Lincoln Financial Media
Local Media San Diego
When Will My Ads Start Working?
by Roy H. WilliamsThe length of the "ramping up period" an ad campaign will require before you begin to see results is determined by the following factors, listed in descending order of their importance:
Product Purchase Cycle: How often is the customer in the market for this product? Because we eat more often than we redecorate, ads for restaurants will yield results much faster than ads for carpet or furnishings. Nearly every person reached by advertising will eat at least one meal in a restaurant this week, but only 1 in 452 will be involved in any particular 7 to 10-year product purchase cycle. The longer your product purchase cycle, the longer you'll have to invest in advertising before you feel like it's working. The ramping up period usually takes 20 percent of the product purchase cycle to no more than 40 percent. In other words, the advertiser selling a product a customer purchases once every 5 years will likely be one to two years into his advertising plan before he feels like it's really beginning to pay off.
Share of Voice: What percentage of all the advertising done in your product or service category is yours? To be perfectly accurate, a Share of Voice calculation must include such things as the intrusive visibility offered by an excellent location, previous years of consistent advertising, word-of-mouth recommendation by customers, etc, but generally speaking, your Share of Voice is loosely determined by the size of your ad budget compared to the collective ad budgets of your competitors.
Impact Quotient: How convincing is your message? Keep in mind that your customer won't be hearing your message alone. They'll be comparing your message to the messages of your competitors. How strong is your competition? Urgent messages making "a limited time offer" will definitely elevate the Impact Quotient, but only for those customers who are currently, consciously in the market for the product. But the same "limited time offer" is likely to lower the long-term Impact Quotient for customers who are not yet ready to buy. The only thing the not-yet-ready customer is likely to remember from such ads is never to buy from your company "unless they?re having a sale." Long-term, the most valuable ad is the one that delivers a message powerful enough to be remembered even by people who are not currently in the market for your product. (I'll tell you exactly how to do this next week in a memo called The Great Ad Myth.)
Media delivery vehicle: One commonly held myth is that we remember "more of what we see than what we hear." In truth, the opposite is true. A picture of your product (an iconic recall cue) delivered through a visual media will be noticed by readers and viewers who are currently, consciously, in the market for the product. Consequently, the response to silent, visual ads is usually immediate. But then it's over. Auditory ads, however, are retained in memory even when customers are unaware they've heard them. This is why you can sing along with nearly 2,000 songs you never intended to learn.
One could easily generalize that products with shorter purchase cycles should use visual media and products with longer purchase cycles should use auditory media, but like most generalizations, this one would be flawed because there are two other factors ? Share of Voice and Impact Quotient ? that make a lot more difference than your choice of delivery vehicle. Far more important than your choice of media is your choice of message.
As you can see, there is no perfect answer. The option that delivers the best result today will yield the worst result long-term. And the most tedious thing in the short run is the most powerful thing in the long run.
But isn't that how most things work?
by Roy H. Williams
When your business category is dominated by a single brand and all the other brands put together don't equal them, it's time to create a counter-brand.
Counter-branding business judo is rare and dangerous. But when you're overwhelmingly dominated, what have you got to lose?
Prior to the creation of their "Uncola" counter-brand in 1967, 7-Up had survived for 38 years as a lemon-lime soft drink with the slogan, :You Like It. It Likes You."
Yippee Skippy call the press, a soft drink likes me.
As in Judo, the secret of counter-branding is to use the weight and momentum of your opponent to your own advantage. In other words, hook your trailer to their truck and let them pull you along in their wake.
The steps in counter-branding are these:
Let's look at a current example: Starbucks. Notice how I didn't have to name the category? All I had to say was "Starbucks" and you knew we were talking about coffee. That's category dominance.
In the February 2005 issue of QSR magazine, Marilyn Odesser-Torpey writes about Coffee Wars, opening with the question, "Starbucks will certainly remain top dog among coffee purveyors, but who is next in line?" A little later we read, "Many of the competitors in the coffee segment are Starbucks look-alikes; if you take the store's signage down, it would be hard to tell the difference."
