That’s pretty much the opening salvo in every advertising salesperson’s repertoire. Give them your answer and voila! “That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!” Then they show you some study that “proves” their advertising works.
Westwood One, a major radio company with stations across the US, commissioned a study to show the ROI of radio advertising. Of course the results were quite promising. Are you surprised that a study by a radio company would show that radio advertising works?
My Yellow Pages salesperson showed me a similar result that when asked where they would go to search for a new business, 87% of the people surveyed said, “The Yellow Pages.” Granted, this was when the Internet was still in its infancy. But it was still false because it asked the question, “What would you do?” instead of, “What did you do?”
Here is the funny thing about advertising …
The advertising salespeople are asking you a question to which you invariably give the wrong answer, yet their response is still accurate.
“Who are you trying to reach?” The right answer is …
People who share my Core Values and believe what I believe.
“That’s exactly our listeners/viewers/readers!”
Of course, all the other media reach those people, too. They also reach a bunch of people who don’t share your Core Values or believe what you believe. You need to target your message, not your media choice, to reach the “right” people.
Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, says time and time again that he has never seen an ad campaign fail because it didn’t reach the right people, but he has seen many fail because they didn’t say the right thing.
Although your advertising salesperson doesn’t know he is asking the wrong question (or, frankly, an irrelevant one), that question is not what will derail the success of your advertising campaign. It is the second question he asks (or sometimes fails to ask) that is the real crux of the matter.
“What do you want to say?”
If you cannot answer that question, he’ll put together some template of an ad that sounds like everyone else’s ads and you’ll be lost in the shuffle, unremarkable and unremembered. (You should read Roy’s post on Template Advertising. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
How you answer the second question is the biggest difference between a successful campaign and a waste of time and money. Every form of advertising works and every form of advertising doesn’t work. It is all in how you use them.
I once won five pounds of bacon. It was a naming contest. First prize was an Apple iPad. Second prize was five pounds of bacon. Since I primarily use my iPad as an expensive alarm clock and to play FreeCell, this was one contest I was happy to take second place.
The item we were naming was a pyramid for business owners developed by my good friend, the super-tall-and-pretty-darn-smart Tim Miles.
Tim developed this pyramid because many of his clients had been buying and creating their advertising the wrong way.
They would have an advertising sales rep come in and convince them that his media was the best place to reach their potential customers. Once that was done, the sales rep would ask them what they wanted to say.
Tim was right (did I say he was really smart?) when he recognized this for being the absolute most backwards way to advertise. Your message is far more important than the media. In fact, you need to know your message before you even pick the right medium to deliver it.
Before you can know your message, however, you have to decide what kind of customer experience you want to deliver on a consistent basis.
Of course, to deliver a consistent customer experience requires some strategic planning.
And you know that strategic planning is of no value if you don’t first know your own Core Values and the Goals you are trying to reach with your business.
Yet isn’t that how we all bought ads for many years?
The sales rep for the media company came in with a fancy presentation about how his media had the best reach, the best market penetration, the best demographics, the best falsified statistics to convince you that this media buy would transform your business. He got you all fired up and had you signing on the dotted line before he once asked you about your goals and values. He got you convinced this was going to be your best year ever before asking about your strategic plans for taking care of the customers. He got you sold on the idea that unlike all your other failed media buys, his was truly the one that would make you a millionaire before he even asked what your message was going to be.
It doesn’t work like that.
I want 2018 to be your best year ever. I want to help you craft and create the best, most effective messages for your business ever. If you hire me to help with your advertising this year, the first question I’m going to ask, however, will have nothing to do with advertising. I’m going to ask you if you know your own personal Core Values. Then I’m going to ask you if your goals for the company line up with your personal values. Without that foundation, there is no media buy you can make that will get you where you want to go.
Tim is a smart man (he tries to play dumb by surrounding himself with an incredibly smart team, but that just shows you how brilliant he truly is). If you are looking for a long-term solution to your advertising needs, Tim and other Wizard of Ads Partners are your go-to peeps.
If you are looking for someone to set you on the right course and help you DIY your advertising, give me a call.
