Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And Then…It Clicks!

Bicycling long distances is all about cadence, or that pace at which one can comfortably turn the pedals at even speed. It's different for every cyclist and, for people like me who inevitably lose fitness over the winter, it can take time to find that comfort level on the bike in the spring. For me, it's always difficult because when the Oklahoma spring finally does allow me to get back outside off the indoor trainer, I have to ride in windy, unpredictable conditions, and I'm usually carrying whatever weight I put on over the winter. Hence, rebuilding the stamina to maintain a 20 mph pace usually takes a couple hundred miles on the road. However, the upside to all that struggling is, one night, it just clicks. I look down and realize the strength to ride my normal cadence has returned and I feel like I've got an extra gear or two to get me over any hill or through any sprint.

Suprise! The same principle applies to advertising. Advertising to build a customer base, or to simply establish a brand, takes time. Just as any bicyclist can hop himself up for an incredible ride, an ad blitz to promote an incredible sale can get your register ringing. But it won't establish a brand or a customer base, especially in these tight economic times.

Instead, consider the Rule of Seven, which says that your message must have made an impression on a customer, be it print, TV, radio, banner ads, or even social media, at least seven times to get them to act on your ad. The Rule of Seven makes it very important to establish and maintain a budget and advertising plan. By planning your advertising, you eliminate the temptation to jump into the first sweet sounding ad concept that lands on your desk while at the same time maintain a steady cadence that will keep your message in front of your target audience throughout the year, not just just every now and again.

While that sounds simple, it's unrealistic to stop and say, "OK, I've advertised seven times, I'm good!" Why? Because you can't assume that everyone in your target audience is going to see those ads or be looking for your goods or services at a given time. That's where the importance of a steady, diversified 12-month ad plan comes to the fore again.

Just as in cycling, finding your advertising cadence won't happen overnight. Getting your company (and your advertising) on the fast track requires time and patience and, occasionally, a long ride into a head wind. But once you've put in the time with your advertising, and (using the Rule of Seven as a guideline) made enough impressions on your target audience, keeping the advertising wheels turning can put your business into high gear!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Van Morrison And The Doors Of Misperception

Many years ago, I was sitting in a meeting of a client discussing what to do for their first anniversary. This client was a brewpub (then a hot, new concept) in a warehouse entertainment district and all the club's managers, owners, and investors were present. One of the options being considered was to hold a concert, either in the brewpub or outside in their parking lot. And one of the acts being considered was Van Morrison. This would have been quite a coup for the club as, at the time, Van the Man wasn't touring much and wanted what few shows he was doing in support of his new album to be in smaller venues.

The show's asking price somehow fit into the meager budget and, needless to say, I figured this was a no-brainer, done deal. (WARNING: Gratuitous Dream Sequence Approaching!) Immediately my mind began racing with thoughts of Wild Nights with the Brown Eyed Girl who would be ever so grateful for the backstage pass that I would inevitably bestow upon her. Plus, this would be my entrée into the world of rock and roll and, from now on, my business card title would be "Rock and Roll Promoter" (which, you must admit, is much sexier than "Non-Poet Copywriter").

My Moondance as the burgeoning Bill Graham of the Bible Belt quickly ended when one of the investors spoke out. I don't recall his exact words, but it was something to the effect of, "I saw that movie about him, and all the drugs and drinking he did, and I don't want that kind of element here." I was too stunned to respond and shocked even further when no one argued this assertion and, without further debate, rejected the opportunity to have Van Morrison play their anniversary celebration. When I gathered my senses, the only movie I could recall Van Morrison appearing in was as a performer in The Last Waltz, the film documenting the The Band's final performance. And when I had the opportunity to ask the investor (an older man, then in his 60's) what movie he was talking about, he said, "That Oliver Stone movie that was out a couple years ago." It wasn't until later that I realized he was referring to The Doors, Oliver Stone's overindulgent chronicle of The Doors and their lead singer Jim Morrison, who did indeed live a drug and alcohol fueled lifestyle...before his death in 1971 (which was vaguely featured at the end of the film)...

