Tag Archives: complex products

Advertising doesn’t work on me

With family holiday dinners looming, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable conversation:

Hey, have you seen that new ad for ________? (insert the name of any cell phone provider, car or insurance company).  I thought the commercial was cool, but I have never bought (cell phone service, a car, an insurance policy) because I saw an ad.  Advertising doesn’t work on me.

My answer? The advertiser didn’t expect you to buy any of those things because you saw the ad . . .  but it did work.

I usually get shocked looks in return.  Don’t advertising people make a living using fancy pictures and catchy music to trick innocent people into buying things they don’t need?   Wasn’t that what happened in all those episodes of Bewitched, 30 Something, Melrose Place (circa 1992), and Mad Men?

The truth is, advertisers don’t see consumers as mindless lemmings, jumping one after the other to purchase every product they see on TV.  As David Ogilvy once said (in an admittedly sexist manner), “The customer is not a moron — she is your wife.”

So even if you didn’t run out and buy a new sports car after you saw the ad, why do I say the advertising worked?  Because the goal of advertising for higher-priced, infrequent purchases is to put the product on your radar in anticipation of the day when you need a new car, have experienced one too many dropped phone calls or want a better rate on your insurance.  Smart marketers will have a host of other tools to help you make an informed purchase decision once you are actively thinking about buying, but for now all they want you to do is remember their brand.

Go ahead and feel free to buy something you see in an ad today; you won’t be turned away.  But if all you do is remember to ask me about the commercial over Thanksgiving dinner; it has more than done its job.  Now, please pass the mashed potatoes.

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What marketers of complex products can learn from rocket science

Just because your product is complicated and hard to understand doesn’t mean your advertising has to resemble something written by Nietzsche. In fact, it’s hurting your business if it does.

My brother understands this. He is a rocket scientist. It would be the understatement of the year to say that his work can be complicated to communicate. And yet, he finds a way to talk about and present very complex concepts in simple terms, to a wide variety of audiences. Hell, even an ad guy can understand them.

That’s an approach marketers of complicated products or services can take a lesson from. Sure, your product is multifaceted. Yes, it requires thinking before a purchase is made. Throw in a sales channel with more twists than a Philadelphia pretzel. Doesn’t matter. You still have to communicate a single benefit. And no matter how smart your audience, or how steeped in product lingo they are, if they don’t take away the message, you’ve just wasted your company’s money.

So simplify. Or demand that your agency help you simplify.

Is there a way to judge if your communication is simple enough? You bet.
It’s an old trick of creative directors when judging work. They distance themselves from the assignment and look at an ad or video like they’re seeing it for the first time. So take off your marketing hat. Unfetter yourself from your corporate responsibilities for a moment. Does the work grab attention? Do you take away one simple benefit? Does it stand out in its environment? If not, throw it back for more cooking.

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