#UK Brand spanking old! There’s no such thing as ‘new’ in advertising


Man has split the atom, set foot on the moon and made scientific advances in practically every field of human endeavour from astronomy to zoology, but in advertising and marketing he is still, relatively speaking, in the Stone Age.

The way we advertise now is essentially no different from the way it was done in the Victorian era of the snake oil salesman or the Mad Man days of the 1950s/60s.

But what, I hear you ask, of the digital revolution ushered in by the birth of the internet and the rise of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat et al?  Well the means of delivery has changed, to be sure, but the marketing messages, promises and propositions haven’t, not one whit. And that’s because human nature and needs are pretty much the same now as they’ve always been.

You’ll probably think me an old grump given to mutterings about youngsters teaching grandmothers to suck eggs, but it did rather stick in my craw the other week when a fresh faced digital marketing ‘Ninja’ informed me in all seriousness that teenage boys have short attention spans and that I need to plan my promotions accordingly. Well, you live and learn!

I could have replied by referring him to the KISS formula (Keep It Simple Stupid) that us veterans have been using for generations and which, if applied well, will appeal to even the shortest attention span. Still, I was talking to a member of a generation that thinks it invented communication, so why bother?

So, what else isn’t new? To save my successors the bother of reinventing the wheel, let me set forth here just one tried and tested advertising formula encapsulated by the acronym ‘AIDA’. 

It stands for ‘Attention, Interest, Desire and Action’ the four elements that can still be applied to most successful ads (or emails or blog or posts) and, whilst this is only a starting point in the creation of effective communications and only one of several at that; it’s not a bad yardstick to put against any project where the method of delivery seems to have overtaken the message. 

There’s no better way to grab attention than with a short, sharp, arresting headline. And that goes for the subject line in an email or the first few words of a tweet. It’s as effective a way to bait a click or hook web browsers as it is to get a reader to read on in a press ad. It should be brief, can be witty or scary, intriguing or questioning but, above all, it should be relevant – a compact summary of what’s to come. It’s a tall order, I know, but writing killer headlines is an art form.

This is where you make your pitch (or tell your story if you’re one of the digiratti). It could take any form from a long copy ad to a blog or video – it’s all the same so long as what you have to tell or sell relates to what readers want or want to hear. This is where your market research and customer profiling pay dividends. You must know your market trends and customer habits intimately to persuade them convincingly that you have what they need.

At the end of the day no purchase decision is made on an entirely rational basis. Explaining the uniqueness, efficiency and environmental friendliness of your product or service is all very well, and it will provide potential customers with the justification they need to buy it, but you also need to appeal to their emotions – the pride, pleasure and kudos of ownership.  
Somewhere along the scale between greed and fear you need to motivate them. Whet their appetite. Highlight the benefits. Appeal to their vanity.  Sell the sizzle, not the sausage, the hole, not the drill, the social status, not the car. As Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, said: “In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising we sell hope.” 

This what sales people call closing the sale, and without a strong call to action all the above strategies are worthless. You must make it supremely easy for your prospect to take the next step, whether it be to retweet your tweet, share your post, send for product details, call your telesales hotline or simply make contact.
When I say there’s nothing new in advertising, that’s not to say it shouldn’t be fresh, fun and inspirational. But, if you want it to be successful as well, at least refer back to the tried and tested principles outlined above. You might be surprised at how many times they’ve been put forward as the ‘latest thing’!


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