How to Kill an Ad Campaign

Why Getting Sick of Your Ads Will Hurt Your Business

 

“I’m sick of my ad. Can you come up with something new?” said an advertiser I was working with years ago at my radio station.

 

I had a choice. I could give him what he wanted and take his money, or I could tell him something he didn’t want to hear at the risk of losing his money. I decided to take the risk and provide an educational moment.

 

“Why are you sick of it?” I asked.

 

“All my friends at the country club have heard it, all my employees have heard it and are suggesting I change it. Even my kids are telling me I’m running it too much. Frankly, I’m a little tired of it.”

 

“Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?”

 

“Sure,” he said.

 

“When you see ads with a person wearing a little white moustache, what do the ads say?”

 

He replied, “Got Milk?”

 

What is it that Nike says on all their ads?

 

He replied, “Just Do It.”

 

What happens with an M&M?

 

He replied “It melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

 

Alka Seltzer?

 

He replied “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.”

 

The biggest mistake advertisers make is getting sick of their slogans, their ads, their campaigns. And believe me, they have to resist: Milk processors and dairy farmers used “Got Milk” for 21 years starting in 1993, Nike used “Just do it” for 26+ years starting in 1988, M&Ms  has used the same slogan since 1954, and Alka Seltzer since 1971.

 

Ad agencies are notorious for destroying heritage campaigns for something fresh and new — and sales usually go down. Look how many ad campaigns and slogans McDonald’s has had — dozens. Yet the one we all still remember is “You deserve a break today.” That campaign ended in 1975.

 

It may take some time to get the right campaign created and tested, but your goal should be to find a slogan, a concept for your ad, that is strong enough that you can run the same concept forever.

 

Our friends-and-family test always fails us because they already know you, they already know your business; they already know everything they should know about you. But the person down the road doesn’t know you exist. Your job is to repeat your promise, your uniqueness, your special offer, to that person over and over again.

 

“But surely they’ve heard it by now. So why keep running it?”

 

I always get that question, and the answer is simple. In the 1980s it was believed the average person had to hear or see something at least seven times within a short period of time before they would take action on it. Today, due to all the clutter, experts believe it takes 13 times to get someone to act — it’s almost doubled.

 

We assume because we ran an ad that everyone saw it or heard it, but that’s simply not true. Let’s say that you’re running ads in my magazine Fine Art Connoisseur, which reaches lots of ultra-wealthy consumers. It comes out six times a year. Though people do receive it, what if they flip through it without seeing your ad? What if they are away on a business trip when it comes out and they miss an issue? No media on earth can guarantee that someone will see and absorb something.

 

There are three elements to the success of an ad. It has to reach the right audience (not necessarily the largest audience); it has to have creative that grabs your attention so that when someone is flipping through, taking less than a second per page, you jump out, grab their attention, and make them read it; and it has to be run with frequency.

 

Let’s say they flip through the magazine the first time you run it. They notice your ad, but they don’t stop to read it. The next time they flip through, they pause briefly and think, “I’ve seen this,” but then they keep going. Next time, maybe they pause and think, “Hmm, I should read this sometime.” And the next time, they pause and read it. When they see it again, they might think, “I should pay more attention to this.”

 

Repetition is nothing more than familiarity, like meeting a new person, seeing them time and again, and then, once you trust them, becoming friends. Then and only then does the friendship deepen enough that they enter your world more completely.

 

There are many other elements that ads need to contain, which I’ll touch on in the future, but the most important thing is to get people to notice and pay attention. Only then does and ad begin to do the selling.

 

Once that trust and awareness have been established, that’s not an indicator that someone is going to buy. Now they need a reason to buy. It could be an impulsive, “I really like that painting. I want to own it.” But if they get to that point before trust is built, they will probably tell themselves, “But I don’t really know anything about this artist, so I’ll pass.”

 

You see, interest in buying ebbs and flows. Timing is everything. If someone is in the middle of moving or downsizing, another painting is not what they want at the moment, but three weeks later, when they are in the new condo, buying new furniture, and thinking, “We need something new for over the couch,” they might pay closer attention next time they see your ad.

 

In my first Art Marketing Boot Camp video, where I describe the basics, I show an escalator with people going up and going down, to represent that people are always in and out of a market. If money is tight, or if something is going on in their lives, like illness or a family issue, they are not buying. If they come into money because college bills ended, they got a bonus at work, they inherited some money, got a raise, or sold a business, they may feel the desire to spend.

 

Big brand advertisers never stop advertising. They understand that people are always in and out of the market. I don’t want or need a new car today, but in a year my kids will get their license and will probably get my old car. Advertisers understand that there are always changing circumstances. Though they also repeat and repeat to gain top-of-mind awareness, they also know you must be there when the decision to spend is made.

