Tag Cautionary Tales

In all your seeking, get wisdom

Ship sailing on oceanYou might remember the time I told you about the small business that ruined its advertising. I recently found out that the company is closing the doors on the store in question.

It could be the economy, because the economy is tough right now. But if that small business had followed through on its advertising strategy, they would have been in a stronger position to weather this economic environment. They could not be dissuaded from the naive assumption that they didn’t need to communicate with their potential customers.

Treat your advertising as an investment. Start out conservatively and branch out slowly as you build your advertising presence. And don’t be afraid to consult with an advertising professional to get sound advice.

I bet you have an accountant and some sort of financial advisor. Treat your advertising and marketing investment the same way.

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Copy-cat advertising

I often have small businesses tell me, “I’d like to have an ad like So-and-so’s.” That’s almost always a mistake. You want to stand out and be different in the minds of potential customers. You certainly don’t want to bring to mind your competition, unless you can do so in a way that shows off your product’s or service’s superiority.

That’s why I was surprised to see this Super Bowl ad from Motorola:

The ad introduces a new tablet computer from Motorola, the Xoom. The biggest problem with the ad? Everything about it reminds you of Apple.

The ad itself is a knock-off of arguably the most famous Super Bowl ad in history, the Apple Macintosh “1984” ad.

The Motorola ad has similar imagery, with identically dressed workers lined up in massive hallways catatonically walking to their destinations, and one lead character who doesn’t fit. That lead character is seen reading George Orwell’s 1984 on his tablet computer.

Even if you haven’t seen Apple’s original ad, when the lead character turns the page of the 1984 e-book, I bet you thought of the iPad. That’s not a great way to launch your new tablet. Everything about this ad reminds you of Apple and does nothing to differentiate the Xoom from the iPad.

It leaves you with the impression that this is just a knock-off, sort of like those watches people sell on street corners. Anyone want a “Roleks?” How about a “Guchi?”

I’ve shared this quote before, but it’s good advice from one the the greatest advertising minds ever:

“In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”

– William Bernbach

You want to differentiate yourself from your competitors? Then don’t copy them. Be original.

spam irony

No Spam!I get lots of comment spam. As readers, you don’t see it because it gets filtered and eventually deleted. But every now and then one catches my eye because of the complete idiocy of the attempt at advertising. Here’s one such example:

Hi, i simply needed to come here to inform you of a super inexpensive service that posts comments like this on millions of WordPress blogs. Exactly why you might ask, well you may wish to sell something and target webmasters or merely just increase the quantity of backlinks your website has which will improve your Google rankins which will then bring your website much more visitors and cash. Take a quick take a look at this website for much more info. <*link removed*>

So… a spam comment that tells me how I can post comment spam on other people’s blogs. Oh, the irony!

It’s stuff like this that gives advertising a bad name. How you advertise says a lot about who you are.

A Tale of Two Doctor’s Offices

Let’s continue our theme about appearances which has been woven in the last two previous posts (they can be found here and here). Let’s take a look at two separate doctor’s offices. Based on what you see in these two pictures, which office would you rather go to?

Here:

Woodlands clinic exterior

Or here?

Montgomery clinic exterior

Given the choice, I bet most people would choose the second office. What do you think?

Sometimes even the big boys get it wrong

I was driving in Houston after paying a visit to one of my vendors, when this billboard caught my eye:

Yellow Pages billboard, almost all one color

Difficult to read? Imagine trying to read this as you speed past in a car.

Now, I look at billboards all the time; I like to know what the trends are in advertising and a great ad is something I can appreciate. But this caught my eye for all the wrong reasons. While driving past at 60 mph, I couldn’t tell what it was or who it was for.

As I’ve said before in The Art of the Billboard, bulletins like this need to be understood in 5 seconds or less. There is a reason successful billboards use high-contrast colors, they are easier to read at a distance or while zooming by in a car. If people can’t make out what is on the billboard, as in this case where the words blend in with the background, then no one is getting your message. If no one is getting your message, what is the point in paying for a billboard?

