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  • How Effective is My Advertising?

    There isn't a week that goes by when a client doesn't question the value of their advertising and the true impact of an advertised sale event.

    My response is often that the message was right, but the medium was wrong. You can't sell corporate image in print. You cannot sell price and item during a 30-second television advertisement because time precludes you from listing more than two items!

    Additionally, many retailers try to shout the same message week after week and can't figure out why their advertising efficiency declines very quickly. These "unguided" advertising missiles sometime hit their target, but more often they explode in midair!

    From the consumer's viewpoint, they perceive newspaper as a price and item vehicle. Circulars, tabloids and broadsheets are sensation vehicles. Radio does a great job selling urgency, and television is a magnificent way to educate the market and to make a sale a sale event. Direct mailing is a personal form of advertising ideally targeted with a special offer.

    Each advertising vehicle is unsurpassed in its area of impact. However, putting the wrong message in a powerful vehicle like TV can reduce the advertising efficiency by as much as 80%.

    What does the production value of a TV ad tell today's consumer? Due to the absence of name brands in the home remodeling industry, the production value of a television ad represents 53% of that store's quality image. The appliance and electronics stores' TV production value creates 38 to 40% of their stores' quality image.

    A high-end furniture store does serious damage to its quality image when it allows its television advertising to be at par with its moderately priced competition. Also, a moderately priced store can improve its position in the marketplace by investing more dollars in its television ads.

    The secret here is that a second or third place retailer can displace the top store because TV educates not only with verbal messages but also with the way it is produced.

    With consumers going to fewer stores and more shoppers buying at the first store in which they shop, advertising gurus strive to create urgency in their advertising and hopefully not offend the senses of the targeted audience. Many retailers abuse this urgency message by putting too many "greatest one-day sales" within a short advertising calendar, leaving the customer to question the validity of the message and its messenger.

    Radio is the best vehicle to sell urgency. By tapping into a listener's imagination, the retailer can produce an urgency level that makes the final day or days of a sale the biggest of a month-long campaign.

    However, keep in mind the customer driven by urgency is also the one who is mostly instant gratification driven. So he or she will not settle for a sale where little is in stock and merchandise requires special order.

    In today's competitive environment some degree of urgency is critical in all sale advertising. Messages can be delivered in many ways from "time is running out," to a special purchase with limited quantities, to selling from samples and so on.

    Urgency is the underlying message in effective sale advertising because it makes a customer prioritize your store in the sea of retail stores selling the same product category.

    In my book Predatory Marketing I propose this retail treatise: "Be first. Be right. Or be dead!" This message is more true today than it was when I wrote my book in the second half of 1996.

    Consider the alarming fact that in 1980 consumers shopping for furniture went to more than four stores and 38% bought at the first store they shopped. Today that same consumer, who has much less time, visits no more than three stores with as many as 71% buying at the first store for certain furniture products.

    The demise of many fine local independents is based in those above figures. In prior years a retailer who was a customer's third or fourth choice could get enough shoppers to generate an acceptable sales level for the store. No more! Today that store will have at least 40% less store traffic if they are a customer's third or fourth choices.

    Americans are "time short." They want their first store to have what they are looking for and 74% of furniture shoppers are planning to buy at the first store they visit.

    With a third or fourth place store seeing at least 40% fewer shoppers, a second-place store today will see a 15% decline in store traffic compared to five to seven years ago.

    That is why I tell my clients, "You are either the hunter or the target." If you cannot become your customers' first choice, you have a defective marketing strategy which will lead you to see fewer and fewer shoppers in the years ahead.

    Too many advertising managers or agencies don't want to be measured, so they never create any mileposts along the way to see how well you are progressing down that advertising highway.

    A store with a new image campaign should see a measurable difference within 45 days and often within 30 days. Few companies face the tough dilemma that Ford experienced years ago when their quality negative was so bad they recognized it would take at least two years to see any benefit from their "Quality is Job One" campaign.

    The one who creates this new image should identify the core issues that make a company unique as well as a time line which will tell the retailer how quickly it should see results. If the group behind a new campaign is unable to develop a way to measure performance, fire them! Find someone else who is truly committed to their recommended strategy for your company.

    I have told many clients over the years, "Whether you like the campaign is not as important as you understanding the objectives for it." If you can't figure out the objective, it is likely your customer can't either.

    Every advertising element must have a purpose that is clear.

    Why do so many campaigns fail? No one could agree on the objective to the campaign, and it reflected this confusion. Advertising must have a clear objective with a measurable target.

    According to our research the failure of most advertising rests on the lack of understanding of this basic principle.