by Jason Wilson

I’m going to muddy the waters here. This will sound like a combination of whining and criticism, wrapped up in an angry rant.  It’s not.  It is, however, an “open your mouth and take this medicine” article designed to provoke thought and challenge your status quo – a sincere plea to consider something different.

The question I want you to ask yourself is, “Who cares?”

(We’ll come back to this later)

I’m often amazed at what passes for advertising these days.  The job of advertising goes far beyond circulating information. When done well, it’s an ongoing dialog with your customers as well as an invitation to attract new ones and build relationships. Cramming ads with hours, address, years in business, directions, low-quality images, a bunch of vendor logos and other irrelevant information, is a term I call Adverpanicking©
Day after day, week after week, there it is, on full display. The ads are screaming at me from every direction to try this new service, act now, today only, come to our show, eat here because, family owned since, blah, blah, blah…boring and forgettable.
They all suffer from the same problem – they answer questions no one is asking.  Bad advertising is about the business, and good advertising is about the customer. David Ogilvy once said, “You can’t bore people into buying your product.”

I’ve heard over the years, that advertising is supposed to sell products and drive business.  This is true! However, that’s an outcome, not the basis of messaging or design.  Marketing that focuses solely on the end result is a short-term strategy. It doesn’t build loyalty or a relationship to your brand.  It will sell some product, but as soon as a better price is found or the attention of the consumer is diverted elsewhere, you’ll likely lose them.

Instead, try approaching your advertising from the consumer’s point of view.  Sell the solution to a problem or engage the audience in a story about why your business should matter to them.  Be simple in your approach – less is always more.  And don’t tell me you have no time or money to brand, that’s nonsense and if ignored, seriously detrimental to your company’s future.

“Businesses need to understand what they are selling if they hope to create ad messages that will reach the intended audience,” said William Childs, Director of Marketing & Communications at Trifecta Technologies. “Harley-Davidson does not sell motorcycles; they sell freedom. Jack Daniels does not sell whiskey; they sell tradition.  If I owned a mattress store, I wouldn’t sell mattresses. I would sell a good night’s sleep.” added Childs
There are two sides to this issue – those working in the field of marketing & advertising and the clients we partner with in this endeavor.

To my fellow colleagues in the business – fight hard for the good ideas, challenge your clients to disrupt the status quo and tell them what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.  I know that our toughest task can often be pushing customers into the unknown and beyond their comfort zones.  When your motive is pure, and you truly care about their business, it’s worth it.

To the customers – If you’ve never taken an honest look at who you truly are or what you really sell, now is the time.  If it keeps you up at night thinking, consider it progress.  There are numerous professionals out there full of knowledge and ideas. Many of us love thinking about your business and creating stories to push your brand forward.
I ask again, “Who cares?”  That’s the question that needs to be answered.  Give your audience a reason to care.  Hell, make them angry if you have to, at least you’ll get a response.  Donny Deutsch said, “Better to have 35% of the people charged up about you and the rest hate you than to have 100% not care.”  That’s powerful stuff.  There’s more than enough mediocrity going around, and no one has ever done anything remarkable by blending in.

How do you start? Have a conversation and ask some questions.  I, for one, am always open to a cup of Joe and the sharing of ideas.

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