Advertising

The five things you need to know before you advertise your business

Pat Langton /

Magnum Opus Partners

Magnum Opus Partners creative director and partner Pat Langton. Source: supplied.

1. Know your target market 

OK, this might seem like a ‘no shit Sherlock, moment’ — too obvious to be worth saying — but you need to really look at who you’re talking to. Not just what type of things they read, watch and listen to, but when, and why.

What is their mood when they see your ad? What are they doing when your ad interrupts their lives? 

Look very closely at the age of your preferred target market, because this will determine the type of advertising or medium you might choose to use. For example, if you’re selling dentures, social media might not be the place to advertise, even if it looks affordable at first glance!

Be as specific as you can be. If you’re a 50-year-old businessperson who is selling a product or service to ‘young people’, you might think that 18-year-olds and 25-year-olds are pretty much the same. Well, they’re not. 

Unless your product literally appeals to everybody (and that’s a very rare thing) you need to put yourself in your desired customer’s shoes.

We’re in the business of psychology. What does your target think? What type of person are they? How do they like to receive information? What tone works best with them? Think long and hard about this, and then, and only then, do an advertisement.

There are now so many different types of mediums to advertise on. Pick the one that suits your target and then dominate it so there is no chance they will miss your message. 

2. Make sure your product is amazing

This should be the first rule.

In such a cluttered marketplace, if your product isn’t good then you won’t sell anything, no matter how much you advertise. We have a well-worn saying in our business: “You can sell any rubbish. Once.”

Consumers are much more demanding nowadays, and there’s plenty of competition around that allows them to choose good quality. 

There’s no doubt advertising works — without it, nobody would know you even exist — but if you do get someone to buy your product and it’s no good then they will simply tell their friends and then you won’t sell any more product. We call this ‘social currency’, and you need as much of it as the real stuff. 

Similarly, the better your product is, the more people will talk about it and the more people will buy it. 

Take the blockbuster TV show Game of Thrones, for example. You probably heard a friend talking about it, then another, then another, until you just had to see what all the fuss was about, and the rest is history.

So before you do anything, ask yourself if your product is amazing. If it isn’t amazing, work on making it so before you tell the world about it. 

3. Know your product benefit

What does your product mean for consumers’ lives, and their sense of wellbeing?

This is really important as this will guide what you say in your advertising. It will help you stand out from the crowd, and stand out from your potential competitors. 

Sometimes people concentrate on selling the features of their product or service, but forget to translate that into hard benefits for their customers. Sometimes we need to draw that conclusion for people who are time-poor, and who aren’t looking at our offering with the same obsession that we are.

Let’s look at a product that changed people’s leisure time forever: the iPod.

When the Apple iPod first launched, the advertising campaign was incredibly simple. It told consumers a truth and something that was simply amazing, and unheard of, about the product: “1000 songs in your pocket.”

The customer benefit was obvious: more music available, instantly, than ever before. When you think about the time the iPod was released, people were used to Discmans and had to carry CDs around with them. To tell people they could now have 1000 songs in their pocket, well, it really was amazing.

So find the one thing that differentiates your brand from another. Ad agencies call it the ‘single-minded proposition’. This will help you to understand what you should be saying. If your product or service really is amazing then there are two ways to look at advertising: either an insight about what makes the product so unusual and brilliant, or an insight about the target audience and how it will help them. Sometimes that’s one and the same — given a choice, however, the latter is always the most powerful way to go. 

4. People honestly don’t care about your brand 

There’s a line from one of the greatest ad men that ever lived, David Ogilvy, that sums it up: “You aren’t advertising to a standing army — you are advertising to a moving parade.”

What he meant is people are just too busy, getting the groceries, picking up the kids, going to the movies, eating a meal. Whatever it is, people are always moving — and are not obsessively interested in what you have to say. They don’t stand still and pay attention. So whatever you say, it had better be immediately compelling and interesting. 

Nobody really cares about your brand as much as you do. That’s hard to take, we know, but it’s true. Once you come to terms with that statement it makes it a lot easier to advertise and a lot easier to know what you have to do to stand out. 

Consumers will simply never love your brand as much as you do. Think about it like a photo of your child: you think they look super cute, it’s just the random person you’re showing it to who doesn’t really care. 

Does this mean branding doesn’t matter? Not at all. It does, in many ways. It simply means you cannot assume that consumers have digested all your careful brand strategy and all the features of your brand that you agonise over all day, every day. 

They don’t go to bed thinking ‘I must get some brand X tomorrow’, whereas you do go to bed thinking ‘I must sell some more brand X tomorrow’.

Understanding that difference is a key factor in crafting messages that will really resonate with your audience. 

5. Simplify your message

Edit, edit, edit and edit some more.

Consumers are busy and they generally don’t have the time — or care enough — to carefully read, watch or listen to your ad. So make your ad as simple as possible. 

Consumers are faced with thousands of ads a day, so for your ad to stand out in the crowd you need them to ‘get’ your message as quickly as possible.

There are a few rules in advertising that are worth following.

  1. A billboard should consist of no more than eight words.
  2. A TV or social film should grab your attention within the first three seconds, or better yet, the first frame.
  3. A print ad in the newspaper has less than 0.2 seconds to seize the readers’ attention before they move on. So you’d better have a great headline or a very powerful picture. 

(There’s a reason for that eight words on a billboard, by the way. It’s not just that people are driving past at speed and are quite rightly concentrating on the road. It’s also because eight seconds is the limit of human short-term memory. There is a bit of science to advertising sometimes!) 

And always remember to obey the KISS principle and ‘keep it simple, stupid’.

It’s a great reminder that whatever you’re doing. remember to keep the message easy to digest so your audience can both understand it, and remember you amongst the clutter.

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Pat Langton

Pat is a partner and creative director at Magnum Opus Partners.

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