The best ‘creative’ doesn’t always win!

Is award-winning creative enough to create sales?

Many times as an advertising agency, it’s all about the ‘creative’…but is it? In my experience the most award winning creative, is not necessarily the most effective at driving sales.

The disconnect seems to be when the message crafted is based more on a great creative idea, in and of itself, then it is an idea that is based on the target market. Let’s face it, how many times have you seen a cute or funny commercial but had no idea what product or offer was being promoted?

It happens all the time and it makes me wonder how agencies can get away with it. I imagine there is a big inflated ego somewhere that is content with having the shiniest object in the room, even if it serves no purpose.

This approach is what has kept so many agencies going for such a long time. I think about all of those advertising awards and wonder what was that decision based on? How many of those campaigns actually had a significant impact in the most important barometer of success…sales?

Let me make this next point perfectly clear, without well-crafted creative, you have very little chance for success. I’m all about a catchy jingle, and a great headline and a clear call to action, but the goal should be to resonate and move your target audience to engage.

The sales process is often compared to a funnel, which at the top, (and the point which is furthest away from the sale) is described as ‘awareness’. This is often the part where many creative ideas go astray. You may make me aware of your advertisement by being clever or unique, but does it do anything to also lead me to the next stage which is interest?

Awareness and Interest are two very different stages and your creative can make people aware but if the message is wrong, it won’t appeal and interest will not be generated. If you don’t generate interest, you would have to start over, which can be a very costly mistake.

If there is no interest, or what we call ‘engagement’ then there’s small chance that person would move further down the funnel to evaluation and finally sale, so obviously, no word of mouth.

I know it’s so tempting to just go with the ‘coolest’ thing or put your marketing effort behind what everybody at your company likes, but take some time to get feedback from your target market. Whenever possible get a focus group together to see what they think. This is where social media can really come in handy. Facebook or Twitter are great ways to get feedback from ‘Fans and Followers’. This information can prove invaluable, and insure that your message is not only creative, but engaging and effectively communicates to the target market.

Those are the kinds of ads that get my vote for ‘ad of the year’, and as a business owner, hiring an agency good money to make your register ring; it should be where you cast your vote as well!

‘Begin with the end (user) in mind’ a lesson from the late, great Stephen Covey.

I was very saddened a few days ago to learn that world-renowned author and speaker Stephen Covey passed away at the age of 79. It seems he could not recover from a complication stemming from a recent bicycle accident.

A picture of me and my wife with Stephen Covey at a Marriage Conference

Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ had a profound influence on my life. I posted on my personal Facebook page that outside of God, my mom and playing basketball, Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits book had the most powerful influence in shaping my ‘paradigm’.

All of the habits are of course necessary and there is no ‘one, more important than the other’ however I want to focus on the second habit for this post ‘Begin with the end in mind’.  I have tweeked it just a bit to include the end ‘user’ in mind. I believe this habit should always be applied before you embark on a marketing strategy or new product/service of any kind. The reason that it has such a powerful impact is that, when you take this approach and begin with the ‘end user’ the focus shifts from what you want to ‘sell’ to what the consumer wants to ‘buy’.

Beginning with the end in mind for a business marketing / advertising campaign forces you to look at the consumer first, and ask those key questions, what does that user expect to get from this? It forces you to channel everything you do, to match the expectations of your end-user so that you achieve your highest conversion rate.

It sounds a bit mechanical when I refer to a sale or a transaction as a conversion rate, but think about it, what good is 1,000 people coming to your store, or website or social media page if they don’t engage with you or ‘convert’ because you don’t understand their true wants and needs?

In his book Covey uses this habit for personal growth. Beginning each day with the end in mind is about a mental focus and clarity that uses goals and timelines to keep on that path, to not only endure but to enjoy the journey, knowing that you’re headed in the right direction.

In business, it’s more about the ‘end’ result based on the ‘end-user’. Doing everything each day based on the way your prospects and customers perceive you, and what they expect from you. At our agency, our first question to every advertiser is ‘what or who is your target market’? Knowing who you believe will not only make the buying decision for your product or service, but who will be the biggest influencer (thus bringing in other buyers) is the key to a well-crafted campaign.

From here you can find the right media mix, creative approach, benefits sought, etc so that your message resonates loud and clear with your target. Instead of crafting a message that makes you ‘look’ good based on the businesses’ view, it makes you look based on your constituents view.
Begin with the end ‘user’ in mind, and you will reap the rewards for it, and keep the legacy of Stephen Covey alive and well!

All advertising (just like politics) is local!

I realize that at the very upper tier of multi-billion dollar industries, there is ‘formulaic’ type of advertising that can be applied with a very broad stroke, and effectively communicate that company’s message. It is the epitome of what we in the advertising world call ‘branding’.

I saw a title of book once called ‘branding only works on cattle’. That message was so strong; I actually didn’t even have to read the book to ‘get it’.

One of our most recent accounts has over 20 optical stores in 11 different states. Since its launch about 6 years ago, the company has applied a marketing strategy that uses the same message / commercial or advertising campaign in each market.

The hi-gloss commercials with cool visual effects are well done, the offers are great and the message is clear, however sales are soft, and some markets are losing share rapidly. Why does this approach work in some markets and not in others, when the media mix and support is practically the same?

Well, as it turns out – all advertising just like politics is local. America is a vast nation with many different personalities. There are stark contrasts even within the same communities, let alone across borders and regions. That same slick commercial that works in upper-income pockets of Sacramento has very little appeal to hard working blue collar towns in Ohio.

It doesn’t make any one market better or easier to reach, it proves a point that until you reach a critical mass, based on a saturation of stores with identical products and services, you will need to appeal to the psyche of each market that you are in.

As an agency we always start with the ‘target market’ as in who are you primarily trying to reach. Too often the answer is ‘everybody’ or ‘anybody willing to buy’, but that’s a futile approach. In every business, finding the target market, the ‘heavy user’, the ‘decision maker’ is like tapping into a source of loyal customers and leads that your business can plan around.

Once you have determined that target market, you need to drill down to their tendencies in each particular market. While Soccer Moms from Sacramento share similar traits to Soccer Moms in Ohio, you may still need to appeal to other factors such as price, style, value, selection, convenience, customer service, and so on. Additional considerations include location, competitive offers, reward programs, social awareness and community involvement. This takes a great deal of effort, but the results can create customers for life. I am reminded of the saying ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you’. You may get them in with a great offer, or low price, but keeping them requires a connection.

All of these factors create a profile that allows a brand to plug into and develop a campaign based on connecting on a personal level with its target market. Strategies to quickly ramp up include endorsements by trusted, local personalities, fund raisers, community events, job-fairs, even sales that offer more than just a good price, but add value to the community by accepting donations for a cause, or by partnering with other merchants will take your company from a place to shop or buy from to a place that is part of the fabric of that community.

Locally, Publix a very successful supermarket chain has been using the tag line ‘knowing what you need is important, but knowing who we serve is even more important’, or something to that effect. The commercial shows a local ‘dad’ who’s turn it is to cook dinner again, and other everyday members of the community who count on Publix, and Publix recognizes them by name…Love it!

It may seem a little shallow at first, but if you stay committed and deliver on your word, you will exponentially increase the return of your marketing and advertising efforts, as long as you keep in mind that all advertising is local.