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.