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Stand-Out Brands Need Stand-Out Ads

Creating a good ad that customers will respond to.

Howard Fox




No one wants to read, watch or listen to your advert. No, really they don’t. Apart from the yellow pages, when last did you see a publication entirely made up of ads, or a radio station that broadcasts no music or talk, just ‘commercial breaks’? You don’t. Okay, there is the shopping channel but even that tries to entertain. So how do you get someone to notice and hopefully be influenced by your advert?

The hook

You need a ‘hook’ to attract readers, listeners or viewers and pull them from the media they intended consuming, into interacting with your advert. This could be an intriguing headline, provocative image, interesting fact or the promise of getting something special.

Basically it’s a trade. You need to give something back in return for interrupting peoples’ viewing or reading pleasure. It could be information, a laugh, art, the-hint-of-sex, a special deal. Get this right and you are likely to get high “liking” for your ads – the basis of building a positive impact on your market.

The type of hook varies with the type of product, or intention of the advert. Information-rich adverts might work well for a new, complicated, just-launched product. Considering buying that new hover-board? You will want to know all about how it works, safety issues and maintenance costs. Buying peri-peri chicken on the other hand? Information about the nutritional value of a hot wing is unlikely to break through the clutter. Perhaps a good laugh would work better – a tactic well used by Nando’s.

Lights, camera, action!

Adverts are premised on the basis that you are trying to get people to do something they otherwise wouldn’t do. It’s called the “call to action” and it’s where a lot of ads go wrong – with either a weak or confusing call to action. Remember without a call to action an advert just becomes a story, which is more in the realm of “PR”.

Having enticed your target into watching, listening to or reading your advert, be clear about what exactly they should do next. It might not be a hard sell to buy right away. It might be to take a test drive or go to a website to get more information. However, not giving any direction leaves readers confused and somewhat annoyed as they think why did I bother?

Get to the point. Stay on point

Having interrupted, it is important to get to the point quickly. Headlines should be short, simple as possible and clear. In the case of billboards, normally read by drivers passing at high speed, I was taught you should have a maximum of seven elements on the billboard’s face. This could for instance be made up of an image, five words and a logo. (Few, however, pass this test.)

Recognise that in print adverts, most readers will glance at the image and headline and not read the rest of the more detailed “body copy”. You still need to make an impact on readers such as this, trying to entice them into reading further, or at a minimum building some awareness of your product or brand.

Adverts work best when they have “a single minded value proposition” – they focus on a single thought or product attribute. It is tempting to add additional concepts into ads to try and make them work harder, but in reality, they just become confusing and reduce in impact.

Batting for the other side

Advertising’s dirty little secret is that often, even if consumers interact with and even like your ad, they may well not correctly remember which supplier it refers to. This is more prevalent in commoditised products which have little perceived differentiation in consumers minds. In the worst-case scenario, consumers see your ad and remember it as referring to a competitor. (Technically called “low brand-linkage”.) How do you prevent this?

1) Ensure you have a differentiated product or brand in the first place. If you don’t it doesn’t really matter what you do in your advert, you are in trouble. You will know you have this problem when your ad agency suggests singing about your product (the old stand-in when there is absolutely nothing worth saying in an ad.)

2) Make the logo bigger. Your creative folk (that would be the flamboyant types in hats) frown upon the crass commercialism of overt branding all over your adverts, because it diminishes their ‘art’. Your shareholders disagree. They want a clearly branded ad, ideally with liberal use of the corporate colour. Think MTN vs Vodacom. If you see yellow, you think…

3) Be consistent in your advertising. Once you have trained the market on what your ads look like, stick with it. Marketers are inclined to have lower attention spans than their target consumers, because marketers see their ads virtually every day. Unless you have the budget of the two teleco’s just mentioned, your audience certainly don’t.

Proof is in the pudding

Recognise that sophisticated markets are cynical about advertisers. They know you have bought the media and can do (within the bounds of law and the Advertising Standards Authority) what you like with it. As a consequence offering proof of what you say offers weight and credibility. Independent tests, testimonials, reference to scientific works, evidence of long history of successful products, help overcome this cynicism. The more sophisticated the market the more subtle such proof should ideally be.

How creative should my ad be?

Like a number of things in marketing, it depends… Marketers love highly creative ads and they can multiply impact significantly, perhaps even ‘going viral’, but in my view some ads are just too creative that they lose their audience.

Remember you are not creating an ad you like, but rather one which effectively communicates to your market. Sometimes (perhaps as a new entrant) an ad, which fulfils all the category norms, might work best by making your product appear ‘established’ and ‘part of the club’. High risk, serious products – hospitals say, or corporate professional services firms might also benefit from tempering overtly creative ads.

