and humid. You stop by a friend’s house and he offers you a dip in his cool, refreshing, new pool. The only hitch: first you have to help him fill it – one bucket at a time. You’d rather run out and buy garden hose, but you agree to use a bucket.

Fifteen minutes later, after a lot of sweaty, back-breaking work you realize you’re not making much progress. Then you spot a hole in the pool and tell your friend.

“Yeah I know,” he says. “I guess we just need to fill it faster.”

You stare at him.

“You realize no matter how much water we put in, it’s only going to come back out, right?” you reply. He just cocks his head and looks confused.

Sound absurd? Not as absurd as you might think.

Many people call my marketing firm for help filling their “sales pool” but don’t have system in place to keep customers in the “pool”. Often I ask: “If we develop a marketing communications campaign to bring you new customers do you have a system in place to keep them buying from you or to get their referrals?” Usually they just cock their head and look confused.

Smart marketers know that it costs a lot more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. So, before they invest in a new customer marketing plan, they make sure they have an existing customer retention plan.

Increasing your customer retention by as little as 5 percent can boost profits by 25 to 80 percent, according to a classic article in Harvard Business Review.

So, it’s important to develop your Customer Retention Plan before you even launch your new Advertising Campaign.

What are you doing to increase repeat purchases, cross-sell, build brand loyalty or even gain referral business?

Be sure you plug all the holes in your pool.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Iced Advertising...

Yesterday at Citgo I saw an ad for TBS' My Boys ( on the ice freezer.

I've never seen the cable sitcom about a young, female sportswriter for the Chicago Sun-Times.

And I don't expect to.

First, it seems targeted to women. Second, I don't have cable. (I don't watch much TV,)

And finally, I wouldn't have remembered the ad -- except for my marketing tip.

Who decided that advertising a TV show on an ice freezer was a good use of ad dollars?

How do you measure how many people see an ad on a freezer, much less how many RESPOND to it?

How do you know that the people who buy gas -- or bags of ice match the show's demographic?

There seems to be a large contingent of advertisers who think getting an ad in front of a lot of eyeballs is the goal. It's not. The goal of advertising is, and always has been, getting in front of the RIGHT eyeballs. If this show is targeted to young women, why isn't the ad somewhere that's more focused on that demographic? What about tying into a brand of soda or snack that young women favor. How about advertising on that packaging?

And why isn’t the advertiser using a more measurable media? Isn't their audience online? Advertising online offers pinpoint accuracy and detailed measurement. Doesn't the target demographic read magazines? Buy placing an ad in targeted magazines each with a unique website would allow the advertiser to measure ad-generated traffic.

Is your advertising working? Can you measure the results of every ad you've placed? What's pulling its weight? What isn't?

Don't misunderstand. I realize the power of broad branding. But I think that's best used for brands with big budgets and a broad appeal.

Now you may think I sound jealous. Yes, I did once meet the owner of Crystal Clear Ice. Yes, I do wish selling ads on ice freezers was my idea.

But I would have done a better job of matching advertiser with the medium. Really.