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Tips From Your Dog

Why Fido is starring in more ads and what it means for your business.

Kim Gordon

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Have you noticed that advertising is going to the dogs? Those cute, cuddly canines are springing up everywhere — from commercials to print ads and websites.

Dogs are replacing the pretty girl with the great smile as the current darlings of advertisers of all stripes. And for good reason: That pup is worth its weight in gold. In an era when consumers are looking for a special connection with companies and brands, most people find dogs endearing and just plain irresistible. Of course man’s best friend won’t be every marketer’s best friend. This is not to say that you should think about using dogs in your marketing. But dogs in ads can teach us a lot about effective marketing tactics. Here are four lessons to be learned from marketing that has gone to the dogs.

1. Dogs make you look

The job of an ad is to capture the attention of the target audience. No one can act on your ad if they don’t see it. Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads every day. This tremendous barrage of marketing messages has made us understandably selective about what we choose to notice. So when a commercial comes on and the first image is of cuddly Labrador puppies climbing into the linen drawer, people who have positive mental associations with dogs stop a moment to take a look. And when that happens, the advertiser has successfully scaled an incredibly challenging hurdle. Do your ads grab your customers’ attention?

2. Dogs engage our emotions

Getting consumers to notice your ad is the first task, and the next is to engage them in a way that will be memorable. Memory and emotion are inextricably bound together. Think about it: When you recall a fun experience with a childhood pet, how does it make you feel? The emotions seem to come rushing back, and it’s hard to separate the memory from how the experience felt. For many people, simply seeing images of friendly dogs evokes warm feelings and in turn makes the advertisement more memorable. What’s the best way to engage your customers’ emotions?

3. We trust man’s best friend

The recession has changed the way we shop, as consumers now scrutinise product and company information more thoroughly than ever. With precious rands to spend, we want to spend them right. Companies must build an overall image of trustworthiness, and that’s why advertisers, some major websites, and even software programmes use images of dogs.

4. Dog lovers feel a kinship

For an ad to be effective, it has to ring true. The target audience must identify in some way with it, either because they’re literally pictured or there’s a story to which they can relate. For many of us, our dogs are vitally important members of the family. So when an ad features a dog, pet owners relate to the situation, person or family being depicted. We feel a kinship and begin to establish a connection with the company or brand being advertised. What’s the best way to convey connection and community among your customers?

Engendering trust

In all, dogs in ads engage the audience and subtley convey that this is an advertiser we can trust. And as consumers, we see ourselves reflected in the story being told by the advertiser, which motivates us to choose the advertised company or product over others. Now that’s puppy power.

Case Study

South Africa’s ‘Buddy’

South Africa’s own successful canine campaign is none other than Toyota’s Buddy the Boxer, the brainchild of communications agency, Draftfcb Johannesburg.

In the 2009 Millward Brown Adtrack awards, Buddy was voted second ‘most liked’ for the Corolla Buddy Ball advert and secured 10th position for the Hilux sheep ad. In 2010 the Auris Chichi ad followed suit, securing second most liked ad of 2010 and the Hilux ‘Manup Broken Down’ ad took fifth place.

South Africans love their dogs, a factor Toyota and Draftfcb  were well aware of while deciding on a character for Toyota. Buddy’s antics (and friends) became the perfect blend of humour and all-round cuteness to maintain Toyota’s trusted and, above all, loyal image.

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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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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Advertising

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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