 

I often tell the story of my friend Raul, who suddenly found himself with a lot of money. Because he loved Sargent, he decided to buy a Sargent painting. Though he was a reader of my magazine, he called and said, “Who carries Sargent? Where can I get one?”

 

Ironically, the company that sold Sargent had advertised a couple of times and then dropped out because they felt they were not getting any results. A year later, I got this call and I referred him to these people. He bought two Sargent paintings, spending millions. He was lucky he knew to call me. But what about the other 500 who wanted to do the same thing and never found the seller?

 

Of course, today the answer is “Google it,” but how do you know who is trusted? Reviews? Maybe, but this is where brand-building is important to focus on those most likely to buy (known art buyers) so they recognize your name when they do Google something.

 

Another friend, a major collector and an avid reader, told me he wanted to buy a Holbein painting. I suggested he go to a particular major fine art fair in Europe. “What’s that?” he said. We were in his office and he had a stack of art magazines, including mine. I flipped through them and found an ad. “Oh I’ve seen that but didn’t know what it was.”

 

This is a case where perhaps the advertiser assumed everyone already knew about the event. But it had not reached him, either because he did not see it enough times or the message did not cut through. Later, I researched it and found the fair had only advertised twice, about 30 days before the event. They assumed everyone already knew them, so they were not doing enough repetition to get their message across. In a case like this, an advertiser needs to use bold, attention-getting creative.

 

Usually an advertiser bails out before an ad is working because they assume everyone has seen or heard it, but in reality people are just starting to see it. Great campaigns take time to get attention and rarely work instantly, but once they start working, they work forever. People may have heard the message, but not been in the market. But after years of hearing it, when they are in the market, they buy.

 

That’s how advertising repetition works.

 

That advertiser I was telling you about earlier used just our one radio station, because that was all he could afford. But with repetition, he sold so much merchandise that he had to move to a bigger showroom. Then he out grew that one, so he opened a second store, then a third, and by the time I left town, he had built to six or eight stores and was the biggest furniture seller in town.

I’ve not stayed in touch, but chances are some ad agency somewhere talked him into changing his message and his ads — but hopefully did not destroy the business we built.

 

Whatever you do, do it with repetition. Don’t get overly concerned that people have seen it or heard it, because they go through many stages before they are aware enough to buy, and then they need to be in the market at the right time for them.

 

By | August 8th, 2017|Business, Direct Marketing|0 Comments

The Land of Danger for Art Marketers

 

Imagine walking through the Sahara desert. In every direction you look, you see what seems to be miles and miles of sand. The hot sun is beating down on you and you’ve run out of water. You’ve slowed your pace, and you’re in danger of collapsing and baking in this Sahara oven if you don’t find water soon. Then, as you see the sunlight reflecting off water on the horizon, you muster all your energy to run toward it. But as you get closer, you find there is no water. It’s merely a mirage.

As artists working on our own marketing and branding, we often feel like we’re in the desert. We feel barely able to make it, but then something gives us hope, something gives us the feeling that we’re making great strides — but it’s only a mirage.

Recently I was having a discussion with a company and I asked the marketing team about what percentage of the market was aware of their brand. Boldly, they said, “We know that at least 75 percent of the people in the art world know us.”

It was a mirage.

I was feeling especially kind and non-confrontational that day, so instead of challenging them and giving them a much-needed dose of reality, I simply asked how they knew.

They told me about all the things they were doing and all the places they were doing them. Frankly, it wasn’t much and hadn’t been going on for long, and they had barely scratched the surface. By asking questions, I was finally able to get them to come to that conclusion on their own.

Their perception had been that they were known, even a household name, but it was all a self-imposed mirage. The reality is that they were barely known, if known at all.

As a marketer, your self-confidence (or your ego) can kill your business. When you think you’re doing well, when you think you’re doing everything you can, you start to believe that is enough.

Recently, right after I was on stage and speaking at the opening of the Plein Air Convention, a young woman walked up to me, introduced herself, and asked politely, “Who are you, and what do you do?”

Gulp.

I’m at my own event, with my tribe, I’ve spent tons of time and money on marketing, I’ve told my story a thousand times, yet this person was unaware.

I felt completely stupid and realized I had become overconfident.

The next morning, when I went on stage, I started Art Marketing Boot Camp with my story, because if there was one person there who didn’t know it, chances are there were others.

As someone recently told me, “You cannot tell your story enough.”

Remember that marketing team? After all my questions, I told them that there was a very big chance that they were known by only a small percentage of the entire market. Others might be aware of the company’s name but not know what it does.

