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Recession-Era Advertising Now

Unsure what to cut and what to keep? This smart, 4-point checklist is your guide to recession-era advertising.

Kim Gordon

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When money’s tight, the knee-jerk reaction for many entrepreneurs is to cut back on advertising. Unfortunately, the businesses that stop advertising simply drop out of sight, taking these entrepreneurs from slow sales to no sales – fast. It’s a risky move many may not recover from. Rather than eliminate your advertising in a recession, cut the fat from your campaign, and focus on the right media choices for the highest return on investment.

To figure out what to cut and what to keep, use this checklist to choose the right media for your business in this challenging economy.

1. Advertise where prospects look first

Where will your customers look when they’ve decided to buy what you sell? A vast majority of Americans research purchases on the internet before buying online or in a brick-and-mortar store. Placing advertising on search engines may be an important part of your scaled down campaign. Other search media include trade and industrial directories, both online and in print, newspaper circulars, classified ads, and shopper sections of specialty magazines. By advertising where prospective customers look, you’ll shorten your sales cycle and lower your cost per sale.

2. Use media that touch prospects often

Even when your customers aren’t in search mode, they still interact with other important media. Discover which media touch your best prospects throughout the day. Do they read a particular newspaper? Which TV and radio programmes do they enjoy and at what times of the day? If you’re targeting B2B prospects, zero in on the industry publications they rely on for information. Both business and consumer prospects have favourite websites they frequent. Armed with this vital information, you can strategically place ads in media you know play central roles in their daily lives.

3. Put your ads in context

Not all media that touch your prospects will be smart advertising choices. The issue of appropriate context is critical when making this evaluation. Choose media that reach your prospects when they’re in the right frame of mind to be receptive to your message. For example, your best prospects may dine out frequently and be exposed to the ads inside the restroom stalls of popular restaurants. But the location of this media may be an inappropriate context for advertising your type of business. It all depends on when and how you want your customers to think of your business. Pare down your campaign to the media that put your message in the right context, and your response rates will climb.

4. Advertise formaximum memorability

The very best use of limited advertising budget is to spend your money where your campaign can be a stand out. That requires sufficient ad size and frequency. With the abundance of clutter in all major media, it can be challenging to stand out with small size, fractional page ads. Larger ads will give you more bang for your buck because they’re more likely to be seen and remembered. Rather than run small space ads in many publications or websites, reduce your media choices to those in which you can afford to buy larger ads and advertise frequently. Narrow your broadcast selections to fewer radio stations or TV programmes, and advertise to your core audience with frequency so your message is sure to penetrate. By the time the market place rebounds, you’ll be in a solid position to expand your campaign once again.

Kim T. Gordon is one of the country's leading experts on the small-business market. Over the past 30 years as an author, marketing expert, media spokesperson, speaker and coach, her work has helped millions of small-business owners increase their success.

Advertising

Consumers Don’t Have An Attention Problem. It’s Just That Your Advertising Isn’t Very Good

With so much media available to consume, quality matters more than ever for ads.

Brendan Gahan

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If a brand releases an ad and no one sees it, is it still called “advertising”?

People have more tools than ever before to skip out on ads entirely. More than three-fourths of the people in North America engage in automated ad-blocking, and 10 percent of them block ads across four kinds of media or more, according to Deloitte. Much like the question of trees falling in forests, what good is a brand’s message at a time when people generally don’t want to hear its sound?

Ad units are shrinking in the wake of ad-blocking technology, but human attention span remains unchanged. Today’s consumers are surely more distracted than any previous generation, so they guard their attention spans more mercilessly. When advertisers can successfully command that attention for a minute or two, it means the consumer is watching an ad for the same reason he or she binge-watches Stranger Things on Netflix: The ad has managed to present itself as relevant or vital to the viewer. It wins every time.

Just 10 years ago, Gillette dominated the razor blade market. Its ads were comfortable, predictable 30-second units that reminded everyone of something they already knew: You need razor blades on the regular, so you might as well buy Gillette.

Related: Advertising Consulting Business Plan

But, the market had to reorganise itself with the appearance of Dollar Shave Club and its distinctly off-the-wall messaging. The notorious startup used quirky 90-second ads to spread its word online, presenting itself as unignorable by comparison to the competition. Even though we live in a time when people can skip ads, block ads and avoid ads, Dollar Shave Club’s marketing won major viral attention. It didn’t exactly kill Gillette’s Goliath, but it sure made Goliath sweat.

