Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stop 'Em Dead

Playing it safe with advertising and marcom can be dangerous to your business, because the more communication that floods human consciousness, the less we pay attention. And in the Age of the Internet, there’s more junk bombarding us with each passing minute.

In this hyperkinetic communication environment, the ads and marcom that grab and hold an audience are those that take powerful, well-focused shots directly at the heart of their target market. When there’s a Big Idea in the driver’s seat, these are the ones that will be noticed, remembered and acted upon. That’s why taking creative risks is always more effective than playing it safe. That’s especially true when you’re selling to a jaded group like the Baby Boomers.

Successful marketers know just how dangerous safe advertising can be to their bottom line. They realize that everything they do promotionally from TV to Twitter has to have Stopping Power. That doesn’t mean it shows off or shouts. Instead, it’s so thought-provoking and meaningful that it stops Boomers dead in their tracks, compelling them to pay attention. Effective “Stop ’Em Dead” ads and marcom always connect with Boomers at the deepest level, the Boomer Buying Center, where all real purchasing decisions are made.

To put Stopping Power into your advertising and marcom, you need to carefully consider the medium you choose, so you can make the most of it. Of course, your ultimate success will depend on how effectively you’ve used your Big Idea to position your product or service in a uniquely meaningful way. Here are some thought starters.

o Print has to have a strong visual stopper that keeps the reader from zipping right past the page. And the graphics must be complemented by a compelling headline followed by well-crafted copy that’s just long enough to tell the story well.

o TV is above all else a visual medium. It’s easy to determine if a commercial will be effective or not. Just turn off the sound, and if you get the essence of the message, the commercial is a success. Of course, in the Age of Tivo, the visual flow must start dramatically and steadily build to a climax, or it won’t hold anyone’s attention. The copy should be brief and easy on the ears, and it has to complement rather than parrot the visuals.

o Radio is easy if you have a knack for creating theater of the mind. Historically, it’s leaned on gentle humor to deliver its message. The best radio takes the product or service seriously, but not itself. Believable dialogue that rings true to the ear has far more Stopping Power than an announcer who reads mind-numbing copy. And there should never be a surplus of gimmicky sound effects or other distractions.

o Direct mail must be engaging, informative and urgent. In addition, it should make a valuable offer that the Boomer finds irresistible. And it must clearly ask for the order without being pushy. This is a difficult medium to shine in, because it’s so cluttered, but it can also be very cost-effective and rewarding. Direct marketing techniques are numerous and nuanced. There’s even an “art and science” to designing an effective coupon. That’s why it pays to hire a seasoned DM pro who knows when, where and how to use the “tricks of the trade.” You’ll get your money’s worth.

o Email marketing is akin to direct mail, but there are more restrictions, and you really do need to heed them. Unless you use permission-based marketing, you’ll be labeled a spammer, and you’ll be roundly ignored, or worse. The powers that be are cracking down on spammers, much to the relief of anyone who uses a computer, so don’t just launch junk mail into cyberspace, hoping for the best. Also, it should be obvious that the subject line is where you need to blast your Big Idea, or Boomers will soar right past your email in the blink of an eye.

Whichever of the above media, you need to make sure your creative executions have real Stopping Power. Begin by objectively assessing your latest marketing communication efforts. Using a critical eye, ask these questions. “Will this stuff Stop ’em dead?” “If I weren’t its creator, would I remember it tomorrow, or even later today?” “Does it motivate me to take action now?”

If you’ve answered in the affirmative, you’re well on the way to getting the job done. If not, you’ve got some work to do. After all, if your creative executions can’t stop you dead, they’ll never stop Boomers long enough to get their attention let alone sell them anything.

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