PS I get nothing from Wizard of Ads Partners for telling you about them. I’m not a Partner myself. But I have learned so much from them and from Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, that I can’t help gushing about them. I’m a DIY kinda guy when it comes to business. I like to help small businesses learn how to help themselves. If you’re someone who just needs a good push every now and then, maybe we should talk.
If you’ve ever been to my Suggested Topics page, you will notice that my Breakout Session about Word-of-Mouth says I will teach you “four simple, yet effective ways to generate word-of-mouth and get people to brag about your business to others.”
If you have ever been to one of these presentations, you know that I give you a fifth bonus way to get people to talk about your business. That bonus way is through your advertising. When you create ads that people want to see and hear, they talk about them. That’s the goal at every Super Bowl. All these advertisers want is for you to be talking about their ad Monday morning.
There is more to it than that, though. To truly generate word-of-mouth that helps your business, the talk has to be about how great your business is, or how important it is for people to visit you, not just about how creative or funny you are.
We got that kind of word-of-mouth with our Men’s Bathroom Ad.
The script was this …
I couldn’t believe it. They were taking customers into the men’s bathroom. Yes, my staff was taking men and women, young and old, into our men’s bathroom. And they were coming out laughing, smiling, oh yeah, and buying, too. I guess when you have a product this good, you just have to show it off however… and wherever… you can. The men’s bathroom… Gotta love it! Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.
I ran this ad twice a day Monday-Friday for the month of August in 2008. The day it began the deejays starting talking about it on the air wondering what was going on in the men’s bathroom. By day two the deejays on the stations where the ad WASN’T airing were talking about it. By day three the local TV station was talking about it. Everyone was speculating about what was in the men’s bathroom and people were coming in droves to ask about it, see the product, oh yeah, and buy it, too. In March 2009—seven months after the ad had aired!—I had a customer walk into the store asking about the men’s bathroom because it was what dominated conversation at Christmas dinner at the adult table.
Here is another example of how an ad can generate powerful word-of-mouth courtesy of Roy H. Williams. Roy designed an ad campaign for a heating & cooling company featuring Mr. Jenkins, the owner, and Bobby, one of his drivers. The ad campaign has run for 6 years. “Bobby” has become a Charlotte, NC icon. But the actor who plays Bobby in the commercials is moving to California. The company ran one last ad featuring Bobby where Mr. Jenkins gives Bobby $100,000 to go pursue his dream in Hollywood.
The local TV news ran a story on that ad. Let me repeat that … The local TV news in a major market ran a story about a fictional character in an advertisement for a local heating and cooling company. You cannot buy that kind of advertising.
(Or maybe you can, if you have the guts to first run amazing ad campaigns that people want to see and hear.)
PS We watch television and movies for the characters first and then the storyline. If the characters are interesting, we’ll forgive a weak storyline. David Freeman explains that the difference between interesting characters and boring ones is in their Core Values. When they have three to five character traits or values that are consistent throughout the movie, we relate to them. If they have less, we are bored. If they aren’t consistent, we don’t connect. The same is true with your brand. Your brand is the three to five core values you have as a business. The more consistently you show those values—including in your advertising—the more people will relate with you.
The first time I was truly introduced to the idea of calculating my market share was from Roy H. William’s second book Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads. It was 2003 and I was trying to learn all I could about marketing and advertising. My math was rudimentary. I didn’t adjust for local economy or youth population. Simply raw numbers. I came up with our market share at about 12%.
At first I was a little disappointed. Roy teaches that the gold standard for any business is 30% market share. That’s a big number. Despite its dominance, even Walmart only has 25% of the grocery market. The optimist in me, however, said 12% was a good starting point and now I had a goal to shoot for. I had just read an article (which 14 years later I cannot find—go figure) that said only 9% of the general public was inclined to shop at local indie stores in the first place. I was already 3 points above that number.
I never did reach 30%, but I did have some other revelations about my Market Share number.
First, after going back and adjusting my market size for economy and youth population, our 12% was really closer to 16%. It stayed in that neighborhood until a Walmart Supercenter opened in 2005. We dropped into the 14-15% neighborhood and stayed there until Amazon became a serious player in the toy industry around 2010-2011. We stayed around 12.5% for the next several years until we closed. Even though you can beat a big guy head-to-head, the more big guys in town, the more businesses taking a piece out of the same pie.