Your message needs to be tailored to its medium. Yellow Pages is in the advertising business, but they obviously don’t know billboards.

Don’t be afraid to get some help or advice before you make an investment in your advertising. It may keep you from wasting a lot of money.

Doing it right

Since the last post showcased an ad that didn’t quite send the right message, I thought I’d show and example of a local business that seems to be on the right track as far as their advertising goes.

A few months ago I started noticing some billboards going up for a local chiropractic clinic. (Full disclosure: they are not a client, and I have never talked with them about their advertising.)

SandStone Chiropractic Billboard

It’s a nice bulletin and you can clearly read it from a distance. Other than the phone number and location, it’s is almost as if they followed The Art of the Billboard to a tee. I like it when someone does something right, so even though they are not a client I got a feeling of satisfaction from knowing that someone else “got it.”

I was even more pleased when I drove past their location one Sunday and saw their sign out front.

SandStone exterior sign

They actually use their logo on their storefront sign! You would be surprised at how many small businesses don’t do that. This practitioner’s identity is further reinforced by the use of color; the color of the storefront lettering is similar to the billboard’s background color. Maybe they’ve read Who Are You?

Then one day I am thumbing through a magazine to verify that a client’s ad had ran correctly, and what do I find? You guessed it, an ad for SandStone Chiropractic.

SandStone Magazine Ad

I was thrilled. Not only does the ad look good, I immediately recognized it as being SandStone Chiropractic and mentally connected it with the billboards and the storefront. That’s one of the things you want to accomplish with your advertising, a coherent identity.

I am a little disappointed with the lettering for the business’s name; it is not the same font used in the billboards or the storefront sign. The art-deco look of the magazine lettering is not nearly as professional looking as the serif font used in the other ads. However, because the visuals are almost identical to the billboards (color scheme, practitioner’s photo), the connection is still made and the ad works.

Interestingly, the lettering appears to be the same font used for the logo icon, which is a stylized SSC. Perhaps this was the original logo and it was changed either for ease of reading or to perhaps give a more professional appearance? It might be interesting to learn how this logo was developed.

Despite the logo/lettering issue with the magazine ad, this appears to be a strong advertising campaign for a local business. I wish them great success!

Mixed messages

I’ve mentioned before that a good advertisement will say one thing and say it well. You have such a short slice of time to communicate your message and you don’t want to muddle things up by trying to say too many things.

With that in mind, it is possible to inadvertently send a mixed or conflicting message through your advertising. This billboard was running a while back near where I live, and illustrates what I mean by a mixed or conflicting message:

BurgerFresh Billboard

I hate to pick on these guys, because they really do serve great hamburgers. But this billboard doesn’t do their product justice.

I love the colors and the logo, but the product shot is a mess. There is nothing “fresh” about it. It looks as if someone dropped the hamburger on the floor, hastily put it back together and snapped a quick picture. While their name and their message attempts to say they have really good, fresh-made hamburgers, their product shot says the hamburgers are thrown together and are unappetizing.

It didn’t need to be this way. They could have hired a professional photographer experienced in product shots, taken the time to really dress up the burger, even hire a food stylist (yes, just like a hair stylist, only for food) so their product would look its absolute best. The results would have been vastly different.

I’m also curious if they took the picture themselves, as the lighting is poor and the colors are washed out. I think they would have been well-served to call in a professional. Based on the design, the graphic artist who did the billboard appears to know what they were doing, but they were hindered by an amateurish photo that communicates a message that is in direct opposition to the one that is supposedly presented.

It takes a lot of skill and hard work to match the look and tone of an ad to its message. Don’t cut any corners. You dress yourself nicely when you want to stand out and make an impression. Why wouldn’t you do the same with your advertising?

The other day I saw an ad…

I hear this phrase all the time from small business owners, even from marketing directors. They want their ad to look like someone else’s ad. Huge mistake.

