If you follow marketing and advertising, there are long lists of spectacular ad campaign fails. You can easily find dozens of them on the web. Apart from many of them being funny and generating a “What the hell were they thinking?” response, they illustrate that it’s always possible to lose sight of the ultimate goal of advertising – to connect meaningfully with an audience so they’ll buy what you have to sell.

Here are some thoughts on that, and what we try to do to avoid a bad outcome:

1. It’s not about you. It’s about your audience.

It can seem counterintuitive to think of your audience first when you’re trying to sell your product or service. You’ve spent all your time setting up your business and making your products. Now you just want to show people your products.

That can work when they’re in your store or when you’re pitching directly to them. “That’ll be $5 each, or three for 12. How many would you like?”

That can also work with direct mail, a call to action, a flyer or other short-term sales promotion, but when you consider the sales funnel, those are customer touch points that are closest to the sales decision point. If your product is general enough, you may get impulse sales, but for things that require a longer decision time, short-term sales activation methods aren’t enough.

And that’s where marketers start asking questions about your audience:

  • What do you know about your potential customers?
  • Who uses your product?
  • Who pays for your product?
  • How often do they need to purchase it? Is it a consumable or is it infrastructure?

We talk about it as the space between you and your customers. There’s what you offer and there’s what a customer wants. The job of marketing is to make a connection between you and your potential customers and to help build trust so that when they are ready to buy, you’re right there, at the top of their mind.

2. Being Too Clever

It can happen quite easily. Whether your marketing team is inhouse or you’ve hired an agency, the drive to be innovative and capture an audience with something unique is seen as the gold cup for a creative team.

The downside is that the audience and the advertising’s effectiveness can get lost in the attempt to dazzle. Some business types – think national consumer brands – benefit from the unexpected, but all businesses can benefit from understanding what their customers value and why they keep coming back.

Misfiring on a campaign can create confusion for existing customers and potential customers alike, but it can be avoided. If you want to go ‘out there’:

  • Test the content on several people who have no idea what you’re selling and ask them how they feel after interacting with it – did they misinterpret anything?
  • Be aware of current events – could you be making light of something considered very serious?
  • Be aware of gender, race and body image attitudes – sensitivity around equal rights for all is extremely high.

3. Not Digging Deep Enough

Exactly the opposite of being too clever, if the marketing team doesn’t understand the audience and doesn’t understand the value the product or service brings to the marketplace – its unique place in the world – you’re going to be left trying to sell features when you really need to be promoting benefits.

We sell products and services, but what we truly sell are benefits to people. Do we save them time? Do we allow them to accomplish something easier? Do we entertain them? Do we bring out a positive feeling when they think of us? Or any of a thousand things that a person assigns value to, so that when they think of a need is our product or service attached to it?

Selling Benefits Not Features

Consider these examples:

A movie theatre sells movie tickets, but that’s not where a theatre makes its money. They make their money from selling at the concession. Popcorn, soda, chocolate bars. And in new theatres custom seats give the audience a premium experience with sound and motion. In this case the features of fun food and a better seat yield the benefit of an amazing night out for the customer, and it’s something they won’t have streaming at home: that theatre experience.

It’s difficult to get people to believe that a car is great on its features alone: this car gets good gas mileage and is highly safety rated. You can get them to believe that this car makes you feel like you own the road and that you’ll be more attractive to friends and lovers, and you’ll make your enemies jealous. Then they can picture themselves behind the wheel.

4. Not Knowing When

Timing is important, and we’ve had several examples in the past couple of years during the pandemic of brands failing to read the room and understand what people were going through. They paid the price with social media backlashes and unintended results.

For today’s marketplace, marketing needs to consider:

  • The customers’ time – Workers are or aren’t returning to the office and are realizing their power is increasing. They look for that in products (no hassle) and services (no wait) too.
  • The customers’ money – With recovery from the pandemic uneven and inconsistent, many households have less of a cushion now than when we started this period. Add to that, borrowing money is becoming more expensive and you need to show true value for the price you’re asking.
  • Social responsibility – Driven by progressive attitudes and their amplification by social media, public-facing brands are rightfully concerned about negative feedback to their marketing efforts. Inclusion, not alienation, is the only route to go. For B2B brands that work behind the scenes, understanding what each side values and finding the common ground remains the best path.

Infinity Reef is a small, nimble agency that outperforms for its size and responds well to client engagement and collaboration. Contact us and we’ll be happy to have an unhurried, in-depth conversation with you.