Traditional wisdom tells us to (1.) study the leader, (2.) figure out what they're doing right, (3.) try to beat them at their own game. This strategy can actually work when the leader hasn't yet progressed beyond the formative stages, but when overwhelming dominance has been achieved, as is currently the case with Starbucks, such mimicry is the recipe for disaster. Are all competitive coffee houses forever doomed to occupy the sad "me-too" position in the shadow of mighty Starbucks? Yes, until one of them launches a counter-brand.
To determine what a Starbucks counter-brand would look like, we must first break Starbucks down into its basic brand elements:
Counter-brands succeed by becoming the Yin to the master brand's Yang, the North to their South, the equal-but-opposite 'other' that neatly occupies the empty spot that had previously been in the customer's mind.
Here's what a Starbuck's counter-brand would look like:
HOW IT MIGHT SOUND ON THE RADIO: Most people think to get a fast cup of coffee you have to settle for fast-food coffee ...or worse...convenience store coffee. And to get a good cup of coffee you have to stand in line for 20 minutes at some snooty coffeehouse where things can't just be medium and large, but have to be 'Grande' and 'Venti.' At JoToGo we serve really good coffee, really fast. We're the original drive-thru espresso bar serving all your favorite premium coffee drinks at lightning speed. So when you're on the go, get a JoToGo. No snooty attitude here, just fabulous coffee fast.
No matter how big a brand might be in the public's mind, there's always an open spot for the exact opposite. When the circumstances call for it, be that opposite. Create a counter-brand.
(JoToGo is a real company - a new franchise - and they're doing fabulous.)
MIT Study Proves Us Right
by Roy H. Williams
If you've heard me speak publicly, you've heard me say, "Talk to the customer in the language of the customer about what matters to the customer. Bad advertising is about you, your company, your product or your service. Good advertising is about the customer, and how your product or service will change their world." Do you know the language of your customers? Are they choosing with their intellect, Transactionally, or with their gut, Relationally?
You're about to buy a hardback book online. You go to DealTime.com, type in the title of the book, and get an instant list of hyperlinks to every online seller that has the book for sale, complete with shipping costs, etc. At the top of the list is the lowest price. Do you click it?
According to a just-released study by MIT's Sloan School of Management, only 49 percent of 10,000 monitored shoppers chose the lowest price. Fifty-one percent scrolled down from the lowest prices at the top of the list to buy from a better-known retailer down below, voluntarily paying several dollars more to buy from a vendor they knew.
Due to the left-brain, "pure logic" perspective of MIT, the research team said they expected close to 100 percent of the shoppers to choose to pay the lowest possible possible for the product. "The vicious price competition predicted by retailers and economists is not what we found," a spokesman said. "People were willing, on average, to pay $3 more to buy from Amazon."
But the MIT findings didn't surprise the CEO of Best Buy, America's number one electronics retailer. After analyzing the purchase histories of several groups of customers, CEO Brad Anderson discovered that just 20% of Best Buy's customers were responsible for virtually all the transactions in which the company lost money, while an entirely different 20% accounted for the bulk of store profits. In early 2004, Anderson began training salespeople in 100 pilot stores how to quickly recognize and accommodate the high-profit customers. In other words, they began training salespeople to "Talk to the customer in the language of the customer about what matters to the customer."
Would it surprise you to learn that Best Buy's 100 pilot stores are posting sales gains that are double the sales gains of the other stores? Not surprisingly, Best Buy is now converting additional stores to the new model. CEO Anderson says that a company should view itself as "a portfolio of customers, not product lines."
In a November 8, 2004 Wall Street Journal front page story, Anderson confessed to wanting to lose up to 20 percent of his store traffic the most deeply committed of the profit-sucking Transactional customers. To deter these undesirables, the pilot stores are cutting back on the promotions and sales tactics that tend to draw them, and culling their names from direct-mail marketing lists.
Surprising though it may be, I can assure you it's the wave of the future. And Wizard Academy is riding the wave. Are you?
Power of Weakness
by Roy H. WilliamsFeatures and benefits, features and benefits, features and benefits. We've polished our pitches to such a degree that we've dimmed our abilities to persuade. The customer is only half listening because the inner self is asking, "What are they not telling me?"