Second, that original 12% number got me thinking. A full eighty-eight percent of the market were NOT currently shopping with me. That’s almost 9 out of 10 people. When you look at it that way, it changes your perspective on a lot of things.
In terms of marketing and advertising I realized I didn’t need to reach the entire market to grow my business. If I could just convince 1 more person out of 20 people to shop with me I would have growth beyond my wildest dreams. I really only needed to convince about 2 more people out of 100 to shop with me to have double digit growth. If you only are trying to sway two people out of a hundred you might say something totally different than if you’re trying to sway fifty out of a hundred. With two you can say something direct and personal to a small audience that gets right to the heart of the matter. Trying to reach fifty, you say something generic and non-offensive hoping other forces will come into play to swing them to your side.
In terms of product selection I realized I didn’t have to be all things to all people. I could pick and choose the products I wanted based on my beliefs in the products and how they benefited my customers. Not only does that help with the buying decisions, it helped us stay true to our core values in terms of what we sold and why.
Speaking of Core Values, we didn’t have to be someone we were not.
Meg Cabot said it best when she said, “You’re not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you.” We didn’t have to be liked by everyone. Sixteen percent is a pretty low approval rating. Yet it was higher than any other single store in our market.
Knowledge is power (France is bacon). Knowing your market share might be the piece of knowledge that finally liberates the way you think about your place in the market and the risks you can now safely take with your business.
PS Let me first admit that 16% is actually pretty high for an indie retailer. Many of you might do the math and find yourself in the 3-5% range, especially if you have other indie retailers fighting for the 9% that skews shop local. But before I pat myself on the back, you should know that in the early 1980’s we were at that mythical 30% gold standard and then some. Of course that was before Jackson got Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, Sam’s Club, a second Meijer, a new KMart, and a whole slew of other big chains in town (without a population growth to match), and well before Al Gore invented the Internet. We were the large store that was here first. That’s what gave us much of our edge. But even if you do find yourself in the 3-5% range, if the market is big enough, you can do a lot of business with only 3-5% of your market. Plus, when you only have to convince 1 more person out of 100 to get 33% growth, advertising becomes a whole lot more fun.
PPS It used to upset me that about half my friends were not regular shoppers at my store. My parents saw about that same percentage from their friends. Then it dawned on me … Fifty percent of my friends versus twelve percent of the general population. I was ahead of the game. I slept much better that night.
The one thing I hate about having my house for sale is all the stuff I have boxed up to make the house less cluttered. There are 9 boxes filled with my books sitting on shelves in the basement. Many of those books I have read more than once. A few of them I keep reading over and over.
If you ask me my favorite books, for fiction I’ll tell you The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander—a five book series published in the late 1960’s that I have read over a dozen times, including twice reading them out loud to my boys. You may recall that it was book #4 Taran Wanderer that gave me the lightbulb idea of hiring for character traits, not experience, thus leading to my first book Hiring and the Potter’s Wheel: Turning Your Staff Into a Work of Art.
For non-fiction it is The Wizard of Ads Trilogy by Roy H. Williams. I have never read a book before or after that was as equally enjoyable to read as it was informative. Although not yet to a dozen, I have read all three books several times. In fact, last night I went and pulled book #2 Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads out of one of the boxes in the basement.
Yesterday I read an article with ten tips for marketing this holiday season and it had one tip I keep hearing over and over that I know Roy had refuted in the book. The tip was to make sure you are in as many channels as possible this season because otherwise you won’t reach all your potential customers.
Roy calls this one of the sacred cows of advertising in chapter 3 “Dead Cows Everywhere.”
Here are some things I want you to think about before you spread yourself too thin across multiple media.
You will never reach 100% of your market. No matter how many channels you choose, you can’t get to them all, so it is folly to even try.
You don’t have the time and resources to do every channel well. You don’t have the budget of Coca-Cola or the marketing team of Pizza Hut. At best you have a social media director and a handful of somewhat helpful sales reps running your advertising at your direction (while you juggle all those other hats like HR, CFO, CEO, firefighter, and bottle washer).
