Mix. Layer. Repeat.
Our culture has a love-hate affair with advertising. What was once an art reserved exclusively for the Ad Men of Madison Avenue (you’ve heard of Mad Men?) has deteriorated over the years, as savvy consumers get harder to reach. It’s an embarrassing cat-and-mouse game now, as customers dodge behind pop-up blockers, DVR and no-call lists. Various brands shamelessly persist, seeking to interrupt us at the exact moment when we might pause long enough to be engaged or entertained by their message.
So where does the love part come in? The reality is that if it didn’t work, advertising would not persist. Consumers don’t realize it, but our habits indicate that on some unconscious level we’ve accepted advertising as a part of our culture. Mad Men is one of the highest rated shows on television, Super Bowl ads are almost as highly anticipated as the game, and Twitter allows us to follow our favorite celebrity brands who are likely tweeting about their favorite brands.
That’s the consumer side of the picture, and in real life we consumers are often business people who need to advance our businesses. Whether we need to sell more products or services, every business on the planet needs to get the word out to someone, about something. Is advertising the best way to do that? If you think of it as a paid vehicle through which you promote your message, then yes, you could probably benefit from some form of advertising.
If you’ve committed to telling someone about the something you are selling – product or service, B2B or B2C – then it’s time to talk about your mix. It used to be that when the Mad Men would talk about your media mix, they meant that you could complement your television advertising with radio advertising (insert nostalgic chuckle here) Oh, the simple days …
Today your mix must be strategic, dynamic and appropriate to your audience. Think about your marketing plan as a layering of messages that complement micro- and macro-targeted approaches. Here’s a look at a few of the myriad options, starting from the most wide-reaching media vehicles and narrowing down to laser focused opportunities:
Radio and Television
- Overview: This is the big-picture nuclear bomb approach to advertising. Cast the broadest possible net!
- Best for: Setting the tone of a campaign – creating the perception that your topic, product or company is part of a larger dialogue. This is a medium for overarching brand messages. With this you can plant the seed of an idea, but it may not be best for a call to action.
- Optimization Examples: Nationally you can buy broadcast stations like NBC, or Radio mega networks like Clear Channel. Unless you are a big company like McDonalds though, you may be better off looking at cable and satellite networks, or keeping your buy strictly local for refined targeting to your key audiences.
- Warning: Unless you can shell out for high-quality production and high-ticket time, step away from this medium as an option. You will only sully your brand with poor quality production, and your saturation needs to be adequate as well. Repetition gets results.
- Overview: Print is the old war horse, and getting a bad rap for lacking effectiveness and ROI.
- Best For: Bolstering messages as part of a larger campaign. Use to promote specific events or sales, or relate your product or service to a specific issue being talked about in the publication.
- Optimization Examples: Select a targeted print option. If you are a CPA, the business section in your local paper is a good spot. If you are an interior design company, look for the local home magazine. You can get even more granular and find target industry association publications which can be a very cost effective means of reaching just the right people.
- Warnings: Your advertisement is just wallpaper unless you make it stand out. In newspaper, go with color; in a magazine go with a full-page full-color. Always ask for premium placements – back cover, inside front cover or better still, get an editorial calendar and ask for placement next to relevant editorial copy.
Outdoor & Transit
- Overview: This is more of the grenade approach. Big coverage in small localized areas.
- Best For: Reaching consumers in their everyday lives. Soccer mom on the way to practice, lawyer on his commute to work. This can be a good call-to-action medium, and is generally very cost effective.
- Optimization Examples: A media agency can give you specific data on the customer segments that drive past a particular billboard, and you can geo-target bus routes by zip codes and demographic areas.
- Warnings: What are we thinking about in our cars? All kinds of things! Make the message relevant, eye catching and briefer than your think it should be. As I whiz past your billboard at 75 miles an hour am I going to make a decision about the printing company I use at work? Not likely. Am I going to think about my car insurance? Possibly … if you get my attention fast enough!
- Overview: This category could be a blog post unto itself, as I am lumping in all kinds of wonderfully targeted options here. Find a great media buyer, and learn about the possibilities that await with options like:
- Closed circuit television in airports and airplanes
- Elevator advertising
- Parking lot advertising
- Bathroom stall advertising (if you sell feminine products or birth control, this could be the ticket!)
- Best For: Targeting groups of people, at a key moment in time when they will receive an aptly paired message.
- Optimization Example: Do you have an environmental campaign that wants to remind consumers to use reusable grocery bags? Parking lot strips catch that person before they forget the bags in their car!
- Warning: As your approach gets this targeted, make sure the message matches the medium. When you are waiting for a plane to take off, are you thinking about cleaning products? Not likely.
Online & Social Media
- Overview: This is the laser-targeted, sniper approach. You can try to reach millions worldwide on some sites, but it’s best to find the specific customers that matter most to your business, in their natural online habitats.
- Best For: Just about everyone, really. The Internet is as big as the universe and the people you want to reach are probably online. The tools within this category are limitless. Twitter can be a great tool for solidifying a position of leadership in a dialogue, and pay-per-click contextual ads can be a great way to drive traffic to your site.
- Optimization example: The optimization options are also limitless. Find a partner with the experience and capabilities to recommend the best options for you. Remember that you may not be reaching millions of people, but you will more likely reach the right 1,000 people. (see SMCubed Popularity vs. Influence: Are you the popular kid?)
- Warning: This medium is changing so rapidly that last week’s trends may be prehistoric this week. Embrace what you don’t know, and find an expert partner with their eye on the ball to help you make the most of this medium!
If you are undertaking an advertising campaign, think about your customer and how to reach them at different times in different ways. Almost all of these vehicles are useless by themselves. When layered together, they become a dynamic brand presence that can actually get through to today’s dodgy audiences.
A last parting thought to ponder: you may have the best chance at reaching your target market right in your own back yard. Consider this: I spent a few wonderful years in marketing for Whole Foods Market, and you may notice they do very little paid advertising. What they understand is that they have hundreds of ways of reaching their customers inside their own stores. Every communication point is an opportunity – directional signage, price tags, point of sale signs, team member name badges, checkout kiosks and receipts.
What might these opportunities look like for you? Invoices, email signatures, meeting signage, Powerpoint presentations, proposals, conference programs … every touch point is an opportunity to present the brand image you desire. The Mad Men of the 1960s would be very proud of such ingenuity!
Colleen Rauscher brings over 10 years of strategic communications experience in a variety of industries including energy, non-profit, insurance, hospitality and retail. She specializes in integrated corporate marketing communications, brand strategies, Hispanic marketing and advertising strategy.
Prior to joining GBSM, Colleen served as an independent marketing consultant in the alternative energy and hospitality industries, helping clients articulate complex technical concepts, define their market niches and build well defined brand identities. She also served as a Regional Marketing Associate for Whole Foods Market, where she worked on seasonal campaign development, supervising staff in 33 stores and four states in the Rocky Mountain Region. She was recognized by the Global Consumer Research group for her work using customer data and demographic information to create innovative market strategies.
Colleen began her career in New York City, working for dotcom start-ups and advertising agencies. She moved to Denver to work in the meetings and incentives arena, with clients including Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Ameritrade, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and 3M Corporation.
Colleen has a BS from the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. She serves on the Board of Directors for Global Energy Options, Inc. and the Denver Hooperz Youth Organization, a program that uses competitive basketball as a vehicle to give at-risk youth opportunities to learn life skills, discipline and responsibility.