Those who have heard my 90-minute presentation about the ongoing evolution of Western communication style are familiar with the problem:
Do you want to surprise Broca, gain the attention of your customer and win back your credibility? Learn to name features, benefits, and downside. Trust me, the customer is already trying to figure out the downside. Why not just tell them? It's the best possible way to insulate yourself from the backlash when they finally figure it out for themselves.
This powerful "tell the truth" technique is easily perverted into just another oily sales trick when the downside you name isn't the real one. As Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld observed 350 years ago, "We only confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no big ones."
I'm saying confess the big ones. Knock your customers flat with your candor. Yes, it will cost you a few sales you might otherwise have made. But it will make you far more sales than it costs you.
People aren't as stupid as you think.
The Great Ad Myth
by Roy H. Williams"Writing comes more easily if you have something to say." - Sholem Asch
Ads are like houses. You can do a good job constructing a badly designed house, but when you're through, you've still got a badly designed house. It doesn't matter how good you are with a hammer and a saw when the blueprints themselves are faulty.
Likewise, it doesn't matter how good you are with nouns and verbs when the core message itself is boring. There's no good way to tell a bad story. Ultimately, it is the core message of your campaign - the blueprint - that determines the success of your advertising.
Give a powerful core message to an average writer and a mom'n'pop business can leap from Main Street, Mayberry, to the New York Stock Exchange. But give an average message to a powerful writer and you've got blah, blah, media filler. But you already knew that.
One of my great failures as a human being is that I don't know how to make small talk. I'm being totally serious with you. I've never been able to master the art of talking without saying anything. I suppose it's why the people I meet in social situations often get the mistaken impression that I don't like them. My awkward inability to make small talk makes me a horrible party guest, but a better-than-average ad writer.
Let me speak frankly: I've been extremely successful as an advertising consultant because I've been able to convince courageous businesspeople to throw caution to the wind and say something in their ads that actually matters. Do you remember a chapter in Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads called "John Young's Fortune?" John Young and his business partner, Jim Abrams, have been clients of mine for a number of years. Here's an ad they recently let me write for one of their newest franchises. It's a good example of what I'm talking about:
You just sit there... waiting for the plumber to show up... watching the clock... waiting. Until he finally calls to say, 'We're going to have to reschedule for tomorrow.' Next time, call Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumber. If he isn't there when he said he'd be, he pays you five dollars a minute. That's a dollar for every twelve seconds you have to wait. Heck, if Benjamin Franklin makes you wait as long as most plumbers do, you'll get your problem fixed for free and make a few hundred bucks. Dependable. Honest. Hardworking. Benjamin Franklin, the Punctual Plumber. He pays you if you have to wait.
(Plumbers, don't steal that ad. It's copyrighted.)
Now let's be honest. The power of that ad isn't in the writing. It's in the message, "they pay you five dollars a minute. That's a dollar for every twelve seconds you have to wait." There's just no way to say a thing like that without it being powerful.
The secret to successful marketing isn't copy writing, it's strategy.
Great ads aren't born in the hearts of great ad writers. They're born in the hearts of great businesspeople. Do you have the courage to stand apart from the crowd, to truly be different, and then to shout that message from the housetops? If you do, get ready to see your advertising begin to really pay off.
If you don't, get ready for business as usual.
Radio Advertising Principle: Sense of Urgency
by Dan O'DayUnless you're doing "Institutional" or "Image" advertising -- which ad agencies love but which usually are bad investments for advertisers -- your advertising should have a clear Call to Action. This is especially true for local retail advertising, which is the lifeblood of commercial radio.
Contrary to popular belief, a "good" commercial is not one that wins awards. It's not one that everyone tells you they love. It's not even one that the client tells you he loves, nor the one your audience hums along with.
A "good" commercial is one that motivates the listener to act on the sales message:
To go to the automobile showroom and test-drive the vehicle.
To sample the fragrance at the department store's perfume counter.
To pick up the phone, dial the toll-free number, and request the free information booklet.