Advertising and marketing yourself in a channel poorly is not only a waste of time and money and resources, it could be detrimental because a poor first image is worse than no image at all.
If you were able to convince just 10% of the market to shop with you, your cash registers would sing like angels.
In one succinct chapter Roy points out that a customer who sees your billboard, hears your radio ad, and reads a social media post likely won’t make the connection between those three fragmented campaigns in a way that reinforces your brand. Our brains don’t work that way. They aren’t wired that way.
You are better off picking one or two channels where you can be truly effective and focus all your time and money and resources on those to the point that you own each media. Yes, own it! There is that one business in your town that owns billboards. You know who I’m talking about. There is another business that owns radio.
If you really want to be noticed and remembered, be the business that owns one of the media outlets. Win Facebook by being the one who posts the most shareworthy and memorable posts that engage and get customers to like, comment, and share. Own the radio by being the business whose ads are actually anticipated and talked about at water coolers when the new ad starts. (When people talk about your ad at the water cooler, then you know you’ve finally written a good one. I’ve had that happen several times. It should be your goal with every message.) Own the billboards by having the kind of posters that people tell their friends to drive by and see.
You likely don’t have the resources to do all that in every channel, so pick one. Own it.
The cool thing when you own a media is that not only do you get more bang for your buck (you become first in people’s brains because you get a bigger share of mind than what you actually spent), you also keep your competitors from being noticed in the same media. They fade into the background or they look boring and dull in comparison.
In the same chapter, Roy kills another sacred cow called Gross Rating Points. Reaching 100% of the market 10 times is the same as reaching 10% of the market 100 times in terms of cost. Yet convincing 100% of the market 10% of the way is not the same as convincing 10% of the market 100% of the way. When you spread yourself over many channels, you face the risk of convincing 100% of the people only 10% of the way. When you own the media, you have a far better chance of convincing the people you reach to shop with you.
There are a lot of great marketing tips out there. Spreading yourself too thin across too many channels is NOT one of them.
If you can’t own a media channel, put your resources where you can. That is what will get the angels to sing.
PS It isn’t just how much you spend, it is what you say. Spend enough and speak boldly. Say something surprising and powerful. There are two coffee shops in my town that both use billboards with equal frequency, but one has a far more creative team creating fun and memorable (and sometimes controversial) boards. Ask anyone in town which coffee shop is the one on all the billboards and 90% will name the guy with all the fun boards. You tell me who owns that media?
PPS Here are some of the radio ads I used to try to own that media.
As customers, we are often quick to ask the question, “How much does it cost?” That’s what we want to know. Get to the bottom line. Why? Why do we go so quick to the price? The answer – The Value Equation.
The Value Equation is this … Does the Perceived Worth of an item equal its Actual Price?
We beg for the price because we are always at least subconsciously calculating Perceived Worth on everything we see. We’ve been doing it our whole adult lives. We do it shopping for groceries. We do it shopping for tools. We do it shopping for clothes. As we walk the store we attach a Perceived Worth to everything we see. (If we don’t want it, the PW is zero. If we might want it, we attached a price to it and check to see if we are right.)
When the Perceived Worth equals the Actual Price, we put the item in our cart.
The surprise is often in finding our Perceived Worth is far higher than the Actual Price. The first question we usually ask when that happens is, “What’s wrong with it?” or, “Is this marked down?” Sometimes we think to ourselves, “Wow, it must not be as good as I thought it would be.” Before we buy the product, we have to answer those questions satisfactorily.
That’s why it is easy to under-price yourself to bankruptcy (or at least leave serious dollars on the table.)
The other problem is when your Perceived Worth is much lower than the Actual Price. You either totally dismiss the product as being “out of my range” or you wonder what you missed in your evaluation of the product.
Take, for example, the SPOTLIGHT ON MARKETING & ADVERTISING class I am offering. I have to find that sweet spot of a price that fits what you believe a class like this should be worth.
I start by taking cues from what other similar programs charge. For instance, Bob Negen’s Whizbang Training two-day Retail Success Summit this summer is currently $997. My buddy Tim Miles just announced a one-day workshop with Roy H. Williams, himself, for $1250. (By the way, I highly recommend both programs, and, no, I don’t get any kickbacks from these links.)
