The Monday Morning Memo: The Impotence of Advertising

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

It is unusual to find a businessperson who will ask Advertising to do only what it can. Most are asking advertising to do what it cannot.

Let me say this plainly. Advertising cannot repair a broken business. It will not make you better at what you do. It cannot turn failure into success. Advertising will only accelerate what was going to happen anyway. Look at the title again. It doesn’t say “importance” of advertising. It says impotence. Because when it comes to correcting the problems of poor selection, low quality, high prices, bad locations, lack of expertise, inconvenient hours, weak warranties, unfriendly employees, shabby décor and the negative word-of-mouth that flows from all these, advertising is essentially impotent. But ask a struggling business owner why his business is in a slump and he’ll most likely tell you, “Our advertising isn’t working. We’re just not seeing enough traffic.”

Pause and think for a minute. You can name some very successful businesses in your town that do virtually no advertising, right? So why does it surprise you that a business can struggle and fail in spite of brilliant ads?

Do you want to know why intelligent business owners continue to ask advertising to do what it cannot do? It’s because virtually every ad rep they meet tells them, “All you need to do is reach the right people, and I’ve got the right people for you.”

If a business has what it takes to succeed, that business can succeed in spite of bad advertising. Advertising will only accelerate and enlarge the success or failure that was going to happen anyway. If you are good at what you do, advertising will make success happen faster and bigger than it would have happened otherwise. But if you aren’t good at what you do, or if people don’t want or care about what you do, then advertising will be just one more bill that you can’t pay. (Ouch! It hurts to have to say such hard words, but we need to get the truth on the table.)

Do you have a story that is uniquely and wonderfully your own? Do you feel truly sorry for all the customers who aren’t buying from you? Are you genuinely proud of your company and its people, products and services? Then advertise! Tell your story. Sing your song. Beat your drum.

In closing, let me pass on to you a word of wisdom once given to me by my friend, Mike Webb. One day, about 6 years ago, when I was trying to figure out if my own company had a story that was uniquely and wonderfully our own, Mike said, “It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.” So I began asking people on the “outside” what they saw. I told these people that I wasn’t going to be angry with them, no matter what they said. The result was that I was stunned by their clarity of vision. In fact, I’m still stinging from it, because half of what they said made me feel great. The other half hurt like hell. But Mike gave me a word of wise advice. And now I’ve given it to you.

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