In My First 65 Years in Advertising (TAB Books, 1975), Maxwell Sackheim calls indifference and inertia the enemies of advertising.
'Indifference is normal,' says Sackheim.
'We go through life generally with our minds only half turned on, except when we are promised an adequate reward for our full attention. Ordinarily, our attitude towards nearly everything we see, read, hear and experience is "so what?"
'Indifference is the number one [obstacle] we have to overcome—and when you begin to realize how terrific the competition is for your prospect's time and attention, you begin to appreciate what [an obstacle] indifference is.'
Sackheim describes inertia as the 'law of physics which decrees that a body in motion, or at rest, resists change'.
'People hate to bother changing their minds, their habits, their routines.
'It takes tons of persuasion to make people do even the things they want to do!'
So, how does one tackle indifference and inertia?
Sackheim suggests three ways:
Offer the consumer a benefit, a solution, an answer. "What's in it for me?" asks the consumer. Tell them. Quickly. Prominently. Ideally, in the headline.
Change what the consumer believes they know about your product/service, in relation to the competition or the brand category itself.
If you can, overhaul your physical or functional product/service (keeping your consumer and the competition in mind while doing so) and then communicate the brand-new you in a way that spotlights the advantage.
Consider positioning or repositioning your brand, or even infusing it with a unique selling proposition.
3. Make them an offer
A free gift, prize contest, recipe booklet, special price, and the like.
Although Sackheim was speaking from a mail-order perspective, virtually all other forms of advertising can make use of these indifference- & inertia-busting methods.
But, where does branding fit into the picture?
Branding and the methods Sackheim recommends are not mutually exclusive.
Sure, branding has its advantages, not the least of which is it can help create & reinforce a unique brand persona—this is especially true if ATL and/or digital advertising is your primary marcom.
But there's a limit to the amount of branding a consumer will put up with or relate to, and there's only so much that branding itself can do for a marketer.
Moreover, misinformed branding can easily make your brand and the product/service too abstract for the consumer's liking.
Let's not forget that branding is also expensive. If you can afford it, ask yourself if you, in fact, should.
By the way, if most marketers in a category are preoccupied with branding, an opportunity may exist for the right trailing or new brand to quickly make inroads into the market on the back of a "street-smart" marketing & advertising campaign.
The branding (a.k.a. marketing communication) strategy stems from the business or marketing strategy.
A marketing strategy that ignores what is already inside the head of the consumer—and other market realities—only makes things difficult for everything that follows.
After all, not all consumers are in the same boat.
New prospects or customers of competing brands may find your branding appealing enough to consider giving your product/service a shot.
Why not make the most of the opportunity and encourage them to become a buyer sooner rather than later by incorporating a mail-order/direct-response technique or two in your marcom?
Because in the end, what must matter to a marketer is the same as that which matters to the consumer:
The value one gets out of the advertising space, time, or pixels.
Source: Pexels (https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-casual-collection-fashion-296881/)
According to a MarketingSherpa-MECLABS survey, consumers hate it when brands (and their marketing):
Marketing is essentially about either changing or reinforcing attitudes and/or behaviour.
Marketing communication is much more so.
A lot has to happen (or has happened) to move the consumer to the brand awareness stage.
And a lot more has to happen to convince them to make that transition from a prospect to a customer (or even a repeat one).
If alienated from marketing & business objectives, marcom can be nothing more than an expense—a tax write-off. It can be allowed to exist for its own sake, and even treated like a necessary evil.
Marcom of this variety festers as a knee-jerk reaction to market forces, such as the competition, a product/service category disruption, and the like.
Or, it merely serves as a vassal of the marketing manager's ego, whim, and/or opinion.
It tries to draw the consumer's attention to what can only be described as a nebulous product/service by drawing attention to itself (usually via no-brain "creativity"), and neglects to put the consumer first.
It communicates nothing of value to the consumer.
And it fails to offer service (Claude Hopkins) in the form of information the consumer needs/wants.
Not surprisingly, businesses don't think twice about pulling the plug on marcom budgets during internal, sectorial & economic downturns. Some businesses even look to marcom to solve a PR, business or some other non-marcom problem.
Marcom was, is and always will be about mass salesmanship—a means to an end. And like a good salesperson, only the most empathetic & resolute marcom is worth its salt.
Source: Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons (https://tinyurl.com/y8k7edmj).
Everyone's looking for some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Consumers are no exception.
And if we marketers and marketing communication practitioners are as smart as we believe we are, it's plain to see that the world is quickly 'runnin' out of "fools"'.
Not least because of the spanner that the Web and the "disruptions" surrounding the tech-savvy, seemingly self-absorbed Generation Y (a.k.a. 'millennials') have thrown in the works.
Fortified by social media and instant messaging services, word of mouth can now travel faster and farther than ever before.
This democratisation of communication and information sharing has suddenly turned the spotlight back on marketing & advertising accountability.
Geographic markets—until recently virtual provincial fiefdoms of brands—no longer insulate marketers from the blowback from a brand's real or perceived shortcoming. A wound to a brand's image in one market can today haemorrhage market share virtually overnight in a market halfway around the world.
Governmental censure & fines, anti-consumption campaigns, loss of face, and the inevitable layoffs can be compounded by a drastic—sometimes fatal—reduction in brand equity.
Only the most foolhardy & callous marketers and their marketing communication agencies can now afford to take consumers, marketing & advertising campaigns, and the firefighting following a crisis for granted.
A useful rule of thumb in these turbulent times can be one that's reflected across cultures, but is easier said than done:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Source: Mathyas Kurmann (https://tinyurl.com/ycyepr8g) on Unsplash (https://tinyurl.com/y7j8ct7l).
There is nothing new under the sun, at least not in the world of marketing communication.
The digital marcom folks are rediscovering what "Old School" direct marketing practitioners and the businesses that depend on it knew all along:
Marcom that's worth its salt is intrinsically accountable.
Whether the purpose is branding, education, credibility-building and/or sales, marcom effectiveness can be greatly improved if it is evaluated against an objective ROI benchmark.
It doesn't hurt if everyone's in agreement that marcom's about what your prospect wants it to be. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For starters, we must stop assuming that the noise in our head is the same as the noise in our prospect's head (Seth Godin).
The prospect couldn't care less about our attempts to separate them from their money and/or time.
To paraphrase the legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz, a marcom plan should be based on insights regarding:
A prospect who's already sold on the idea of buying your product/service (or one just like yours) will demand a different marcom approach than a prospect who is unfamiliar with you and even your product/service category.
If your brand falls somewhere in between these two market limits, your strategy has to take this fact on board.
All marcom for a product/service category can be said to have a verbal & visual vocabulary.
It pays to, therefore, take stock of the current as well as the most recent marcom that corresponds to the product/service category that your brand is competing in.
What is the competition saying and how are they saying it? What strategy, if any, and tactics are they using?
A fundamental objective of a marcom plan should be to counter competing approaches, arguments and the tactics used. Not follow suit.
Of course, the value you allot to such insights depends on how important marcom is in your marketing mix.
There may be nothing new under the sun. But if your prospects believe this to be also true of your marcom, then it has clearly ignored one important fact:
'. . . the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.' (Claude Hopkins)