My workshop is $250* for a half-day —similar to Bob’s price for two days. Some of you will look at the price and see that it is about what you’d expect to pay for other, similar types of training. Some of you will look at the price and ask, “Where’s the value? What do I get in return?”
So I also look at the benefits you will get from the program. For instance, in this four-hour program you get:
Eight ways to market your business with little or no money at all
How to get free publicity from the media
How to craft a message that gets noticed, remembered, and acted upon – three things that are incredibly hard to accomplish in today’s fractured, over-saturated media world
How best to use the media of your choice (and tips on how to choose the best media for your business)
Four ways to generate more Word-of-Mouth advertising than you ever thought possible
One year of advertising support including help with your message, your campaign, your media buys, or wherever you have questions or need advice.
Some of you will still balk at the price. That’s okay. I know I won’t convince everyone.
Some of you will think that seems like a pretty fair trade for $250 and four hours of your time. You’ll sign up now for the class on Tuesday, June 20th.
Others will wonder why the price is so low for all that you get. Most of you in that frame of mind have either been to one of my programs before or live in a city where prices for stuff like this are just a bit higher than they are in Jackson. Remember, Helping Others is one of my Core Values.
*PS If your business or you personally have taken one of my workshops through the Jackson Retail Success Academy™, you qualify for the Half-Price Alumni rate of $125.
PPS Why the half-price tuition for JRSA™ alumni? I believe strongly in continuing education. Now that I make my living speaking and writing, I am reading more blogs and books on speaking and writing, and I am attending workshops to learn all I can in those fields. I want to encourage anyone who takes one of my workshops to come back for refreshers or other programs, or maybe send a staff member to learn more. Plus, you’re always looking for a better deal. You know these classes are worth it at almost any price. Half-price just makes you feel good.
(If you didn’t read the Foreword already, you can find it here.)
Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck
“Every customer is the right customer. What you’re looking for is the right moment.” – Roy H. Williams
You’re in a room with friends, a plate of nachos in your hands. It’s the first Sunday in February. It’s a Super Bowl Party. Everyone is glued to the TV. Groans and high-fives and laughter fill the air. Some of your friends are second-guessing every move, every decision they see on the screen. Everyone is cheering for their favorite, even making excuses when it doesn’t go so well.
Then the game comes back on and you head to the bathroom and back to the kitchen to refill your nacho plate.
Once a year you watch the ads. One night out of three hundred and sixty-five you don’t fast forward or change the channel or—in many cases even care about the actual programming, just the ads in between.
You remember the good ones from years past. You remember how a few years ago the Budweiser Armed Forces in Airport commercial made you feel when everyone started clapping slowly, then faster until the whole airport was standing and applauding the soldiers walking through. You remember the kid looking you in the eyes and telling you he wanted to work in middle management even though you can’t recall which employment service did that ad and which one had the monkeys in the office.
You also remember groaning at some of the really bad ones, wondering how in the world that ad got approved for production, let alone a multi-million-dollar TV slot. You wish your own business was like one of these big companies with millions of dollars to waste on advertising knowing that in two weeks no one would remember and you would still have tens of millions to spend on the boring, crap ads everyone runs the rest of the year.
Why is that? Why, you wonder, do all these companies spend so much time, money and creativity on their Super Bowl ads only to run them once a year and leave you with the same tired sales-pitchy stuff the rest of the year? While you’re at it, you wonder why so many companies spend so much time, money and creativity only to miss the mark by a wide margin. Puppymonkeybaby? Really, Mountain Dew? That’s the best you could come up with?
Your friends tell you they’ve switched to satellite radio. Too many ads on regular radio, they say. Other friends tell you the greatest invention is the DVR or Netflix or Hulu. Don’t have to suffer through so many ads, they say. They do have a point. You seem to recall some study about how you are bombarded with over 5,000 advertising messages a day. You’re not sure if that number is right, but you do know that everywhere you turn there is another promotional message staring at you. Heck, every sub-segment of the Super Bowl was “brought to you by …” some auto/food/beer/insurance/drug company.
