Thursday, June 28, 2007

Slight Variations On Traditional Advertising

For many small service businesses, “advertising” means a big yellow pages ad. For some, it’s newspaper. For others, it’s hitting traditional broadcast media (i.e., TV and radio). These are all traditional forms of advertising. Here are some variations on traditional forms of advertising…

1. Advertise in the Newspaper Obituary Section

The obituary section of a small town to medium sized city newspapers is one of the most widely read sections. In a study of 37,000 people across 100 newspaper markets by Northwestern University’s Readership Institute, “45 percent said newspaper obituaries were important to them.”

Furthermore, obituary readers are older, better educated, and more likely to be female than the average newspaper reader. In other words, they’re read by your target customers.

2. Advertise in the Neighborhood Section of Major Dailies

Many large metropolitan newspapers contain neighborhood sections that are only published in certain towns or sections of town. Consumers receiving these sections perceive the businesses who advertise in their suburban section are specialists in their market.

The neighborhood sections are often published on certain days of the week, increasing the readership within their target market. Yet, because the circulation is less, the cost of advertising is less too.

3. Advertise in the Newspaper Scandal Sheet or Blotter

People read newspaper police blotters or scandal sheets for the same reason they rubberneck. The read them for the same reason they watch the early knock out rounds of American Idol. There’s just something about a train wreck, about gossip, about the misfortunes of others that causes us to want to look and leer.

Of course, few will admit to a steady readership of the police blotter in their local paper, though it’s often highly read, especially in small towns.

Consider placing small ads on the same page as the blotter.

4. Feature a Local Celebrity in Ads

A local celebrity is anyone well known within your community, but little known outside it. Local celebrities could include high school coaches, professional athletes who reside in the area, radio deejays and personalities, local television newscasters, local politicians, and well-known and respected local businesspeople.

Celebrity endorsements are somewhat controversial in marketing. Brand Week reported a study where affluent people were not influenced by celebrity endorsements. Of course, the affluent in the study were really affluent. Their average income was $400,000 and their net worth was $2.7 million.

The marketing consulting firm, Interbrand, defines brand value as the potential for future earnings. According to Interbrand, Nike’s brand value is on the rise. In 2003, the firm found the Nike brand to be the 33rd most valuable in the world.

In an article appearing in Forbes, Gary Singer, Interbrand’s chief strategy officer, said, ‘Nike built their franchise on celebrity endorsements both big and small. The core of their soul is their association with outstanding athletes.”

Nike built its brand using the likeness of athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Some of the world’s most sophisticated marketers continue to feature celebrities, which suggests something must be working.

Moreover, national celebrity endorsements are not the same as local endorsements. In most markets, local celebrities seem more real than Hollywood types or national sports figures.

Before you use a celebrity, you should define your target market. Is the celebrity known to this market? Is the celebrity interesting to the market?

When the discount Internet travel agency, Priceline, first launched the company targeted the Internet savvy. In the late 1990s, this meant geeks. Who better to serve as pitchman to geeks than Captain Kirk? Priceline selected William Shatner as spokesperson in mid-1998 when the company sold 1,500 tickets per week. By the end of 1999, Priceline was selling 50,000 tickets per week and accounted for 2% of leisure airline ticket sales.

“William Shatner has played an important role in catapulting to national prominence,” said Daniel H. Schulman,'s president and COO. “His association with futuristic things makes him well-qualified to talk about how is reinventing the way people can save money by naming their own price for goods and services.”

The next requirement is that the celebrity is credible with your product. Tiger Woods is gold on the golf course, but would he be credible as a spokesman for dog food? Even if Tiger loves dogs, it’s hard to see how he would oversee their care when most of his life is spent on tour.

For the most part, home services providers have an easy time creating credibility. After all, everyone needs their air conditioning serviced, plumbing work from time to time, lawn care, carpet care, and so on.

Place your products or donate your services with a local celebrity so they can speak about your company with true credibility. You don’t want to hire, say, Jessica Simpson to endorse your topical acne medicine stating, “I just had so much build up and so many clogged pores that once I started using Proactiv Solution, my face was just shining,” only to discover that she gave the credit to the prescription medicine Accutane in earlier interviews. Oops.

If the celebrity never used your product, don’t ask him to say he did. Instead, use him as a spokesman.

Finally, make sure the celebrity has positives that can transfer to your brand. You are using a celebrity because he is more recognized in your market than your brand and has the type of image you want to associate with your brand. I doubt anyone would want Michael Jackson associated with their brand for example.

5. Feature an Industry Figure In Your Ads

So your company has never been named the national contractor of the year (or whatever’s the equivalent for your industry). Do you know they guy who has won the award? Maybe he would endorse you?

The contractor of the year simply says something like, “If I lived in Dallas and needed my carpets cleaned, I’d call my friends at Carpets R Us.” Below his picture you give the name, company, city, and award.