Some specifics

Telephone numbers don’t work well on radio, especially during drive time. Listeners just can’t remember them or jot them down.

Context is important. Adverts about erm, male issues, might best be deployed on ‘over urinal’ media.

Avoid offending religious and other interest groups, particularly with frivolous quips. What might seem funny around your boardroom table doesn’t seem so when you are explaining yourself at the ASA.

Humour should be universal and good-natured. Powerful when it is done right, it easily goes wrong as it is culturally, language and age-specific.

Comparative ads aren’t permitted in South Africa(and aren’t always a good idea). However, if it is a strategic fit you can have the same outcome while remaining legal – just think of Steve from Bleep! Bank.

Howard Fox is the marketing director of the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He has 25 years’ marketing experience. Having started his career as a professional photographer, his experience ranges from marketing commodity chemicals through financial services, to advertising. He is a Chartered Marketer (SA) and sits on the board of the Marketing Association of South Africa. Howard holds a Masters degree in Marketing and an MBA. Linked In: Twitter: Blog:


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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9 Strategies For Memorable Advertising When Your Audience Is Chronically Distracted

Attention spans have never been shorter, and consumers never have had so many options. You need a smart strategy to rise above the noise.

Eran Halevy




The advertising industry is big. In fact, when all the numbers from 2017 are tallied, advertising spending in the United States is projected to reach $207 billion. However, research shows that 64 percent of people find ads annoying or intrusive. A whopping 92 percent of online ads aren’t even noticed.

If you want to get results from your advertising efforts in 2018, you must adhere to certain rules. These nine definitely are worth remembering as you firm up your strategy for the new year.

1. Optimise your ads for declining attention spans

The consistently shrinking attention span is one of advertising’s greatest challenges. Consider the following statistics:

  • In a recent study, Microsoft revealed the average attention span has decreased from about 12 seconds in 2000 to about eight seconds today.
  • A study by Jampp shows that our attention spans decline by about 88 percent every year – especially thanks to technology and mobile apps.
  • Some sources estimate we are exposed to up to 5,000 ads daily – a sharp increase from a few decades ago.

Audiences suffer from declining attention spans, but they’re bombarded with more ads than ever before. With that in mind, it’s essential to embrace the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid.

Related: Podcasting Is The Most Authentic Form Of Advertising

rule-of-seven2. Follow the ‘Rule of Seven’

One of advertising’s golden rules is explained by the “Rule of Seven:” Most prospects will need to see your message at least seven times before they consider your offer. Don’t expect most people to convert the first time they see your offer. Instead, use different means and channels to get the same message across to them. You’ll increase the odds they’ll respond to your offer.

3. Retarget your ads to people familiar with your brand

According to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to a new prospect is about 5 to 20 percent while the probability of selling to an existing customer is about 60 to 70 percent. It’s much easier to market to people who already are familiar with your brand or who have been customers in the past than it is to “sell” people who are just learning about you. Research shows that retargeting your message to people who previously have visited your website can result in 10 times the clicks and a 70 percent increase in conversions.

4. Sensory adaptation beats CTA colour

In one of its articles years ago, Hubspot famously proclaimed that “Red beats green” in terms of coloured-button performance. For a long time, experts have touted red as the best choice for a call to action (CTA). Unbounce, on the other hand, says orange leads to more conversions. Others have found green, yellow or blue to be best.

So which colour, really, produces the best results? None of the above. Colour psychology has taken a back seat to an even more powerful underlying principle: sensory adaptation. In basic terms, our brains ignore anything that blends in with its surroundings. A green button will convert better on a page using a red colour scheme and vice versa. You should ensure your CTAs stand out. Do this, and every colour will convert well for you.

Related: The Quick and Dirty on Marketing, Advertising and Branding

5. Segment and target

Marketing Sherpa structured a study that compared the return on investment of targeted emails (sent to users based on their interests) with “batch-and-blast” emails (sent to everyone on the list). Segmented emails resulted in a 208 percent higher conversion rate than emails that weren’t targeted. Increasingly, advertising research emphasises the importance of segmenting and targeting. More recently, marketing professionals are using artificial intelligence to develop sophisticated options for targeting users.

6. Focus on retention

A recent study from Adobe Digital Insights found that ads are getting more expensive while reaching fewer consumers. Experts expect this trend to continue as users find more ways to block ads. Meanwhile, advertising platforms will struggle to increase revenue. To get the most from your advertising efforts, consider ways to retain users. It’s more economical than paying to reach them each time. Start building a user list you can segment into groups: an email list, a push-notification list and others.

cellphone7. Don’t ignore mobile

Overlooking mobile users is perhaps the deadliest mistake any advertiser can make at this point in time. Mobile-only internet users outnumber desktop-only users. What’s more, research shows that engagement is higher on mobile devices than on desktop devices. If you don’t have a mobile-advertising strategy, you’re alienating more than half your potential customers.