(As David Ogilvy said, "Don't tell me you love my ad. Tell me you bought the product.")
There is nothing as powerful as a Sense of Urgency to motivate people to act. (That is why it is far easier to sell a cure than it is to sell a prevention.)
"Limited supply" -- if genuine and if communicated convincingly -- can lend a sense of urgency to a sales offer. (Think about past holiday seasons when parents frantically ran all over town, searching for the nearly-impossible-to-find "Tickle Me Elmo" or "Cabbage Patch" dolls.)
The limited supply might refer to the product itself. Or it might refer to some sort of bonus and/or Gift With Purchase.
Another very strong incentive to act is embodied in a deadline.
In the U.S., we are required to report our income to the Internal Revenue Service. For individual taxpayers, the annual deadline for filing their tax returns is April 15.
Based upon a completely nonscientific survey I've made of people I've met in life, I'd estimate that 43% of American taxpayers mail their income tax returns on April 14 or 15.
Why do they wait so long?
Is it because April 15 is just too darned early in the year? If income tax returns weren't due until, say, June 15, would everyone file their returns in May?
No. They'd file on June 14 or 15.
Because true, enforceable deadlines are among the strongest motivators known to humans. (I don't suppose you've ever stayed up all night finishing a school report...or a sales proposal for which you've had weeks during which to prepare.)
The following is not a deadline:
"With prices like these, you know they won't last forever!"
"Hurry, this sale ends soon!"
A deadline is:
"Friday night at 9."
"Tomorrow at Noon."
Grocery stores understand this. Odds are the supermarket you patronize has weekly "specials." They probably begin on Thursday and expire the following Wednesday. They don't advertise their "storewide savings." Instead, they offer something of genuine, measurable value -- a great bargain -- for a very limited time.
Week after week after week.
To motivate grocery shoppers to return to their supermarkets week after week after week.
The more you can educate your clients regarding the wisdom of making genuine, valuable special offers with deadlines, the more money you can make for them.
60s, 30s, 15s, or Mentions?
by Roy H. Williams
Shakespeare would argue for fifteen-second radio ads, "Brevity is the soul of wit." But W.C. Fields would suggest sixties, "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull." I agree with both.
When people ask me, "What's the best length radio ad?" I always think of Abe Lincoln's answer when asked, "How long should a man's legs be?"
Long enough to reach the ground.
In other words, a radio ad should be exactly as long as it takes to say what needs to be said.
Use 60-second ads when:
Use 30-second ads when:
Use 15-second ads when:
Use mentions when:
The most common mistake is taking too long to say too little. The second most common mistake is allowing your budget to dictate the length of your ad. Never try to squeak by with fifteens and mentions when what you really need is thirties or sixties. Sacrifice reach, never ad length. Buy a less expensive daypart. Or a smaller station.
Make your message exactly as long as it needs to be.
Before You Begin Writing Those Ads...
by Roy H. WilliamsWhich do you think would work better, the brilliant execution of a flawed strategy, or the flawed execution of a brilliant one?
In business, it's the flawed execution of a brilliant strategy that usually wins the day.
Most advertising professionals are unwilling to question a client's strategy because they're afraid of losing the account. So they happily pretend that "good writing, scientifically selected colors, powerful pictures and reaching the right audience" is all that's needed to make money in America.
Piffle and Pooh. Give me average writing, bland colors, no pictures, the wrong people and a strong strategy and I'll have to rent a trailer to haul my money to the bank.
It's hard to tell a powerful story badly. But it's easy to tell a weak story well. I've never seen a business fail because they were "reaching the wrong people." But I've seen thousands fail because they were saying the wrong thing. Please hear me correctly. These catastrophic failures weren't saying the right thing badly, they were saying the wrong thing well. It's amazing how many people become "the right people" when you're saying the right thing. Believe it or not it's advertising third, customer delight second, strategy always first.
At the heart of every moneymaking ad campaign is a powerful strategy, a story that needed to be told. But not every business has such a story. When your ads aren't working, return ally takes more than good writing to pull you back from the brink of disaster.
How did you get to the brink of disaster in the first place?