So what does any of this have to do with advertising? It's all about perception! Remember that everything you do to market your business should be about influencing your customer's perception. Whether it's demonstrating that you offer the solution to their problem, convincing them you've got the best price and service, or just positioning your brand as one consumers can trust, the impression you make today can go a long way toward enhancing how your customers view you, your business, or your goods or services, tomorrow. As the story above demonstrated, one bad perception, even an incorrect perception, can carry quite a ways, since a customer with a negative impression of a business will tell far more people about their experience than those who hold you in a positive light.

Another part of influencing your customers' perceptions is addressing their objections. Consider what's keeping them from patronizing your business or buying your product and tailor your message accordingly, whether it's via Twitter, television, radio, banner ad, and yes, even newspaper. By resolving their objections, you can more easily display how you provide the solution, and thus enhance your customer's perception.

Finally, remember that your brand is your image, and your image is how you're perceived. And, though many people balk at the cost of marketing their business, know that the price of attaining and maintaining a positive perception is a fraction of what you'll have to spend to repair a negative perception. Need an example? Two letters: BP.

As my story exemplified, one negative image (Jim Morrison) can overpower a positive, but lower profile image of someone else (Van Morrison). That's why your image, your brand, and how it's perceived is so important. And if the perception of your brand is perceived as an unknown soldier then you might want to do some marketing that can light my fire!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Of Bikes And Butt Advertising

If you've looked around He's Not A Poet, you may have noticed me occasionally waxing non-poetic on bicycling and pro bike racing. And now that the 2010 Tour de France is almost upon us, it's time for my annual post on what pro cycling can teach us about advertising (OK, this is only the second year I've done it but, after this it will be a yearly post, deal?).

To review, the Tour de France is essentially one giant, rolling advertising vehicle. Everything has an official sponsor, from the official drink to the official timekeeper, to the podium girls who present the flowers and trophies to each day's jersey winners. Even the towns that host the start and end of each day's stage pay to show off their civic attractions to the world. And just like in Nascar, pro bike riders and their bikes are covered in logos. How much you pay for sponsorship dictates where your name goes and how big it is. Smaller sponsors get a logo on the jersey and maybe on the bike. The name sponsors get their name on the team and, most importantly, the jerseys and the butt of the shorts...

The "Butt Sponsor" is valuable position to have, since most bike race stages feature a breakaway of some sort with some riders going ahead of the pack, and much of the TV coverage of those riders is shot from the TV motorcycle that stays behind the lead riders, transmitting images of their butts. Thus, since advertising is all about impressions, if your rider gets out in a breakaway, there are more chances for your brand to be seen repeatedly by the millions who watch the Tour. Even if a rider or team has no chance to win the overall race, just having a rider lead or even win a day's stage can generate enough exposure for a given brand to justify the expense of the sponsorship. And that's why, for the companies who sponsor the Tour de France and its' riders and teams, this race is essentially the Super Bowl of cycling, a once a year opportunity to market your brand to the biggest target audience possible.

So what does any of this have to do with your advertising? Well, though you may not be a cycling fan, or even French, odds are your company has a chance to be a butt advertiser, or one opportunity where you can drop a big hunk of your advertising budget to make a really big splash. The question is, is that opportunity worth it? Will the money you spend in July translate to business in November? Is your brand strong enough that one big, butt advertising opportunity will create enough impressions to generate a return all year round? Or, should you let that big opportunity ride away and instead concentrate your ad money on a 12-month marketing plan that will keep your sales rolling throughout the year? Just as every bike rider and team has different strengths and weaknesses, every business has different marketing needs. So remember, a butt advertising opportunity can make a big impression but, it won't do you any good if it's not still turning your sales wheels at the end of the race...