Sure, Ads Don’t Influence You, & You Aren’t Reading This Headline Either

I have always been fascinated by advertising – it is a huge part of the business I am in, selling ads in-print and online. What is amazing to me is the idea that an advertiser no one has ever heard of will advertise a “bet the farm” product for a short time and expect to have success rates similar to the latest Apple device to be proceeded by the letter “i.”

In my discussions with entrepreneurs, you often hear them lament – why aren’t these boxes shipping faster? And you have to remind them that perhaps because they start at $250,000 and they don’t have a name brand or single customer reference yet.

In my experience, if you build a better mouse trap, the world will not only not beat a path to your door, you will likely go bankrupt unless you effectively have a program in place to generate demand, influence prospects and continue messaging to them via advertising to influence them to open their wallet.

The most successful companies I know are the ones in any industry which have consistent branding. Geico is a great example as is Nationwide Insurance and Cablevision via its Optimum series of TV ads.

Probably the best example of advertising working is asking anyone over the age of 40, “How do you spell relief.” If they can’t recall “R-O-L-A-I-D-S” it would be a shocker and the ad series run by the antacid company hasn’t been seen in at least a decade if not more.

The point is, advertising is about subtle influence – no one wants to think they are influenced by ads so you have to be delicate and stick your brand in the mind of the buyer before they need your product.

In the business-to-business space, we don’t generally have many impulse buys – the pack of gum in the grocery store for example. Buyers have to have a need, then an internal discussion, then a budget, then RFPs, then a short list and then a purchase.

And guess what, unless you were college room mates with the customer, your new product won’ be taken seriously until you invest in the customer to the point where they take you seriously.

And startups often wonder why they can’t sell their mission-critical telephony products a few months after they are out of Beta.

Advertising takes time to work. Messaging needs to be experimented with. One customer we had saw results skyrocket just by switching their ads to red and black. Other companies need to experiment with messaging and offer type.

Analyst Nigel Hollis has a frank discussion on the matter at The Atlantic and it is an important piece regardless of what you think of advertising. But if you are in a management and especially marketing role, it is a must read.

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