Maybe there are too many ads.
But there you are on the first Sunday in February, ignoring the brought-to-you-by announcements and even the game itself, and instead comparing notes with your friends on which ads were the funniest, the most moving, the most memorable.
Suddenly it dawns on you. The real problem with advertising isn’t that there are too many ads. The real problem is that most ads suck. If they were more creative or funny like the ones you saw tonight, you’d pay attention. If they were entertaining, you wouldn’t be switching channels. If they touched your heart, you might actually take action.
You think you’ve figured it out. You think you’ve figured out what famed retailer John Wanamaker couldn’t when he famously said, “Half of my ad budget is wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half.” It’s the half with the lousy, looks-like-everyone-else, boring, stupid ads.
You want to shout it from the rooftop. You’ve solved the advertising equation. The first half, at least.
You start thinking how fun it would be to meet with the advertising executives of every major company out there and tell them to quit spending all their money on Super Bowl ads and instead spend that money to make the rest of their ads better.
Then you wonder. “Wait, do I have it all wrong? Is it really that simple? That these multi-billion-dollar companies with their multi-million-dollar advertising budgets and their multi-million-dollar advertising firms with all their fancy metrics just don’t get it?”
Yes, you do have it right. Yes, you instinctively understand what many ad agencies and major national corporations don’t. You get it because you’re the consumer. You know what works on you and what doesn’t. You know what gets you to tune in and tune out.
You’re also smart enough to realize that some ads just aren’t speaking to you. You still appreciate clever writing, creative copy, and smart messages. If they’re entertaining enough, you’ll tolerate ads written for someone other than you. But your internal filter shuts everything down as soon as it looks, sounds, or smells like the plethora of phony, deceiving, too-good-to-be-true ads out there.
You’re about to start making a list of the worst offenders, the ones whose offices you’ll visit first to tell them about your new revelation, when it dawns on you. You know what they shouldn’t be doing. But if they ask you how to make their ads more interesting and memorable and effective, you don’t know where to start.
PS Thank you for those who have already supported the campaign to get this book printed. There are some amazing perks available for those of you who wish to contribute including one perk where I will create two ads for you (no matter what platform you are using).
My boys and I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earlier this evening. We are Marvel Studios junkies. Even the bad ones were good enough for us. I’ve always been fascinated by super heroes, especially their powers and how they use them. I am firm believer that we all have super powers within us. Maybe not the ability to fly or super-human strength or making fire shoot from our eyes. But we have talents that, when harnessed properly, become amazing powers.
I have learned that one of my powers is the ability to take complex subjects and make them understandable.
Independent retailers have to master a number of skills to be successful.
You have to be good with your Products – knowing your products inside and out, knowing how to relate to customers, knowing which products to sell and how to sell them.
You have to be good at Marketing & Advertising – knowing how to get the word out to people that you are the place to shop.
You have to be good at Financials – knowing how to manage your cash flow, maintaining profit margin, keeping expenses in alignment with sales.
If you’re a large enough store you have to be good with People – knowing how to hire, train, and manage a quality team.
Those are the main legs of the retail business – Products, Marketing, Financials, and People.
I used to say I was good at three, just don’t ask me about Financials. Then the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) asked me to do something unthinkable. They asked me to write a book about the financials of a toy store called “Financials Made Easy.”
They said if anyone could do it, I could. I told them if they changed the title to “Financials You Can Understand” (because no one could make it “easy”) then I was their guy.
In four months I learned and understood more about Financials than I ever thought possible. The book is one of my favorite writing projects because I had to take a topic I barely understood myself and translate it into the language of non-accountants everywhere. (My accountant friends who helped proof-read the book for errors were amazed as much as I was at how well it turned out.)
The book is proprietary property of ASTRA. You have to join ASTRA to get a copy. But the knowledge I gained in the process helped me tremendously at Toy House and also in my teachings through Jackson Retail Success Academy™ and PhilsForum. Later that year I did my first workshop on the topic. One of the attendees said her accountant had been trying to teach her this stuff for years, but this was the first time it finally made sense.