Send a postcard, insert a shared mail piece, or take out a newspaper ad proclaiming, “The nation’s top carpet cleaner endorses Carpets R Us.”

6. Feature a Real Customer In Your Ads

Some of the most powerful ads use a real customer talking about your company. This is a testimonial in print or broadcast. And real people are, well, real.

Encourage people to talk about how easy the repair, purchase, or installation process was. Instead of talking about money they saved, encourage them to talk about what they did with the money they saved.

7. Piggyback Competitive Ads in Newspapers

Home Depot had been an established force in the area where I live when Lowe’s moved in. When Lowe’s opened a new store, their market analysis seemed limited to finding where Home Depots were locating and opening across the street or as close to their competitor as possible.

It made sense. Consumers already knew where the closest Home Depot was located. They were “trained” to visit the area. Lowe’s was piggybacking on previous Home Depot marketing.

Then, Lowe’s went after Home Depot’s weakness. Home Depot is designed for men, while women are responsible for 80% of home improvement purchases. So Lowe’s brightened their stores, widened the aisles, and added designer brands like Laura Ashley. Lowe’s emphasized what Home Depot did not and has generally out performed the Atlanta chain since.

Lowe’s approach can work for you. If there is a section of the newspaper where companies from your industry congregate, advertise there. Study the competition’s ads and stress items of importance to homeowners that your competitors do not. For example, an air conditioning contractor whose competitors stress products might zero in on guarantees, offering an unconditional money back guarantee. Or, the company could stress financing, switching to 10 year term financing if the competition is limited to a manufacturer revolving plan. Find or create a point of superiority.

There’s a bonus for piggybacking on the competition’s ad. If your competitors are using large ads, they’re spending the money to grab the attention of homeowners interested in your products and services. You can use a smaller, more targeted ad focusing on your points of superiority.

8. Put a Phone Number In a Jingle

Several plumbers in the area are friends of mine. I don’t know any of their phone numbers by heart. I do know the number for Drain Doctor Plumbing. I know it from a jingle they ran on the radio for years. I don’t think I’ve even heard it during the last ten years, but I still know it. The jingle is…

For Drain Doctor calls
Call D-R-A-I-N-D-R

D-R-A-I-N-D-R matches the company’s main phone number, 372-4637. Why not make a jingle out of your phone number?

9. Use Third Party Statistics

“Four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum,” claims the Trident ad. Lincoln Technical Institute quotes U.S. Department of Labor projections about the shortage of air conditioning technicians in recruiting ads.

Both companies are using third party statistics to build credibility. You can too.

People are naturally cynical about advertising. Any claim you make will be greeted with skepticism. This is why you use a third party.

The Internet makes it incredibly easy to find statistics supporting your claims. However, it also makes it incredibly easy for people to fact check your claims. Make sure you’ve can source your claims.

10. Use Cable to Target

In a large market broadcast television may be unaffordable. Cable is not. In some areas, cable advertising starts at $2 for a 30 second spot. Even in larger cities, cable may only cost $10 to $25 per spot. That’s within your reach.

Moreover, cable presents opportunities to target. Often, you can zero in on particular suburbs, allowing you to limit your advertising to your service territory.

Targeting exceeds geography. With cable you can select shows with audiences that closely match your target demographics. Want to reach women? Try Lifetime or Oxygen. Looking for families with children? Try Discovery, Disney, ABC Family, and so on.

Cable lets you focus your advertising and costs less to boot.

11. Use Silence

In 1998 for Superbowl XXXII, Fed Ex ran an ad that consisted of 30 seconds of silence. On screen was a test pattern and a scrolling message, claiming that the real ad wasn’t delivered because the ad agency didn’t send it using Fed Ex.

It was a gutsy move that paid off. The absence of sound practically compelled people to look, to pay attention. It’s a primitive reaction to a change in our immediate environment. Something unexpected happened. What’s up? Is it a risk? Fight or flight? We’re compelled to find out.

Try it some time. Use silence.

12. DVR Proof Ads

A digital video recorder is one of those devices I never needed… until I got one. Now I can’t live without it. The same thing is true for millions, with more converts every day.

And what do the viewers do when watching a recorded show? Fast forward, of course. Fast forward right past your ad.

About all you can do, short of abandoning TV altogether is to make sure your logo and/or website are visible, even if the viewer fast forwards. If you make the logo visible in a stationary position for at least 15 seconds of a 30 second spot, you’ll at least get impressions. Since the viewer is focusing on the broadcast while fast forwarding so he doesn’t fast forward too far, you’ll get a stronger impression than someone watching live and zoning out or hitting the fridge during a commercial break.

These are just variations and some of them are only slight variations. Have you got any to add? Email them to me.

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