We all grow so close to our marketing that we sometimes make insanely stupid assumptions, like…

  • Everyone knows who we are
  • Everyone knows our story
  • Everyone knows exactly what we do
  • Everyone has read everything we ever put out
  • Everyone has visited our website
  • Everyone has seen our artwork

But we need to understand that there are always people entering and exiting the market. Through attrition, our customer list is always changing, on average by 10 percent each year, and in bad economic years, by 30 to 50 percent.

That means you have to…

  • Constantly be telling your story
  • Constantly be helping people know your product or art
  • Constantly bring new people into your list
  • Constantly stay visible

We wrongly assume that because someone sees a story or an ad, they have “captured the message.”

The reality is that most people don’t pay close attention. They don’t read things we think they should read. They skim a lot of things.

And since the average person has to be hit over the head about a dozen times with seeing or hearing your message before they become a prospect, you have to be constantly pushing and repeating that message.

And don’t assume they saw or heard it every time you ran it.

Also, repetition fades with time, so you have to compress time by being seen more frequently over shorter time periods.

There are other critical pieces. You see, every campaign is about four things:

  • What you say and how you get attention
  • How often you say it
  • How often your target prospect sees it
  • Who you say it to, which has to do with where you say it

On stage recently I asked the audience how many had seen ads for “MyPillow.com.” In a room of 1,000 people, only about 30 hands went up.

I’ve seen these ads on TV probably a hundred times in the last year, yet only 3 percent of the room was aware of them.

After seeing the ad for the hundredth time, my wife finally bought the product.

Every buyer has their own timing. Your campaigns need to repeat your story and message to the point that you are personally sick of it and think others are as well.

Even then, you’ve tapped only a small percentage of a market, and sold only a small percentage.

It all works due to the volume of people being reached and the constant repetition of the message.

I’ll bet if I asked the CEO of the company that makes MyPillow, he would say the world knows about his product because of the thousands of people reached and the large number of orders coming in. Yet he would be embarrassed and frustrated with the 3 percent of the room I surveyed.

His marketing person, on the other hand, would probably understand that more time will be required to reach more people, and even then, not everyone will be aware.

The point?

Don’t get overconfident and think the world knows about you or knows the details about your product.

Overconfidence will lead you to think you’re big when you’re not, and will lead you to reduce or stop your marketing because you believe that, or because you’re seeing some results.

Marketing is like a jet that never lands and has to be continually refueled in the air. If you land it, you lose momentum and it’s much harder to take off again — and you’ll see a reduction in business before long.

A great marketer understands the land of danger and the mirage of assuming people know who they are and know their story. A great marketer never lands.

By | May 3rd, 2017|Business, Direct Marketing|4 Comments

Gut Leadership

Two years ago I came to my staff with an idea for a new magazine. They listened politely but they were secretly rolling their eyes. "Here he goes on another harebrained adventure," is probably what they were thinking. I could feel it. I was way out there… and they were disinterested. Even my visionary top people were screaming on the inside while politely hearing me out.

Upon receiving everyone’s feedback I heard that my idea was a bad one, that it would kill the company, that it would be a wild goose chase. I almost took their advice. Yet my gut kept telling me I needed to move forward. So, I announced that we were indeed launching this new magazine. It was not widely supported. Some were mildly interested while others thought I was insane. After all, I’ve launched many things that did fail.

Almost two years and a whole lotta cash later I am initially vindicated. Wild success for the product is an understatement. In fact the success fell at a time when part of our other business was soft. The natural reaction is to "hunker down" and conserve cash, which of course we did… kind of. We hunkered down everywhere other than the new launch. Turns out it has become our cash cow, has brought in countless subscribers and advertisers and may surpass billing of some of our other business units.

Why share this? I’ve been glued to a CEO chair for more years than I would admit.  The majority of times I have had wild, harebrained ideas I rarely get support internally (and often externally). It’s critical to listen to your people because they are usually right… yet no one in the company has your perspective, your experience, your vision, and your gut. A CEO must follow his or her gut against all odds. As a sole business owner I live by my decisions and they impact my net worth one-way or the other.

I’m reminded that Abe Lincoln asked each of his cabinet members if he should enter into the Civil War and 100% advised against it. After loss of sleep for days Lincoln proceeded against the advice of his strongest advisors. Truman did the same when making the decision to drop the bomb. (Sadly in both cases lives were on the line where in my case the impact is not life or death).

The moral? Listen carefully. Follow your gut. Live with your decisions. Its not about being right or being popular, it’s just business.

By | February 4th, 2005|Business|0 Comments