Originally published: 03.01.20 by Kelly Borth
The goal of your advertising should be to stand out from your competition, offer a compelling solution and increase brand recognition and sales.
Great advertising needs to accomplish a multitude of things — and in just a few short seconds. It needs to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time when there is a need.
It is a mash-up of research, competitive advantage, an appeal of emotions, the offering of a resolution that demonstrates how your audience can triumph over their issue — oh, and you need to place that advertising where your target market will consume it. It is both a science and an art. How is that for a challenge?!
Balance all these things, and you’re on your way to having effective advertising that will garner results. It is not rocket science, but it does take the right amount of effort to get it right.
Understand Your Audience
If you could live a day in the life of your prospective audience, what would you experience? What are their daily frustrations like? What determines a good day and what contributes to making it a bad day? What do they want? What would improve their situation? What do they need to change their current circumstances?
Understanding your audience is imperative to being able to offer a solution that incites action.
Know Your Differentiation
If you are unsure of how your products or services are different than what competitors can offer, you should begin with uncovering your company’s unique distinction. If you don’t, you will risk looking like — and sounding like — your competitors.
You need to be able to deliver key messages that position your company differently in the marketplace. The goal is to stand out from your competition, offer a compelling solution and increase brand recognition and sales.
Do you offer a simple three-step process? A simple solution? Is your service comprehensive? How can you make that part of your differentiation? Do you specialize in uncommon services? Are your service technicians factory certified? Do you offer one-day service? Create a toolbox of differentiating factors and leverage them in your advertising.
But first, consider how that differentiation makes a difference in the world of your target buyer — how does it solve a problem, satisfy a need or a desire?
So, before you commit to the expense of advertising, be sure you can answer a few questions:
How is your company different from your competition?
Are your products or services better? How? Why?
Is your company more innovative? How? Why?
Do you have a proprietary procedure that is exclusive to you?
Emotional Appeal Creates Engagement
In 2015, REI — a specialty outdoor retailer headquartered near Seattle — announced its #OptOutside campaign, closed all of its retail stores on the biggest shopping day of the year, gave employees the paid day off on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and encouraged everyone to enjoy a day outdoors with their families.
Since then, the wildly popular #OptOutside has grown from one Friday in November to a whole source of online content on REI’s website, where people can find resources for outdoor activities near them, learn about REI’s partnership with state and federal parks and participate in REI’s Opt to Act Plan program.
The program challenges people to make a difference 52 weeks a year by taking action to reduce their impact on the planet, such as committing to using half as many single-use plastic items, buying food in bulk and taking your own reusable bags to the grocery store.
REI sells sporting goods, camping gear, travel equipment and clothing to people who love the outdoors. It also offers other services, such as outdoor-oriented vacations and encourages people to enjoy the outdoors. Other competitors do the same. So, what makes them different?
When answering “why,” you’re selling the purpose, the mission and the vision of your company — the emotional explanation of why your business matters.
This is the core of your brand and is what ultimately compels brand loyalty. This is what attracts customers who share the same beliefs and values — the customers who will become the company’s brand advocates.
REI’s “why” might state, “We’re in business to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. We have a responsibility to encourage people to reduce our impact on the Earth, get active and leave the world a better place to help improve the lives of others. We help people #OptOutside.”
Using another company as an example: TOMS Shoes might offer a large assortment of comfortable shoes for men, women and children that are wearable from day to night. Yep, a lot of shoe manufacturers can claim this same thing.
A “why” message for TOMS Shoes might state, “We’re in business to help improve lives. Many children in Third World countries don’t have adequate shoes to protect their feet. With every product you purchase, not only will you enjoy a comfortable pair of shoes you can wear all day long, but TOMS will also give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One.”
So, understanding how your solution, what you have to offer your target audience and how you can address their greater needs, concerns and issues, helps your advertising to have an emotional appeal that engages people with your brand and provides a greater reason for brand loyalty.
Be Memorable in a Meaningful Way
Think Super Bowl. Think about a great commercial or ad that you saw. Have you ever caught yourself talking about a hilarious commercial but forgetting which company or product it was promoting?
That advertising might have gotten a few laughs and was memorable from a recall perspective, but it was not effective in getting the phone to ring. Your goal is for people to not only remember your ad but remember your company as well.
That’s where meaningful advertising comes into play. Memorable and meaningful advertising compels an emotional response from the receiver. It can be humorous. It can spark empathy. It can address fears. It can elicit guilt. It can show affection. It can promote patriotism. It can exemplify unity.
It demonstrates its understanding of the needs, wants and desires of the target audience and it shows that audience how that resolution can triumph over their issues. So, beyond entertaining and engaging, it is demonstrating how it makes their life or their situation better.
Some good examples of memorable advertisements are Geico’s funny gecko, Allstate’s Mayhem character and Flo from Progressive Insurance — all raised the bar for advertising in the insurance industry.
At the same time, ASPCA’s sad images of neglected and abused animals with the unforgettable Sarah McLachlan song playing in the background was such a successful campaign that it raised $30 million and has been referenced in many television shows and movies. A memorable ad often becomes a part of pop culture. Can you hear me now?
It is when you have an intimate understanding of your audience, when you link your company’s unique offerings and promote your products or services with a message and imagery that elicits an emotional appeal in a creative, meaningful and memorable way, that people will respond.
And, of course, have a call to action. Tell them what to do next to help you solve their concerns.
Be Where Your Audience Hangs Out
Know all the places where your prospective customers are engaging. Know when they are engaging. Know how frequently your company need to be showing up to build name recognition and advertising recall to elicit action — rarely does running a single ad get the results that a company desires. So, frequency of advertising is a factor.
And don’t forget the part of the formula where a company needs to show up when that prospect has a need. That is a tricky one, but Google has solved that for a lot of consumers. But don’t get fooled by thinking Google alone is the answer.
Be sure consumers know your name and understand what your brand stands for when that need does arise. Create a compelling reason why — in a sea of options — a prospect in need should choose your company.