If your advertising doesn’t work, neither will you

Home Editorials If your advertising doesn’t work, neither will you

by Al Wahnon

Most often your first contact with a customer is through your advertising. That initial impression is critical so you must be reasonably certain your message is effective and memorable. Some advertising that lacks appeal and “pulling power” might be your fault, perhaps because you are disinterested, distracted or depressed by the depressing economy. Yes, the economic landscape is gloomy, but you can’t use that threadbare excuse anymore; your competitors were dealt the same cards. What matters is how you play the hand. And to help you do that, here are six reasons why your advertising may not be pulling its weight, or just may not be pulling.

1. It’s boring. That’s right, tedious, dreary, monotonous. People watch television, listen to the radio, read the newspaper or go online for three distinct reasons: information, entertainment and engagement. Ads that do not provide at least two of these three benefits are failures, a waste of money and effort. You must engage your prospects with something that is interesting or entertaining before they will give you their valuable time and attention. So, be creative, dare to be different, embrace the consumer. Tell her about the shopping experience that awaits her and all your store has to offer.

2. It’s boorish. Your advertising should be an extension of your brand and it should not be loud, annoying, insulting, offensive or self-centered; people will associate those coarse tactics with your products. It is axiomatic in advertising, as in life, if you focus only on what you can get, you’re not going to get much. But, focus on giving and good things happen. Trust is what makes a consumer a customer.

3. It’s safe. Being different may not guarantee success but what you do is more likely to get noticed if it hasn’t been done before. Conversely, do what everyone else is doing and you can be assured success will avoid you. Using all your innovative prowess will set you apart from your competitors and bring you closer to your customers. The three broad categories of positive achievement— information, entertainment, engagement—allow ample latitude to capture and hold the consumer’s attention. Monitor the advertising traffic out there for one day and you will get an idea of what consumers listen to, watch and read before they start the shopping experience. If you like what you see or hear, and emulate it, the consumer probably will, too.

4. It’s trying to do too much. Most people don’t engage with most ads. And even when they do, for how long are they attentive? One survey says the best an ad can do is communicate one single, compelling idea. It’s foolhardy to attempt more than that. Just because you have a lot to say doesn’t mean your audience will sit still and pay attention. Focus on one persuasive thought and drive it home, no detours, no stop signs.

5. It hasn’t been given time. Don’t expect too much too soon, especially on a limited budget. Think about your own consumer behavior. How many times do you need to be exposed to a marketing message before you take action? Depending on your prospect’s level of interest in your products, it could take weeks or months. Be patient, but be persistent.

6. You like it. You are not the best judge of your own advertising. Your advertising is not about you and not for you. Let the professional judge of the program’s merit and effectiveness.

There are many more reasons why advertising underperforms, from poor media placement to bad strategy to reluctance to fully fund the program. The best advice is to dwell on why you should advertise rather than why you shouldn’t—and do it well.

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