The lesson here is that people don’t hate all ads, they just hate the crappy ones. The bar for perceived quality in advertising is so low these days that many choose not to engage with anything on principle alone. People even close web pages they want to visit when the page auto-plays a video ad. When job number one of the advertiser is to interest consumers, it’s never been easier to annoy them.

Far from the rise of the six-second ad unit, there’s strong evidence that people generally want long-form content.

Ooyala reports that long-form video content consumption is up 30 percent from last year. Instagram used to be all about sharing individual photos and short videos, but now with the launch of IGTV supports 60-minute videos. The most widely subscribed YouTuber, PewDiePie, regularly posts 20-minute-long videos to a community of millions of fans. Joe Rogan’s podcast blends comedy, politics and philosophy for two to three hours at a stretch, and is one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.

People can, of course, handle stories and follow them over time. It’s one of the defining characteristics of humanity. But, there are so many stories competing for our attention nowadays that we are extremely selective about which ones we let into our lives. If any of these opt-in narratives will come from advertising, those ads must first run the ad-blocking gauntlet, then be immediately relevant and spectacular to the consumer upon arrival. The bar for perceived quality in advertising these days is actually quite high.

Related: 9 Strategies For Memorable Advertising When Your Audience Is Chronically Distracted

But, there is meaningful assistance on your way to clearing it. Social listening tools trawl the internet to learn what’s being said about and around different brands. With help from a company specialising in consumer insights and some Nielsen data, brands can better learn who their customers are, what they love and what they don’t love. This is key information in designing a vital, relevant message. In simplest terms, a brand must know its audience. The marketing needs to reflect what the audience is interested in, not what company leadership is interested in.

From there it’s only a matter of iterating and optimising. The great thing about digital advertising is that you get feedback instantly. You can iterate a campaign to make it better. Simple tweaks in copy, reframing key ideas and A/B testing can help make your campaign truly great.

Otherwise you run the risk of a mediocre campaign and a wasted media spend. No one wants to hear that sound.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Advertising

6 False Advertising Scandals You Can Learn From

Don’t stretch the truth the way Volkswagen, New Balance, Airborne, Splenda, Rice Krispies and Red Bull did.

Jayson Demers

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red-bull-gives-you-wings

New entrepreneurs are often tempted to exaggerate what new products or services are capable of. No wonder: Presented to a powerful investor, a stretch of the truth just might help land that series A funding.

And, less seriously, a bit of marketing flair or showmanship, in many cases, will help an entrepreneur accomplish his or her without many repercussions.

But, in other cases, if you’re that entrepreneur who is caught deliberately misleading investors or consumers, you could face false advertising charges – and the ruin of your brand’s reputation. Consider these six examples:

  1. Airborne
  2. Splenda
  3. New Balance
  4. Rice Krispies
  5. Volkswagen
  6. Red Bull
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Forget Everything You’ve Heard — Fear Doesn’t Sell

If consumers associate your product with fear, they may not have a strong connection to your brand.

Scott Brown

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Sixty percent of Subaru owners have dogs. So in 2008, when the company decided to sponsor Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, it made a major break from previous advertising campaigns — ones that showed drivers with other cars getting stuck in the snow, for example. Alongside a pledge to donate $250 to charity for every car sold, the company began to understand how to appeal to its core audience through their own interests — and how those tied together in a Subaru.

Since 2008, the company has been running a campaign called “Love,” one that brings together all the attributes that Subaru is known for — including safety and reliability. Instead of talking to customers by telling them all the bad things that will happen if they don’t drive a Subaru (e.g., getting stuck in the snow), the company began speaking in a more positive language — including bringing furry friends along on drives.

For many, the instinctive approach toward marketing is to tell an audience why they have to buy your product. Bad things will happen otherwise, and yours is the best in market. The others won’t help you reach your goal. The problem with that logic is that it doesn’t take into account the impact of brand image on product marketing. Sure, you might skid in the snow without a Subaru, but you need to think positively of the company as a whole if you’re going to be drawn to its products in the first place.

Related: How do I know that my product is market-ready?

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