“In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”

William Bernbach

Your ad has got to strike a chord within the viewer and make them think of you and nobody else but you.

How not to be taken seriously

It takes quite a bit of skill to match the tone of an advertisement, or a sign for that matter, to its message. Even your choice of font or typeface can drastically affect how you or your business is perceived by the public.

Your Logo Makes Me Barf has a perfect example of a mixed marketing message. The typeface used in that particular sign would be great for a childcare center, but not a professional building.

Just because someone has a copy of Photoshop doesn’t mean they can help you with your advertising. The same goes for your friend who knows a lot about computers or that guy with a video camera. Make sure they have the skills you need to communicate your message effectively.

Why now is the time to start your marketing strategy

If you taken the advice found here in this blog, you’re probably already pretty far into the process of planning and implementing your marketing and advertising strategies. If you haven’t started, I’d like to give you one good reason why you should start today. The reason is this: the sooner you start, the less it will cost. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Controlling Costs

Planning and preparation are the key to containing the cost of any project. The same holds true for advertising and marketing.

Marketing and advertising are collaborative endeavors. You’ll need to collaborate with someone else to fulfill your advertising and marketing. That someone else may be a graphic designer, a web expert, a copywriter, a production company, or it may be the newspaper or radio station that is running your ad, but you will be enlisting someone else’s help at some point in order to implement and fulfill your marketing or advertising.

What does this collaboration have to do with planning, preparation, and controlling costs? Glad you asked! What this means is that you will need to give your collaborators, the people you are working with to implement your promotional strategies, time to to plan and prepare your ads, web sites, or media plans. The less time you give them, the higher your costs will be. Let me illustrate.

Three Things

Whenever you are buying something, be it shoes, furniture or whatever, there are three features you that you want: you want it to be of high quality, you want it quickly, and you want it to be as inexpensive as possible. Now if you are dealing with a commodity, all three of those things may be possible. But marketing and advertising are not a commodity, they are custom-created for your product or service. You can’t pick an ad off the rack and run it, you must have something custom-tailored to your specific needs. Since marketing and advertising are essentially custom items, it means that you can’t have all three of our desired features. Looking at the three features, high quality, quick, and inexpensive, you can only have two.

Why only two?

You can have fantastic quality and get it quick, but it won’t be inexpensive. The reason is that all the planning, preparation and effort that your custom solution requires must be compressed into a short time frame. For your collaborator, that means long hours with few breaks, overtime charges, and giving other client’s projects a push to accommodate your project. Those other clients won’t like the delay in their schedules, and the only thing that makes risking their displeasure worthwhile is the higher rate you’ll be paying to expedite your project. High quality, quick turnaround, but expensive.

If you wait until Thanksgiving to plan your Christmas advertising and you want great results, this is where you’ll find yourself.

Or, you can have your marketing or advertising implemented quickly and inexpensively, but it won’t be of high quality. All products or services take a certain amount of time to complete, and custom items that cannot be mass produced take even more time. Your ads or media plans will take time to put together. The only way to push it out the door quickly without added expense is to cut corners on the quality. Fast and inexpensive, but it will be neither fantastic nor effective.

This is what most small businesses settle for in their advertising and marketing. They wait until the last minute, then rush through a half-thought out media buy, create a half-baked ad, and come away wondering why their advertising didn’t give them the results they were expecting. The money they spent on advertising ends up being a complete and expensive loss.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Better Choice

You can get high quality and have it relatively inexpensive. The key is to give your collaborators the time to do their thing. When your ad executive, graphic designer, or copywriter are given the time it takes to put together a high-quality, fantastic campaign, you won’t incur overtime charges and rush fees. You’ll get to hear the reasons for their choices and the justifications for their recommendations, and you’ll have the time to think those things over to see if they truly accomplish the goals you have set for your advertising and marketing. Fantastic and inexpensive, but it won’t be quick.

Start now, so you and your marketing and advertising partners will have the necessary time to plan and implement your creative and media planning. You’ll be far better pleased with the results.

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