I have now presented several times on the topics of Retail Math, my least favorite and least experienced topic. I’ll be doing both a beginner and an expert breakout session on elements of the book at the upcoming ASTRA Academy in June.
I tell you this because I want you to understand the reasoning behind writing the book Most Ads Suck. Unlike Financials, I love Marketing & Advertising. I took over that element of Toy House in 1995 and began experimenting, trying different things to see what worked. I began studying advertising and reading different authors who spoke on advertising.
My radio sales rep Linda McDougall gave me Roy H. Williams’ first book The Wizard of Ads. I was hooked immediately. I ordered the other two books in his trilogy the very next day. I also became a huge fan of Seth Godin and joined his now defunct website triiibes based on his book Tribes where I met people as passionate about marketing and advertising as I was. I started using stuff I learned from Roy and Seth and Malcolm Gladwell and Gary Vaynerchuk and Daniel H. Pink and Guy Kawasaki and others.
Not everything I learned worked for me. I had to mix and distill and tweak and measure and test. But when it did work, it was magical.
I wrote this ad in a few minutes one Sunday afternoon in July 2008 …
I couldn’t believe it. They were taking customers into the men’s bathroom. Yes, my staff was taking men and women, young and old, into our men’s bathroom. And they were coming out laughing, smiling, oh yeah, and buying, too. I guess when you have a product this good, you just have to show it off however… and wherever… you can. The men’s bathroom… Gotta love it! Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.
I didn’t ever think about not running it. It told a story. It made you laugh (emotion). It grabbed your interest. Yeah, it mentioned the men’s bathroom, but not in a bad or seedy way. Yeah, it never mentioned the product (if you remember the previous blog, you know that feelings are more important than facts.) Yeah, it went viral big time.
The ad ran in August 2008. Two times a day, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. That’s it.
The first day it aired, the DJ started talking about it live on air, wondering what was going on in our men’s bathroom. The second day, all the DJ’s on all the related stations were talking about it – including one of the stations that wasn’t even running the ad! By day three even the local TV talk show host was speculating on that ad. All fall my staff and I would get asked at the grocery store or the gas station about what was going on in the men’s bathroom. In March 2009 one customer stopped in and asked me because, “All we talked about at the adult table at Christmas Dinner was was going on in your men’s bathroom.” And she lived two hours away!
When people are talking about your ads weeks and months after they aired, you made memorable ads. When people are asking you about your ads even when you’re not in your store, your business is at the top of their minds. When people talk to their friends and family about your ads, you know you made an impact.
That ad wasn’t a lucky accident. It was years of study and testing. It was years of trial and error. It was millions of dollars spent learning what moves the needle and what doesn’t.
The book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t) is me using my super powers to take something as complex and nuanced as Advertising, that I have spent twenty years studying and actively doing, and make it understandable. This is me at my best helping you become your best. I am asking for your support to help launch this book.
My super power is to make it understandable. I’m counting on your super power to make it happen now.
PS The principles in this book don’t just work for radio ads. The principles apply to billboards, print ads, television, direct mail, email, social media, pitches to investors, political speeches, and anywhere else where you need to persuade someone. If you haven’t yet pre-ordered the book through my Indiegogo campaign, there are plenty of links above.
“Phil, the Marshall Community still talks about your presentation on advertising.” That’s the message I received late last night from Scott Fleming, the head of Marshall Area Economic Development Authority. Scott hired me to do the presentation based on my new book Most Ads Suck. I did the presentation a week ago and he is still receiving positive feedback. He’s going to help me promote this presentation to other groups like his.
One of my favorite parts about doing this presentation is the stories I get to tell. I told the story of a jeweler in rural Washington. I told the story of a couple of my trips to Wizard Academy. I told the story of the copywriter and the frying pans. I told the story of how I made Sheila cry on her birthday (Shelia and I laughed about that story last night at a high school band concert her daughter and my son were in.) I told the story of my first Christmas Eve working at Toy House at the age of fourteen and how I should have known then that I was destined to make people happy. I told the story of my boys plummeting to certain death in the fastest, ugliest sled ever created. I told the story of how customers used to approach me at the grocery store to ask what was going on in the men’s bathroom at Toy House.
