Advertising is Still Advertising

Our agency’s director of client services and I were on a call last week with a marketing exec from a leading social media company. As the exec cited a few success stories, she mentioned the importance of “text overlays complementing the imagery.” “Text overlays?” I thought, “You mean ‘headlines’?”

On a call later in the week, one of our clients mentioned it needed “digital content for its YouTube channel.” So, “videos”?

As technology advances, we’re not only seeing an entirely new marketing vocabulary emerge, we’re also seeing a seemingly endless rise in the number of places (“channels”) in which to advertise. The result is total confusion about how best to advertise in this new reality. On a daily basis, CMOs and business owners struggle with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if they’re not taking advantage of the latest platforms. We should be on Snapchat … with vertical videos! No, wait, why aren’t we live-streaming on Periscope? But what about Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook?

Technology has without a doubt opened a world of new marketing options – options that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it’s also distracting businesses from how to effectively build their brands. But the good news is that advertising is still advertising. By focusing on two simple fundamentals, your marketing efforts can be effective no matter where you’re advertising.

First, you need to know who you are. Branding experts tell businesses to answer the question, “What business are you really in?” A good example is upstart bed manufacturer Casper. While Casper technically sells mattresses, it’s really in the business of sleep. Think about it. That’s a much richer business to be in than just beds, creating a much deeper pool from which Casper can draw upon to promote its business and even build new streams of revenue. This is why, among other tactics, Casper can take ownership of a sleep-focused blog called Van Winkle’s. All great brands do this. Nike isn’t selling sportswear; it’s inspiring the athlete in all of us. Chipotle isn’t selling burritos; it’s striving to cultivate a better world by preparing food with integrity. And UPS isn’t selling package delivery; it’s providing solutions to improve our businesses. So what business are you really in? Answer that question and you’ll know what you should be advertising.

Once you know who you are as a business, you need to share your brand in a memorable way. Advertising isn’t about technology. It always has been and always will be about ideas. Relevant, entertaining and emotional ideas engage audiences and stand out no matter the medium. Legendary ad man Dave Trott likens advertising to being in a bar. Would you rather be sitting next to Mr. Right or Mr. Interesting? Right advertising, like Mr. Right, is boring. Even worse, it gets ignored and wastes your marketing budget – even if you are sharing it on the latest technology platforms. Think about the last time you were on Facebook or your favorite website. Do you remember any of the brands that were advertised? Surely you saw a banner ad or sponsored content. Companies spent good money on ads that you completely ignored – even though they were in the “right” place and taking advantage of new media. Interesting advertising, on the other hand, is something people remember – and how you help to build brand awareness, brand engagement and brand loyalty. Geico’s hump day camel, Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World, and Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Can Smell Like are just a few examples of how great ideas – not technology – help to build brands.

Another legendary ad man, Don Draper, said it best: “Technology is a glittering lure.” In today’s continually evolving marketing landscape, it’s easy to get distracted by the shiny and new. Don’t let it. Rather than being overwhelmed and confused by technology, now’s the time to take a step back, think about what business you’re really in and then advertise your brand in a memorable way.

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