Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You don't have time.

According to a recent study, you are processing 100,500 words per day. These words come in the form of 171 e-mails (the average for business people each day), 3000 commercial messages, 1000 blog posts per minute and messages on clothing, toilet stalls and human skin, among other places.

You don't have the time (or, as the techies say, the "bandwidth") to process all of that information. So, you avoid, or ignore, most of it. That which you avoid is academic, bureaucratic and legalistic, but also, clever.

What are the clever messages? I saw the following messages this afternoon as I looked out the bus window on my ride home on the 54C:

"Everyday people need food every day" Get it?! These are everyday people. (Remember Sly and the Family Stone? They had a hit with everyday people.) Anyway, everyday people need food every day. Does that make you want to run to the Food Bank? How about this:

"Pittsburgh is not just our hometown; it's our only town". Does that make you want to run to Allegheny Valley Bank? No? Gee, they're only in Pittsburgh. How about this bank:

"Creativity. You deserve that from your bank." Really? I'd like a higher interest rate on my savings or access to a lower mortgage rate. Creativity I can do without. If I were First Niagra, I'd want creativity from my ad agency. (PNC doesn't do much better with this gem: "More green practice today; more green trees tomorrow". Does that make you want to bank there? Green trees? Are they after a younger demographic? Do younger demographics worry about trees more than us old folks? Or, is the bank trying some subliminal thing with "green". If only it were true.)

Whatever the answers, people (young or old) have no time and no energy to figure out clever advertising messages, especially when the messages are placed on billboards that drivers pass by at 55 mph (at the slowest). People want benefits. They are selfish and ruled by this acronym "WIIFM", what's in it for me? You better tell them quickly; they have lots of YouTube videos to watch and Facebook messages to post.

Do you want your message to sink in? Make it direct and simple, not too clever. Follow the lead of (I know, you'll scoff), Attorney Edgar Snyder who says on his busboard, "Injured? Free legal help". It was placed at a bus stop outside West Penn Hospital! That message gets through to a qualified audience in hyperspeed. Or, use the Pep Boys approach: "4th Tire Free". Or, this message: "We cash all tax checks". Or this for a cold Pittsburger: "Heater Sale."

Those messages lack "creativity" you'll say. I say, no one has time for creative. Competition is at an all time high for every business. People have little disposable income. They are using coupons at an all time high. Buyers are looking for words like, "Sale", "Save" and "BOGO".

Every so often, a smart creative type combines simple with creative as when Volkswagen's agency created the "Think small" campaign. Or, when McDonald's told tired overworked customers, "You deserve a break today." But, those combinations of simple and creative are few and far between.

If you want to connect with a potential customer, spend your promotion dollars wisely. Be direct with him or her. State the benefit quickly. Use an action verb. Use the word "you". Be conversational. Don't use the Qdoba approach and ask, "What are you going to love at Qdoba?" The customers may not be able to think of an answer. (BTW, have you ever seen a worse name, "Qdoba"? Much evidence suggests that simple names make successful products and services, but that for a later post. Right now, you don't have the time.)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr. Barr,

    I observed the bulletin board in the stairway of Hamburg Hall. There were a number of advertisements that caught my eye which could have been bettered by taking your course in professional writing. One of the advertisements was titled, “Developing Power.” Firstly, it became very difficult for me to find out what the advertisement offered me as a customer. Secondly, it was difficult to find the contact information of the company on the advertisement. Only upon close inspection, I got to know that the advertisement was from a company that gave training on developing a person’s willpower. Furthermore, I found that the message style followed in the advertisement was deductive rather than inductive. Due to the deductive message style, I had to read through the whole message to get to know what the advertisement offered me as a person. Perhaps, the advertisement could be made more appealing for its customers if it followed an inductive message style with a catchy title, “Do you want to develop your willpower?”

    Best regards,