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5 Advertising Mistakes Retailers Make

Some ads from retailers, especially newspaper ads, make understanding the DaVinci code a simple thing.  You need to call Tom Hanks to help you figure out what you need to know.

They seem to think that if you throw an entire vegetable garden at the wall it will somehow magically become an excellent marinara sauce.  We looked at one for a prominent auto dealer recently and stopped counting fonts and claims when we ran out of fingers and toes.  There was everything from how many languages the staff spoke, to illegible descriptions about all kinds of cars, to loan conditions and on and on.

That many claims means no one knew which one would really work and there was no copy strategy.  It screams out “We specialize in everything!” – which means you specialize in nothing.

We sympathize with the poor customer who tries to figure out what this “Jackson Pollack painting” for an ad was supposed to communicate.

We always figure that the customer has a small little memory space in their brain to connect an advertiser with what they stand for.  They can connect one or two and maybe three ideas to that advertiser, not much more.  Think of a dictionary – it has all the words, but no plot.  That’s how some ads are.

We also consider how effective arguments are made.  Once you get past one or two good reasons for your point, your argument gets weaker.

So when a consumer is given twenty or more points they can not only refute them, they disbelieve them.  The additional points do not add value to the persuasive value, they undermine it.  What’s more effective and memorable? A single strong claim with believable, tangible support or a rambling list of questionable assertions?

When you have seconds to make your impression, you better be clear and make your point.

Shooting elephants with shotguns makes the elephant mad and confused but it hardly notices.

Michelangelo said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  The same is true for finding the right advertising message.

So Where Do You Start?

Retailers have a tendency to deliver the block and expect the customer to do the sculpting.  It is a pretty risky and inefficient way to advertise.

Maybe they are afraid to leave something out.  But they are not alone.  Many advertisers try to cram every possible positive point about their products into their advertising.  I found this with fax machines that we advertised years ago.  There were so many features to feature we couldn’t keep it straight how they all worked, and if they were that obscure they couldn’t really be meaningful to prospective buyers – except a very select few.

Retailers who identify their key message and stick to it have the best opportunity to stand apart from their competitors and build a reputation for themselves.

That message should focus on one defining difference they have from their competitors.  The message should motivates their customers with a clear benefit to those customers.  The retailer should also make sure they can deliver the benefit.  If you say your food is “Hot and Fresh,” you better deliver on that promise.

Sounds easy.  So does Michelangelo’s task.  But we know the hardest thing about a creative strategy is what you leave out.

Too much information usually means no message at all.

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