Thursday, September 9

Advertising Tips: Two From Earnest Elmo Calkins


"Come to the point, and don't draw attention to the advertisement instead of to the goods." — Earnest Elmo Calkins

These two pieces of advice might surprise some, given that Calkins was one of the first advertisers to increase the quality of the art department at his agency. However, Calkins knew what many communicators have been forgetting in the last few decades.

Get To The Point.

Ideally, every advertisement has one point. Sometimes you can slip in up to three points. But any more than that and most people aren't likely to remember anything, let alone one thing that serves as a unique selling point or, preferably, product contrast. If you don't or rely on branding alone, you will eventually lose market share.

Nike provides a fine example. In 2009, most reports placed Nike at controlling 31 percent of the market share . It's clearly the market leader. However, the real story is that Nike controlled almost 50 percent of the market share in 1999. Ouch.

For all the fine advertisements that Nike has produced over the last decade, the company began focusing on branding alone, without any definitive reason to purchase the product. The point? It used to be associated with victory. What about today? Mostly, the company celebrates itself.

Draw Attention To The Product.

Nike isn't alone. Some advertisers have an ego, drawing more attention to the advertisements than the product. People might talk about the ads, but they never have a reason to buy.

Budweiser provides a good example. Bud Light dominates with 28 percent of the market share and Budweiser with 12 percent. In 2000, Budweiser controlled almost 50 percent of the market share collectively. What changed?

The advertising mix used to emphasize one of three creative threads: product quality, social responsibility, and contemporary humor. In the last decade, Budweiser seems to have invested more in contemporary humor, leaving the other two threads behind.

Social Media Presses The Shift.

These two brands are not alone. And part of the shift seems associated with social media. Most people propose social media solutions that do two things: never get to the point and always emphasize everything but the product. It's not sustainable.

There is one exception. Social media speakers can get away with this approach because they are their own product. So unlike goods, their ability to create relationships (indirect sales) and speak to people on their terms (reactive conversation) sells product. Goods and services are different.

People are mostly interested in the organization's ability to meet its core promise. And that is the reason an airline like Spirit Airlines can exist. Its promise is to get you to your destination cheap. All other factors — up-charges, service fees, relationships — are circumvented as long as they can deliver a $10 base fare. (Operationally, I'm not sure it's sustainable.)

Contrast this promise against most airlines that are attempting to sell competitive fares, friendly service, on-time arrivals, reward programs, and customer care for luggage. Multiple promise points tend to water down the message, and leave more room for error. Or, as we see with what could be happening with Nike and Budweiser recently, no point is equally disruptive.
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