You’ve probably had this kind of conversation in the past…
An idle comment to a mate suddenly sends you down the rabbit hole, and what you thought was going to be a one-liner on the way home is still being debated three hours and six pints later.
I had one of those a couple of days ago, inspired by one of the car-ad billboards (I honestly forget which one, they’re all so interchangeable) and it basically came down to this: what is the point of advertising?
Well, what do you think?
It’s not to make money, that’s for sure.
Or, at least, it’s not always to make money. When you advertise to make money, you give your prospect the opportunity to buy there and then.
If you’re trying to make money without giving your prospect the chance to actually buy something, a cursory examination by a five-year-old could tell you there’s a fundamental piece of the puzzle missing.
Likewise, it’s not just brand awareness, which is the other common answer. If it was, the billboards would be full of huge pictures of logos of companies you’ve never heard of. Why spend a ton of cash on an ad agency when you only want people to know your name?
There’s actually 2 reasons for advertising:
1. To make money – if the customer can buy. Which basically means direct response.
2. To help the ads that make money. Brand awareness is part of this but not the whole story.
All those big ads that tell you about a product or a company but don’t actually let you buy… they’re all framing. They’re all part of trying to control how you think about that product, so when you DO have the opportunity to buy – whether that opportunity is a direct mail letter coming through your letterbox or when you see it on a supermarket shelf – that company knows what’s going through your head, because they put that message there.
So a billboard ad for a car with a big image of an open road, blue sky and rolling countryside is designed to support the guy in the showroom who pitches you on the freedom you’ll get by buying this new model.
You can manipulate the perception of entire companies in this way, and people frequently do. It’s what the politicians and their spin doctors call ‘media management’.
It’s cute when they think they’ve invented something new, isn’t it?
Not only that, it’s something you should be actively involved in. I don’t necessarily mean billboards – but everything your company puts out into the world will affect how you are seen by your potential customers. It’s all advertising, and you should treat it as such. Work out what message you want to give, and start claiming hearts and minds.