Effective Advertising

From Slate today is a review of a book about how to advertise effectively. Now there seem to be scads of books about advertising out there already, so what makes this one particularly effective you ask?

For starters, the authors, Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart, who have written What Sticks promise logical analysis rather than relying on “illogical” and “faith-based” approaches. Indeed, they criticize author Seth Godin’s wildly popular anecdote filled Big Moo as smoke and mirrors, convincing you that you can be successful by reading about other people’s successes.

In contrast, What Sticks’ authors “examined the marketing techniques of 30 major corporations, analyzed more than $1 billion in ad spending, and studied the effect of those ads on more than 1 million consumers…the book strives to find those parts of marketing that can be measured, and then to measure them.”

I haven’t read the book but it does seem worth a peek or two. One of the interesting things the review reveal is an analysis of the “three times” rule. Apparently, seeing the same message three times in the same medium is less effective than getting the message once from three different media.

Now the authors studied major corporations with millions to spend. One wonders if the results between the two approaches will be statistically insignificant when campaigns supported by a few thousand dollars are studied. If there is any validity to the observations on smaller scales, a good database would seem to be in order so that you can identify and track the newspapers, radio, television stations and web presences tgat will be most effective to reach your target audience rather than just relying on the weekend entertainment section of the Friday paper. (Though I assume by now people have recognized the diminishing influence of newspapers in people’s lives and started exploring other avenues.)

What the reviewer, Seth Stevenson, says the book can’t do is tell you how to make your ads good. Judging from the shotgun approach GEICO is taking these days trying to appeal to everyone with some angle at some point, it doesn’t seem easy. (Though granted, their target market is larger than arts organizations’–everyone who drives.)

Scrutinize statistics and listen to anecdotes all you want, talent and ability will tell.

VA Stage Has Presence

I received an email over Labor Day Weekend from Chad Bauman, Marketing Director for Virgina Stage Company asking me if I would add his Arts Marketing Blog to my blog. At the time there weren’t too many entries and I wasn’t about to link to a site that only had two entries. After a week I visited again and saw it was coming along so I added it to my list of links on the right.

As I delved further, I discovered that not only does the theatre have their regular website and Chad’s blog (though his is general topics as well as about VA Stage), but they also have a MySpace site. (VA Stage is apparently a Capricorn) According to Chad, MySpace drives twice as much traffic to the organization website as Google does. I have actually had people suggest we advertise on MySpace and am now really beging to ponder it.

Even more compelling is an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education website today detailing why Allegheny College went to a lot of trouble to create a rather detailed page on MySpace.

The site has become an integral part of Allegheny

What Lies Beneath

Via an entry at Neill Archer Roan’s blog on PR, I came across a great entry on a blog called Bad Language regarding writing press releases well. In past entries I have written on the subject urging people not to use the trite phrases everyone uses in press releases and brochure copy. (spectacular, tour de force, illustrating what it means to be human, etc.)

Matthew Stibbe, who writes Bad Language, makes many of the same points and his simple list of how to make releases better is worth reading.

I almost left his blog without following a link to an even more interesting topic, however. Stibbe points out that unless you take the proper steps, every press release you send out electronically contains a record of all the changes you made to that document.

What might really be interesting to media outlets might not be what you wrote, but what you took out. So if you happen to not like a performer and to air your frustrations, you write “his pedantic lyrics and bombastic stage presence only serve as a facade for his inadequacies in other areas,” before writing something more appropriate, your true feelings will be available for any who are interested to see.

Certainly that might be a little embarassing at most. What happens though if you are copying and pasting information from a newspaper article and accidently drop a sentence about the new president of your organization being cleared of fiscal malfeasance at his previous job after a two year investigation? A record of that information being deleted has a good chance of being included and will be of much greater interest to the local paper than how happy you are that he has accepted the position.

“Yeah,” you say, “but who uses those settings and is anyone going to really turn them on to see what secrets my museum might be hiding?” Well actually, probably not. But then they don’t have to intentionally turn them on. Editors and reporters are the most likely group to have those settings active on their word processors by default. They send stories with changes and comments included in the document back and forth to each other all day long. They are probably turning all those things off while reading your press release so they don’t have to bear witness to your agonizing search for the right wording.

But if they just happen to see something interesting before they deactivate that view….

So how do you avoid broadcasting your dirty laundry? Fortunately, Mr. Stibbe has found a solution provided by those who get paid to poke through our dirty laundry…the NSA.

As amusing as it is to think of yourself adopting NSA anti-espionage techniques, it is a pretty through guide and worth employing to avoid a faux pas or two.

Potency of Hair Clippers

On a recent vacation I was driving around with my brother in law and we were passing through a new development that looked to be influenced by the New Urbanist movement which tries to locate shopping and social needs within walking distance of residences. The place appeared to be designed with a Victorian feel from the building and street lamp design I saw emerging. There were signs in the windows announcing the imminent arrival of Starbucks and some soup company.

I was thinking about how nice it would be for these folks to have so much of what they need within walking distance since there was a shopping center with a supermarket right across the two lane road from this new development.

But then I remember why I was there and I realized there was no guarantee that people would necessarily patronize the stores closest to them. In fact, my situation made me realize why you can drive yourself crazy trying to predict trends in customer behavior. And if you are like me, you do indeed go crazy trying to discern why, all things appearing generally equal, one performance sold so much better or faster than another performance.

You see, my brother in law and I were going to get our haircut. I was 4,500 miles away from home and was going to get my haircut at the same salon chain I frequent at home because I wasn’t happy with the cuts I was getting at the many locations I tried at home. The fact I am frequenting a chain should be evidence enough that I am not terribly vain about my looks and so should also attest to how dissatisfied I was with my hair that I was getting it cut on vacation.

My brother in law on the other hand drove me past two other branches of this hair salon chain located much closer to his house to get to this one. After we passed the second one, I asked where the heck we were going. He told me the woman at this branch used to work in the one closest to his house and he hadn’t been happy with the job those who replaced her did so we were going to this place.

The thing is, because this salon is located in a largely undeveloped area there is only this one woman working at the branch. When we arrived she was out getting lunch for her son and herself. So we waited outside the door until she came back and then waited while she ate lunch and then waited while she cut the hair of the guy who had signed in before she took her lunch break.

I have to say we are both happy with our hair these days.

Obviously I am not going to be flying that far to get my hair cut nor am I going to wait until I return to visit my sister to get my next cut. What my little story is meant to illustrate is that even in areas a customer rates as unimportant to them there is a point that quality can fall below that suddenly makes it important enough to base a decision upon. The problem for anyone trying to sell a good or service is that the point is completely subjective and difficult to predict without some complex mathematical formulae. A situation where all things appear generally equal to you probably doesn’t to someone else.

In fact, sometimes the customer doesn’t quite know why they are making a decision. I can identify why I do my grocery shopping at a store miles from my house but on the way home from work and not the location the same chain two blocks from my house. (younger, cleaner building with own bakery vs. driving past my house and potentially hitting 4 traffic lights).

What I don’t know is why I have never had a problem with my haircuts until the last two years. I am sure in the time since my mother stopped cutting my hair I have had some pretty bad cuts. I couldn’t tell you why it bothers me now.

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder if surveying audiences is of any value at all. We already know people often say they are interested in attending certain types of events and then never translate their stated interest into practice. Add motivations patrons aren’t consciously aware of influencing them and you start getting ready to tear your hair out.

Unless you are concerned about your coif, of course.