by Al Wahnon
Since the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent meltdown of the economy, I have been paying close attention to advertising in newspapers, magazines and on television. I was curious to see if there was a correlation between the level of business and the frequency of advertising. I found that the automobile industry, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies intensified their ad campaigns and most smaller manufacturers curtailed their programs while maintaining a presence in the media. It seems when business turns down, ad budgets are slashed and you would think an opposite response is warranted. Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway owns Geico, a major insurance company, has increased its advertising exponentially, virtually on every television channel every half-hour. The Omaha Oracle must know something, like how to make money.
Advertising could be your No. 1 sales- person. Geico’s gecko makes it easier to sell the product and your advertising should pave the way for your salespeople to close the deal. Wayne Bowman of brainposse.com says ads with meaningless fluff, like “finest,” “best,” “most trusted,” “best value” and others as innocuous are more likely forgotten, unlike those that quantify the claim with a number, a tremendous mnemonic aid. He cites an example: “This bread is very nutritious,” or “Builds strong bodies 12 ways.” Wonder Bread scored big with the latter slogan.
Bowman makes a strong case for numbers making an ad memorable. “We condense a lot of tomatoes to make our tomato paste,” or “Who put eight, great tomatoes in that little bitty can?” A radio jingle that ended with: “You know who. You know who. You know who.” The jingle was followed by the spot’s only spoken words: “In case you don’t, it was Contadina.” The final word was the only mention of the brand, but it got tremendous recall and built the Contadina name. Remember Orbach’s, New York’s bar- gain-priced department store? It could have said, “A tradition of bargain prices ever since our founding,” but instead said, “Our summer sales began Oct. 4, 1923.”
When all Coca-Colas came in the distinctive six-ounce hour-glass shaped bottle, an upstart competitor came after it with a jingle built around a number: “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot/twelve full ounces, that’s a lot/Twice as much for a nickel, too/Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.” You might say Pepsi did a number on Coke.
Buffett, the Nebraska nabob, not only advertises incessantly but effectively. “15 minutes could save you 15% or more.” Two numbers that say a little time could save you a lot of money with Geico. Think about the ads you remember and there is probably a number associated with each. “Twice as much of the pain reliever doctors recommend most.” Anacin, of course. “99 44/100% pure.” That slogan worked for Ivory from its beginnings in 1882. And “Rolaids consumes 47 times its weight in excess stomach acid.”
Assigning a number to a claim makes the assertion more believable. People are inclined to accept the premise that numbers don’t lie. So let them work for you as they do for Buffett’s companies. Instead of a lifetime guarantee, say your floor will “beautify a home for 50 years.” There are countless ways you can use numbers in your advertising. Be creative and give the consumer good reason to remember you and your products. In these trying times, you should be trying everything. Puffery doesn’t work, not consistently, and numbers have been proven through the years to make an impact on consumers and, in many instances, have a lasting effect on prospective buyers.
Ask any marketing director. Four out of five agree.