By Roy H. Williams
You’re stuck in a noisy traffic jam with car horns honking all around you as the smell of baking bread wafts into your car. Which is more likely to captivate your attention, the smell of the bread or the noise of the traffic?
Although the traffic/bread question may seem a simple one, no cognitive neuroscientist would dare to propose an answer. Those who understand the human mind know the answer depends entirely on which “felt need” is greater: your hunger or your hurry. If you are in a great hurry, the noise of the traffic will fill your mind, but if you are hungry, the smell of the baking bread is more likely to drive you wild. The point I’m trying to make is that no single message will ever be able to gain the attention of everyone. Consequently, you must choose to whom you will speak in your ads.
Are your ads written to reach those who are currently in the market for your product? Or are they written to impress the much larger group who may not need what you sell today, but who will doubtlessly need it someday? Are you trying to target today’s few customers or the many customers of tomorrow? How you answer these questions will determine the content of your ads as well as your long-term advertising results.
Most advertisers think short-term, choosing to hold their ad dollars immediately accountable. They insist on seeing results right away, as if advertising were a giant gumball machine into which they can place their ad budget, crank the handle, and watch as the results come out. Consequently, their ads are written to gain the attention of the “immediately-in-the-market” buyer with lots of gimmicks, hype, and limited-time offers.
The greater goal of advertising, however, is to win the hearts of those who are not yet in the market for what you sell.
Should you choose to advertise primarily to those buyers who are immediately in the market for your product, I suggest that you dominate the yellow pages and run large newspaper ads on the days when you think the customer is most likely to be “in the market.” But if your goal is to cause the customer to instantly think of you whenever they need what you sell, then you must tell the compelling story that is uniquely and wonderfully your own.
At its best, short-term advertising is a dice roll. Such ads are written to bring the customer to immediate action. Sometimes they pay off wonderfully, but more often they do not. The content, tone, and style of short-term ads is dramatically different from those written to achieve long-term results. Long-term ads are written to stick in the customer’s mind. Not only do these ads always work, they work better and better the longer they are used. Though the company spends shockingly little money, I’ll bet you can you tell me who says, “We’ll leave the light on for ya?” Am I right?
Today’s few customers, or tomorrow’s many? To whom are you writing your ads?