Related: 7 Ways to Make Advertising a Sure Thing

8. Embrace the ‘less is more’ principle

It’s easy to assume that presenting people with more options will yield a better ROI, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, psychologist Barry Schwartz argued against this in his book “The Paradox of Choice.” He cited a jam study conducted by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper. The pair of researchers divided shoppers into two groups. They presented the first group of shoppers with a table that contained six varieties of jam. The second group of shoppers were offered a table containing 24 varieties of jam. More people viewed the table with greater options, but 10 times as many people actually purchased from the table with fewer varieties of jam. You can do the same: Provide fewer options, and you’ll see conversions increase.

9. Use text strategically

An image is worth a thousand words – until it isn’t. A lot has been said about the power of images to drive action and boost advertising conversion. But an increasing body of research is finding that when used properly, text is even more effective than rampant visuals. Launchbit found that text-heavy banner ads generally result in more clicks and conversions than banners that consist primarily of graphics and colours. There’s an important caveat, though: Ensure your text communicates exactly what users will gain when they click your ad.

This article was originally posted here on

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Marketing Tips For Start-ups

How to make marketing work for you when your business is just starting out.




Starting a business is one of the most rewarding endeavors any individual can undertake. It can provide life experience not achievable in any other way. It has an open ceiling while also not having a floor either. You can make your business whatever you want it to be and, with a lot of hard work, can turn it into something that people believe in.

Businesses around the world do incredible work within their communities and for the larger global population. While all of this is great, and certainly possible, the beginning of the business is not always a dream. Case in point: Marketing.

What you need to know about marketing your start-up

When starting a business, you probably have your idea mapped out in exquisite detail and have every possible contingency planned. Even when your product is down pat, and you believe your plan is impeccable, there are still a number of things that require a different level of patience and expertise.

Marketing your business can be an existential endeavor as you fine tune exactly what your business stands for and who your audience is.

In this article we hope to expound on how to make marketing work for you when you are just starting out. Startups are tasked with doing an incredible amount of work upon their inception. They have to test and refine their product while also carving out their own path within a crowded industry.

Related: Why You Should Be Investing In Marketing

The last thing that startups need to be focused on is marketing. Luckily, thanks to the innovation and advancement of automation and artificial intelligence, marketing has become a much simpler task through the services of online applications.

Who can help you set-up a marketing campaign?

Companies like HubSpot and MailChimp make digital marketing easier than ever before. These tools can automate email blasts and generate visits to your website.

Speaking of which, websites are now easier than ever to make thanks to companies like WordPress and Squarespace that make creating websites easy and entertaining. Using automation and artificial intelligence will help to make marketing much easier as most startups do not have the resources to hire professional marketing teams.

Related: 5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

Though advisable when they can be hired, marketing teams are often too expensive for most startups. The same goes for web designers who are typically too expensive for brand new companies. Going online and starting marketing campaigns for your business has never been easier thanks to these wonderful resources and the people who keep them running.

Is you marketing message clear?

When coming up with a brand, make sure that your message is embedded and can be deduced easily. Do not be afraid to create a message that your company stands for and don’t hesitate to proclaim it loudly for everyone to hear. If your company is based in organics, for instance, then have a logo with earth tones and naturalistic graphics.

This will send the message that you are interested in the environment and care for it deeply. At the same time, this will help to develop an audience that you can target and interact with honestly. The same goes for any industry you want to get into.

Related: 7 Dreadful Marketing Mistakes To Avoid In 2018

Make sure that your logo and brand message represents the audience you want to attract and the industries you are interested in entering.

Showcase any charities you are invested in and all of the causes your company supports.

This will continue to carve out your audience and refine your message so that people know exactly what you are about. The goal of any company is to ultimately provide a service to the audience that would benefit the most from it.

Network your company’s message through every avenue

Truly, it is diligence and hard work that will eventually attract customers to your product.

Start a social media campaign focused on relaying your message to the online community.

Contact other companies that share your goals and missions so that you may support each other publicly. Join charities and other causes that will both give you exposure and develop an audience. Use automation services and artificial intelligence to make marketing easier.

Be steadfast and confident in your idea and your company’s mission. This will be the ultimate selling point for your business. Your startup is only as good as you are. Going out into the general public and spreading your message is the best way to draw attention and market your product.

Draw a crowd whenever you can and insert yourself into the public conscious.

Confidence, with reality thrown in, is the ultimate selling feature of any business. Teaming up with investors and other businesses will give you the exposure you need to draw the audience you want.

In the end, a startup business that is successful benefits us all and is worth pouring your heart into. Treat your startup as an extension of yourself and take pride in working for it to succeed.


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