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You're Not General Motors, McDonald's Or Coca Cola, So Don't Advertise Like They Do
By Rich Harshaw
Mar 24, 2009 - 5:20:00 PM

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Show me 99% of all advertising and I'll show you a huge jumble of hyperbole, fluff, platitudes, and yawnably, unbelievable, black hole nothing words. You'll hear words like cheapest, professionalism, service, quality, speedy, convenient, and best. These words do absolutely nothing to communicate why you're the best deal. Why you're an exceptional value. Why or how you solve the problems that nobody else solves. But most businesses go on year after year spewing out the verbal platitudes that do nothing more than get their name out there - if that. But why would anyone want to do that? Waste all that money hardly saying anything to anyone? I have an idea why. It's because all of our training on how to do advertising and marketing comes from the wrong sources. Let me give you an idea.

In the past 50 years, providing for the needs of people has been split into three groups. We now have three types of businesses that give people what they want. First, level ONE: Surprisingly, the biggest provider of services and products in this country is the government. They have taken over or control education, transportation, safety & protection, our savings for retirement, distribution of food and clothing for over 15% of our population. Even many of the medical and legal services are provided by or closely controlled by the government. You and I as business owners cannot compete in these markets that control as much as 40% of our gross national product.

So level 1 business is the government. Then there's what we call level 2 businesses, which includes probably about the top 1 to 5 thousand companies in the country. I'll call them the Fortune 5000 - huge companies like Mobil Oil, General Motors, McDonald's, and Nike. Our personal needs for clothing, food, medical care, cars, and other essentials are now provided by large corporations. We've been indoctrinated by years of advertising and social acceptance to buy from these companies. Any product or service that can be standardized and distributed to 80% of the population without changing the design or concept has been converted to a national brand name over the last 50 years. They have the financial resources to advertise all over the place - a million bucks here, half a million there. It takes a lot of money to build that kind of brand equity and it takes time.

See, the key to their success isn't necessarily based on how good they are (or their inside reality), but rather on advertising repetition that builds distribution and brand awareness. I mean really, is Sprite really better than Big K Lemon Lime? Really? They do what I call image advertising - where what they do is try to tie a feeling to the product so you'll get that feeling when you go to buy. And it can work great if your advertising and marketing budget is over $100 million a year. For instance, in 1997 Pepsi spent $1.24 billion in advertising, Proctor & Gamble spent $2.743 billion, McDonald's spent $1.041 billion, and General Motors spent a whopping $3.087 billion. That's why they can sing, 'like a rock, like a rock, like a rock' and it works. If you spend over 3 BILLION dollars, you'll get stellar results too! Here's a statistic that might surprise you: Do you know how many billboards Coca Cola had along American roads way back in 1930? A thousand? 10,000? 100,000? Try 300,000. That same year they also had over 20,000 building walls painted with their logo, over 5 million soda glasses with their name printed on them, and over 400 million newspaper and magazine advertising impressions...IN 1930! See, it takes time and money to really build that kind of brand awareness.

So if the government is what we consider to be level one business and the top 1 - 5 thousand businesses comprise what we call level 2 businesses then level 3 businesses would include everybody else. It includes everything from start up businesses and mom and pops, all the way up to companies that do hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. Level 3 companies can't rely on broad based repetition-oriented advertising that builds brand awareness. Now I'm not saying that Level 3 businesses can't or shouldn't build brand awareness. And I'm not saying that they can't spend a lot of money on advertising. I'm just saying they can't do it nationally on ABC, NBC, and CBS at $50,000 to $500,000 per 30-second spot. Or on the Super Bowl for $2 million or more for 30 seconds. Level 3 businesses have to be smarter with their dollars and create action-oriented advertising.

So here's the problem. Because of the integration of advertising into our daily lives in our society, we are constantly exposed to level 2 advertising and everyone assumes, based on years of passive observation, that's how marketing and advertising is done. This probably explains why so many people consider themselves to be advertising experts. A guys says "Hey, I've been submersed in it my entire life. I certainly must know something about it." If you go to college and learn how to do advertising, guess what they'll teach you: Level 2 business advertising. And that's fine if you're working for a level 2 business. But here's the problem: none of these guys who graduate with all these degrees in advertising and marketing...none of them know how to make money in the real world. Or stick them in some fortune 5,000 company's marketing department and they'll do okay, but if they don't have the 20, 50 or 100 year history of the company backing them up, along with the multi-million dollar or billion dollar advertising budget, they don't know how to make money. They don't know how to get prospects to take action. And for you that's what's crucial - getting the prospect to get past the confidence gap, to realize that you offer a superior value, and to take action.

That is what action-oriented advertising is designed to do: getting prospects to take action that leads to a purchase. That action could be anything. Maybe it's to call in and place an order or to request an information kit. Maybe you want the prospect to send in a reply card or call a toll-free hotline or go to your website. See, that's different than level 2 advertising, where you're trying to create a feeling and attach it to your product. You've got to have your advertising make the prospect take ACTION!

The bottom line is that you have to spend your money - whether it's hundreds, thousands or even millions of dollars - more wisely than the level 2 businesses. The way you do that is by using action-oriented advertising. There are many benefits of action-oriented advertising. The main one is that you know almost instantly how profitable or unprofitable your ads are - based on the number of inquiries, orders, hits or leads you receive DIRECTLY from the ads. You'll hear a lot of people in the advertising industry say you can't quantify the results of your advertising like that - and you know what, in some cases they're right. But that's only because many businesses don't understand the fundamentals of how to make their advertising make money. Some people will tell you that can't do action-oriented advertising in certain media. Again, you can, IF - and only if - you know how to do it. Remember we talked about the wal-pig-ican. There are a lot of factors and components that will affect your response. Realize this fact: you're not General Motors. You're not Coca Cola. Or McDonald's. So don't emulate their advertising. Spend your dollars more intelligently.

Rich Harshaw is the CEO of Dallas, Texas based Y2Marketing, a National Marketing consulting and Fulfillment Agency with over 1000 consultants that implement its unique MONOPOLIZE YOUR MARKETPLACE system. For more information, please log on to www.y2marketing.com


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You're Not General Motors, McDonald's Or Coca Cola, So Don't Advertise Like They Do