Business owners wander near the brink when they:
Give me a business that delights its customers and I can write ads that will take them to the stars. But force me to write ads for a business that does only an average job with their customers and I'll have to work like a madman to keep that business from sliding backwards. Unless they have no competitors.
I'm amazed by business owners who assume that every successful business deserves to be successful. The truth is that a business with weak competitors is going to succeed no matter how bad their advertising or how consistently they disappoint their customers. Could good advertising save a bad restaurant? No, but these restaurants succeed in spite of bad food and no advertising when they're the only restaurant in the hotel. Strategy triumphs again.
The first step in creating a great ad campaign is to refine your core strategy. Have you taken a hard look at it lately? Yesterday's successful strategy can easily become tomorrow's dismal failure.
Those Frogs, Lizards and Ferrets
A reader asks:
"The Budweiser commercials that feature the frogs, the lizards, and the ferret (audio and video) seem to break many advertising rules. Do you think they are effective? Why do they work if they do? Why are they used so much if they don't work?"
Yes, they seem to violate rules of good advertising.
Yes, they work.
Yes, most businesses will approach bankruptcy if they follow Budweiser's advertising model.
The Budweiser campaign is designed to maintain top-of-mind awareness to make sure that when a thirsty beer-drinker has a choice of beers, that thirsty beer-drinker will say, "Give me a Bud."
Before you rush to apply this strategy to your client, ask yourself:
"Does this client already have top-of-mind awareness?"
Because if you don't already have it, you cannot possibly "maintain it."
In terms of sales in the U.S., Budweiser truly is "the king of beers."
The Budweiser campaigns are not intended to induce "product sampling" i.e., to get Miller or Samuel Adams drinkers to "try" a Bud instead.
Rather, they're intended to reinforce the "When you want a beer, you want a Bud" conditioning of the American beer-drinking public.
Call it Institutional Advertising.
Call it Image Advertising.
Coke does the same thing, plastering the familiar Coca-Cola handwriting on billboards around the world.
Those billboards do nothing to convince non-cola drinkers to "try" Coke or Pepsi lovers to forsake their favorite brand.
They're intended instead to encourage all those millions of soft drinkers to continue ask for "a Coke" instead of "a soda" or "a cola" or "a Pepsi."
Budweiser isn't selling malt and hops. It's not even selling beer. It's selling "a good time." And lots of Americans equate "a good time" with "drinking beer."
But there's a deeper, more important factor that drives Budweiser's advertising: Budweiser has a deep, dark, secret. A secret so horrific that it, if it becomes widely known, could cripple this powerful brand.
And here is that secret:
Budweiser is the beer my grandfather, Max (1890 - 1986) always drank.
Max was Old School. He didn't know from talking frogs. I'm pretty sure one of the last things he said to me before passing away at the age of 96 was, "Thank God I'm dying before Rap Music becomes really popular."
For an American beer, Budweiser is very old. It's my grandfather's beer. It's been the world's best-selling beer since 1957.
And Anheuser-Busch does not want its 18-to-49 year old male core to think of Budweiser as "my grandfather's beer." So they spend untold millions of dollars to convince consumers that the Bud brand is youthful, hip, and fun.
This kind of "Image Advertising" requires three ingredients to succeed:
What other word often is applied to this kind of advertising?
You got it: Branding.
But Branding is not getting your name in front of millions of people.
Branding is not making millions of people familiar with your name.
The dotcommers learned this lesson the hard way, flushing away hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Remember all those expensive, Internet-related Superbowl ads from years past?
Those fools bragged to anyone who would listen (i.e., virtually everyone in the media) that they were "building a brand" with those commercials.
They weren't building a brand. They were squandering fortunes.
So....What is a brand?
A Brand Is The Solution To A Problem.
Note the use of the word "the." Not "a" solution; it's the solution.
Coca-Cola is the solution to the problem, "I'm hot and thirsty and want something carbonated and caffeinated."
Two companies offering the same service: Airborne Express and FedEx.
Only one of them is the solution to the problem, "This package must be on the other side of the country tomorrow morning!" Hence their now abandoned yet still brilliant positioning slogan, "When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight."