Not only do stories make presentations more powerful and memorable, stories do the same for your advertising and your business. In fact, one of the six principles outlined in my book and on stage is Tell a Story. Stories fire up the brain differently than simple facts and figures.
Here is what other people are saying about stories …
Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tells you, “Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them.” (10-16-2013, www.fastcocreate.com)
Rachel Gillett says, “When we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.” (6-4-2014 www.fastcompany.com)
Pamela B. Rutledge, Ph.D., M.B.A. writing for Positively Media, “Stories are how we are wired. Stores take place in the imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioral responses.” (1-16-2011 www.psychologytoday.com)
Catrinel Bartolomeu says, “Unlike statistics, stories trigger emotions—actual physical and chemical changes in our body.” (11-10-16 www.contently.com)
Yes, stories change you physically and chemically. Stories happen in your brain as if you were in the story yourself. Stories are more powerful than data.
Start telling stories in your advertising and you will start seeing a different, better result.
PS Please help me get this book printed. Go to the Indiegogo Campaign and make a donation today. Not only will you get an autographed copy of the book, if you make a large enough donation you can get a live webinar, or even a half-day workshop at your place for you and your fellow business owners.
PPS Here is the meta of all metas. One of the companies featured in the Samples chapter of the book is a company that tells your story for you in the form of a magazine for you to use to advertise your business. In other words, a story about telling stories for advertising features advertising stories about a company that writes stories for advertising. That will make your head spin!
Next Thursday I will be doing a seminar for the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority called “Making Your Ads More Effective”. This is one of my favorite presentations because it includes a few lucky (brave?) souls who submit advertisement they have used previously and I give those ads a makeover. It is also one of my most vulnerable moments.
That’s always been the fascinating thing about being a speaker. I get to stand on stage and tell you what to do with your business. Then I walk away. I get paid whether you do anything or not. I get paid whether what I say helps you or not. You don’t always know if the speaker knows what he or she is talking about. You don’t always know if the speaker has walked the walk or if this is just some interesting theory and you’re the guinea pig. You don’t know if what the speaker is teaching actually applies to your situation or not.
Any good speaker will convince you with pre-determined data and facts and anecdotes and testimonials that what they are teaching works. In this case, however, I take it a step further, using not my own stories and data but your stories and data. For me, that makes it even more fun and challenging.
My next book just went to the editor yesterday and is based entirely on this presentation. The book title is, “Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t)”. It includes six principles I have uncovered from years of trial and error and years of study that make ads more memorable and effective. It includes scientific information, stories, and observable phenomenon taken from the real world of advertising. It includes samples from a wide range of companies from around the world. It includes everything I will be teaching to the fine people of Marshall this coming Thursday morning. It show how you can apply these principles to your web copy, your social media posts, your print campaigns, and your broadcast media.
The last time I presented this information, one member in the audience was an MBA Professor who acknowledged that none of this was being taught in their program but every one of their students needed to hear it. (We’re working out those details.)
In a few days I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign for this book to help cover the costs of editing and formatting and layout and cover design and printing costs. To entice you to help fund this, you’ll be able to pre-order copies of the book with your donation. Those of you willing to donate a little more can even get a free webinar or phone consultation or remake of your own advertising. Those of you willing to donate a lot can get me to visit for either one-on-one consultation or to do a workshop or seminar in your town.
The amazing thing to me as I was doing research for this book was how many of these principles the major companies who spend millions of dollars on advertising get right, and how often they also get it wrong. Some of the principles are common sense. Some, however, are counter intuitive. As I get the manuscript back from the editor I will be posting excerpts through this blog. In the meantime, if you’re curious about what the book and the presentation are teaching, contact the Marshall Area Economic Development Authority and see if they’ll let you in the door.
PS One of the six principles is to make sure your ads only make one point. Don’t try to clutter your ad with too many points. The average casual listener will barely ever remember one, if that. This is one of the biggest mistakes I used to make in my advertising. Once I solved it, results started soaring. As homework, I want you to listen to the ads on your car radio. Seriously listen and see how many points each advertiser crams into each ad. Leave me a comment below with some of the worst offenders you hear.