Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Overcoming Commercial Backlash

Advertising is an accepted form of marketing in our country.

But for the past 30 years or so, we have been conditioning the public to think of advertising as a bad thing.

I worked on the air at a radio station in the early 1980's and we would promote "commercial free music sweeps". These were usually 20 or 30 minutes long and at the time it was to promote longer listening, less tune out, and ultimately higher ratings.

What did higher ratings do?

It was one way to promote the value of the station to advertisers, to sell more commercials at higher prices! Sounds contradictory doesn't it?!

Like the overweight doctor who smokes telling you that you should lose weight and stop smoking!

Before this commercial free craze hit the airwaves, radio stations would stop the music 4 to 6 times an hour and play 1 to 3 commercials, and get back to the music. The idea was to keep it moving.

So what happened to when radio stations cut down the number of commercial breaks?

They increased the length of those commercial breaks.

Radio ads are usually 60 seconds long, sometimes 30 seconds. Television ads range from 10 to 30 seconds long. Most people don't have an accurate perception of how long each commercial is. If asked, they usually say "a minute".

A couple of years ago, a music based radio station in my city cut down the commercial breaks to 1 per hour. That meant they would play 8 to 12 minutes of commercials back to back, followed by 50 minutes of "commercial free music".

What happened?

They trained their listeners to tune out, either mentally or literally, (as in tune to another station) for the next 10 minutes while they paid the bills.

The advertisers were paying for listeners that weren't listening to the advertisements, because the radio station told them commercials were bad. If your commercial was the first or second to play or the last one, you had a chance, but all those in the middle... forget it.

Broadcast Television is just as bad and cable is even worse.

AdAge.com recently featured a story on this. (Click here)

And it's not just broadcasting that is overloading us with advertisements, this occurs in print, outdoor signage, online, even in the selling of naming rights of sports venues.

How do you overcome this if you are a business owner?

1. Demand non-commercial commercials.

Several years ago Target reinvented themselves by running a series of ads that didn't prominently mention their name. Instead they were fast paced ads that featured items they sold in a lifestyle setting and at the end displayed the Target logo and a web address.

They ran a branding campaign which set them apart from their competitors and it worked.

2. Don't buy spots, flights, packages, or other short term advertising programs.

Think long term. 13 weeks isn't long term. My most successful advertisers buy annual advertising contracts.

As a business owner, I would toss out anyone who didn't offer me an annual option. Then I'd go one step further. Ask for a two year option. These 1 and 2 year options are for advertising campaigns and require strategic thinking and planning. They also require flexibility because you will need to adjust as circumstances change in your business and the marketplace.

3. Realize that advertising has it's role, and is not a cure all for other things that need fixing and improving.

Wash the windows, dust, sweep, hire the right people, retrain or fire those that are a negative influence on your business.

Make a list of 25 things you can do to improve your business. Jot down any idea. Now write down 25 more ideas. Make that your bucket list for 2011.

Then take action on these items I mentioned today.

image from http://www.tobaccocampaign.com/american-medical-association-promoted-tobacco

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Early Adopters & Late Bloomers

Changes are occurring faster and faster.

I'm sure my parents and even grandparents felt the same way in their lifetimes.

With the speed of technology improvements, it seems that what was last months new thing, is already outdated.

And there is no sign that any of this shows any sign of slowing down.

So how do you ride the wave of the next new thing?

Understand that the Early Adopters are always going to be looking for the next new thing. These people will not make you rich, but if they have influence, they can help push your new thing to Mainstream.

Once the new thing becomes Mainstream, the Early Adopters may or may not stick around, since they are always on the look out for the next new thing.

But Mainstream is where the money is at. If there is money to be made by your thing, this will be the time. If your thing becomes really popular, you will face competitors, more than you can imagine.

What about the Late Bloomers? Typically these are the hardest to convince. Usually no amount of advertising will ever move them to spend their money with you. Word of mouth and peer pressure along with a low price is what gets them to become your customer.

Once you understand this business cycle, you can create a focus, a strategy, and the tactics to make it work, and worry less about trying to please everyone, all the time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Much Money...

Does it cost to create advertising for a successful business or organization?

All to often I see a lack of understanding of the marketing and advertising that it requires for a company to be successful.

A few months ago a new seafood restaurant at a busy intersection opened their doors and now there is a For Sale sign in front.

A co-worker of mine called on him with a strategic plan to build his business that involved no money, only a small trade. The owner said no. Instead he spent a bunch of money on "generic newspaper ads".

I say they were generic because you could have pulled the name of the restaurant and replaced it with another local restaurant and it would have made sense. What doesn't make sense is that the newspaper sales person took all of their money and didn't bring them enough customers.

To be fair, I don't know all the details, but over the years I've seen it too many times:

1. Business owner knows how to run his/her business.
2. Business owner knows next to nothing about advertising and marketing to be successful.
3. Business owner gets talked into something that sounds good, signs the contract and waits for all the customers to come rushing in to spend their money.
4. Business owner runs out of money because their advertising didn't work, and it would have been a miracle if it did!
5. Business owner shuts down, closes shop, and ends up bitter, frustrated and broke.

So is there a real answer?

Yes. Whatever amount of money you were planning on spending on advertising, double it.
Heck, triple it. Or if you are a real cheap skate, quadruple it.

Start thinking like the big boys when it comes to investing in attracting and retaining customers.

They get professional advice and they pay big bucks. How much?

Office Depot spent $60,000,000 in 2010.

The U.S. Army? $200,000,000.

Now unless you are the size of the Army or Office Depot, you don't need to spend that much, but odds are you are underspending.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Below the Surface

All of us have had some pretty exceptional, positive experiences in our lives when dealing with a business.

You may not remember them as much as you do the negative experiences, but the positive ones go just as deep into your subconscious and you subconsciously change your behavior.

Here's an example from my life that I'm sure you can relate to.

I eat.

2 or 3 times daily.

Breakfast and Lunch during the week are all up to me. I can grab a bowl of cereal and something from the fridge to brown bag it, or I can eat out.

Let's focus on Breakfast. At least 3 days a week, I eat something on my way to the office.

Without getting out of my car and without going out of my way, I can get food from 3 McDonalds, 3 Arby's, or 3 Subways. There are also 2 Starbucks and 1 Burger King that I pass.

I don't really go through a long pro/con debate of each of the 12 places, most of it is subconscious.

Except the Starbucks and Burger King options are off my list due to price or quality of breakfast food.

It is a matter of mere seconds that I have to decide between the first McDonalds/Arbys/Subway. Out of 20 visits, 15 are going to be Arbys, 4 McDonalds and 1 Subway, according to my receipts.

At first I thought it was due to Arby's has my favorite drink, Diet Mt. Dew, but I almost always grab an ice cold can from home and have it with me when I'm deciding which drive-thru to visit.

In preparing this story, I have had to ask myself why Arby's gets more of my breakfast money than the others combined. And the answer is the people.

It's just a brief transaction, but in those few seconds, the Arby's crew makes me feel better than the breakfast crew at McDonalds or Subway.

Most people don't know the subconscious answers to these questions, they just decide where to spend their money.

So my challenge to you is what can you do to improve the experience for your customers so that when all the obvious choices are equal, they will go below the surface to the subconscious and do business with you?

(In the interest of full disclosure, both McDonalds and Subway are advertising clients of mine, and they get more of my lunch money than Arbys.)