(Airborne Express, on the other hand, is the solution to the problem, "When you're willing to save a couple of bucks even though there's a good chance your package will arrive late....")
(By the way, the strength of FedEx does not reside in their having been the first in their category, because they were not the first.)
Long before The Simpsons, Matt Groening's syndicated LIFE IN HELL comic strip featured Akbar and Jeff's frozen yogurt stand, which offered frozen yogurt "with hardly any bitter metallic aftertaste!" In other words, a solution to a problem.
How about a couple of other examples of "image advertising" that fails miserably, you ask?
How about a product to which I'm completely loyal? One that I've been buying since 1987, one that I've spent maybe $30,000 - $50,000 on (including peripherals) over the years? One that is more expensive than its competition yet which I *never* have been tempted to desert for a cheaper alternative?
Oh, one more thing:
A product with an absolutely stupid, award-winning ad campaign.
You've seen it:
Pay a fortune to the estates of Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein and others, link their images to that two-word slogan and the Apple logo.
How can I say it's an idiotic campaign? After all, it has won some awards, right?
ATTENTION, APPLE COMPUTERS AD GUYS: "Think Different" is the battle cry of a war that already has been lost.
FACT: Apple's operating system is now and always has been superior to anything ever released by Microsoft (from DOS to Windows 2000, inclusive). Old Mac joke: Windows 98 = Macintosh 87.
FACT: Even today, Windows is a slower, stupider imitation of Mac's operating system.
FACT: (This one is real important.) The single most common reason why people purchase PCs rather than Macs is, "Everyone at work is on a PC." They all use software for PCs, not for Macs. Their I.T. guys know PCs, not Macs. And, of course, "It's harder to find software for Macs."
In other words, 95% of the world's computer users opt for PCs because in this case, they do not want to "Think Different!"
In the mid-to-late e80s, when the world had not yet anointed the PC as King, "Think Different" might have worked. Because the personal computer itself was a "different" product category, as the world shifted from main frames to desktops. IBM was the Old Guard, being tested on new ground.
But "Think Different" in today's buying climate??
But....Didn't I read somewhere that Apple staged a dramatic comeback in the marketplace?
Yes, by introducing some great new products. Alas, they've since lost quite a bit of that newly gained ground. They did make a splash, though.
Hey, maybe after Apple finally fires its current ad agency, that agency can shop that same slogan to the Betamax people: "Everyone else in the world is using VHS, but you can Think Different with Beta!"
How should they sell Macintosh?
"It's incredibly easy to use!"
"Here's a 400-page User Manual. If this is your idea of Fun Reading, maybe you SHOULDN'T buy a Macintosh."
"Out of the box and onto the Internet in five minutes!" (They do tout the iMacs with a similar promise, and some of their TV spots featuring Jeff Goldblum have focused on this.)
The next time someone praises Apple's "brilliant" ad campaign, you might enlighten them as to this timeline:
HAVING PEOPLE KNOW YOUR NAME DOES *NOT* MEAN YOU ARE A BRAND: Final Exhibit
D'ja ever hear of Angelyne?
I'll bet most people who live in Los Angeles have.
She's famous, kind of. For....Well, for nothing -- except for being on billboards.
Starting around the time I bought my first Macintosh, her likeness began appearing on billboards in the L.A. area: A startling, obscenely buxom blonde, along with the name "Angelyne" and the phone number of her "management."
The idea was she would become "famous" by being seen on those billboards. And somehow that fame would give her a fulsome show biz career.
Fans of the TV show, Moonlighting, might recall the inclusion of her billboard in that program's weekly opening credits.
The billboards continue as part of the L.A. landscape, although -- thankfully -- her photograph has been replaced with an artist's drawing.
And her "career"?
Sad to report that being a cultural running joke doesn't pay all that well.
Read Angelyne's own true story in her own true words: http://www.angelyne.com/tc.html.
Discover Angelyne's continuing impact on L.A. culture: http://www.grimsociety.com/angelyne/angelsit.html.
Moral: Building a brand does not mean making your client "famous." It means establishing your client as the solution to a problem.