Monday, 9 December 2013

Advertising and Marketing in the Digital Age

"The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself."
- Peter Drucker

Advertising and marketing are terms that are often used interchangeably and frequently incorrectly. The best definition I've found is by Laura Lake in an article for entitled, "Marketing vs. Advertising: What's the Difference?"

"The best way to distinguish between advertising and marketing is to think of marketing as a pie, inside that pie you have slices of advertising, market research, media planning, public relatinos, product pricing, distribution, customer support, sales strategy, and community involvement. Advertising only equals one piece of the pie in the strategy."

None of those "slices" are nearly as sexy as the advertising serving, which is why Mad Men is a hit and Sales Strategy Dynasty will languish in development purgatory.

QUIET! We're "strategizing"....
Marketing is hard. It's a slow drip on a rock with the expectation that your Grand Canyon will be formed EOD. ASAP. You're combining efforts made in research, strategy, design, messaging, focus groups, expertise, and intuition with the hopes that your target customer will bite and provide your client with a clear return on their investment. 

With a multitude of data at our fingertips, marketers have a million ways to try and quantify, crunch, and compute that one sweet spot demo that will make your efforts pay off. Or they don't. Crickets. No calls in from the radio ad. No clicks on your finely tuned Google Ad. Your client is getting justifiably impation. You're dusting off the MBA applications. And then it happens. Customers flock to your client. Your strategy is working! You're a hero! Gardens and parks will bear your name and Twitter handle for millennia!

All of the above can happen in a matter of hours with the expectation in a digital age that results need to be immediate, quantifiable, and reportable. Unfortunately, advertisers and marketers don't always have the benefit of peeking inside the consumers' brains and finding out what made their internal needle move towards your client's goods and/or services. Most of the time, we don't even know what's directing our own needles.

What we do have is a lot of information to factor into decisions that should lead ultimately to one simple question: Is your message clear?

Marketing teams can spend countless hours and dollars chasing trendy or dated strategies that will fail if they aren't coherent to your end user. Your client won't always pump the brakes either. THey have invested in your vision and are willing to take a leap of faith on that killer idea involving carrier pigeons tattooed with QR codes. But is the message clear?

Advertising agencies can produce the most interactive multi-media plaform ever with a web-cam functioning as a peephole into the jungles of Borneo with your client's product softly blanketing the rich flora. But is the message clear?

Here are my tips for making sure your message is clear, concise, and sticky:

1. Define your audience. This is obvious, sure. But if you aren't really putting yourself into the mind of your target consumer/customer, they you're running the risk of making broad assumptions that will backfire. A campaign takes time and money to turn around. Use data, research, and simple conversations with a group of people in your demographic to make sure your coordinates are true when you leave the dock.

Sleep on it. And have some lasagna while you're at it.
2. Sleep on it. Got a killer tagline and art layout? Don't rush it to the client or send it to print without at least sleeping on it and letting your team and some trust colleagues review it from a blind survey perspective. It's easy to connect the dots in a message when you created the idea. Let someone unfamiliar with the concept and campaign digest it. You'll get invaluable insight and could identify problems you can't correct once it's plastered on a 40 ft. billboard. 

3. Don't just listen to your client, but hear your client. There's a great quote in White Man Can't Jump that I use exhaustingly- "You can listen to Jimi [Hendrix] but you can't hear him. There's a difference, man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him." It's easy to hit the ground running after that killer pitch is approved, but pay attention to your client and what their suggestions are. They know their audience better than you do, despite the reams of data and market research you have to support your concept. It may only be a kernel of information, but it could be a difference-maker in the campaign while providing your client with a voice in the process.

The bottom line is this - Despite the bevy of data and digital smoke and mirrors at our fingertips, the onus continues to be on the marketers and advertisers to come up with a messaging that is clear. If you can't sell your concept in one sentence, then you need to go back and refine it further. Clear doesn't mean simple, or devoid of wit. In fact, the greatest advertising slogan of all time (in my book) was created by Morton's Salt in 1914 and resonates today: "When it Rains It Pours." The background and power of this slogan is enough for a future blog, so stay tuned!

At the end of the day, Swagger Media is comprised of film lovers and visual storytellers at heart, so a great way to see messaging in action is in my favorite scene from Mad Men:


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