Radical Marketing Secrets: How to Commit Small Business Marketing Suicide

What's the purpose of this ad?  Translation:  May the butterflies flutter in your heart.  Really?  (Ad taken from Layaleena magazine)

What's the purpose of this ad? Translation: May the butterflies flutter in your heart. Really? (Ad taken from Layaleena magazine)

There I was, sitting in the car with my daughter Selma.  We’re in the gas station.  She asks me while we wait, pointing to a billboard  “Baba, why is there a sign with Zain written on it?”  “It’s an advertisement” I reply.

“But what does Zain do?” is her response.

Hmm , I thought.  Explaining what a telecom company is to an eight year old is not very easy, so I told her that they sell phones.  “So why don’t they have phones on the advertisement?” was her reply.

Smart girl.

This is an affliction a lot of big corporations have, they don’t actually advertise their products or services, it’s insane!  Here’s how it often works.  The corporate CEO or marketing director decides that they need a new advertising campaign (which they often don’t really need at all, but someone might be trying to justify their job).  So they hire a big advertising agency full of “creative” types who might have fancy graphic design degrees and “marketing” degrees (or the advertising agency has to do a pitch, but that’s not really relevant here).

Now remember, an advertising agency’s biggest goal is to win advertising awards, they want to look good in front of their peers.  Much like academics who crave the attention of their peers and therefore are under pressure to publish research all the time.

And the goal for most graphic designers is to improve their portfolio.  They have what you might call Portfolio Obsession Syndrome, or POS. Their clients’ sales and profit figures are rarely even considered!  It’s insane!

So the advertising agency shows the big corporate client the framework for a massive campaign, with lots of creative images, with often vague or cute sounding catch phrases that have absolutely nothing to do with their core business.  They justify that with corporate mumbo-jumbo and unproven statements like “people want to be inspired by brands”, or some such nonsense.  They might even throw in some fancy business jargon someone picked up from a copy of the Harvard Business Review.

The big corporate client, who doesn’t know any better, is impressed.  But of course demands a few changes here and there so that he can justify his job.  And then the campaign is launched.  The CEO feels good, because he can impress the board and his peers at the country club with the new campaign.  And the agency wins, impressing their peers that they got the account, and hoping they get a Clio (the image advertising industry’s most prestigious award).

No one really monitors sales.  They may or may not go up, and they very often go south.  Many an award-winning campaign had to be scrapped due to disastrous results.

It’s The Size

But most big corporations can get away with bad marketing due to their massive size.  The problem is when the small business owner tries to do the same.  He often speaks to a smaller advertising agency that will try to do something similar with him, and of course his size cannot carry him through.  He might go out of business because of idiotic marketing; that’s what I meant by marketing suicide.

Let’s take another look at the Zain advert.  If you did not know what Zain was, what would you guess that their business was?  Sell guitars?  Butterflies maybe?  Clothes? The ad doesn’t talk about the service they provide, the benefits to me the reader for buying from them, there is no call to action, no special offer.  Nothing, just some guy trying to impress a girl with his guitar.  Get my point?

What You Should Really Do

So as a small business owner, you should never go for such vague advertising – known as image or brand advertising.  You should go for “direct response” marketing and advertising.  Direct response  marketing tries to elicit an emotional, direct response by the reader.  The purpose is to make a sale.  Lets compare the two:

Image Advertising

  1. Emphasis is placed on the brand and the company
  2. Very few words
  3. “Cute” copy and smart sounding catch phrases
  4. Emphasis is on aesthetics
  5. Tries to be creative and entertaining
  6. Purpose is to win awards and improve portfolio

Direct response

Direct response advertising on the other hand:

  1. Emphasizes the reader/prospect
  2. Lots of words!
  3. Copy is benefit-oriented
  4. Emphasis is on making a sale
  5. Tries to elicit an emotional, direct response by the reader
  6. Purpose is to make you rich!

You can see a direct response advertisement example here.  So Mr. or Mrs. Small Business Owner, the next time you think of hiring a creative person, think twice.  And if you do, make sure not to be impressed with fancy images and creative designs, make sure to focus on selling your products.

I hope this was useful.  For your complete, FREE, marketing, e-course, visit Radicalmarketing.com.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.

13 Responses to Radical Marketing Secrets: How to Commit Small Business Marketing Suicide

  1. The Dr. 3 June 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Yup, I never understood the purpose of that zain advertisement either or what was the purpose of the butterflies..

    • Suhail 3 June 2010 at 2:52 pm #

      To flutter in your heart 🙂

  2. Jeff 3 June 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Love the article. You just the main point there for too much outrages spending.

  3. Osman Safdar 4 June 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Wonderful article, to the point. I just have one small query:

    Is it not possible that the image advertisers rely heavily on subliminal advertising, by showing us the picture of boy-playing-guitar-to-this-girl….. while the brand name sinks in our subconscious…?!

    Loved the article. Even the one about writing headlines is superb.

    • Suhail 4 June 2010 at 7:49 am #

      Yeah, I think they over rely on subliminal messages, which is way to risky in my opinion. Why not say what you want to say?

  4. Roberto 4 June 2010 at 3:22 am #

    Hey Suhail! Nice article. Your still teaching me even beyond the interview we had. Anyways, I am applying your concepts on my upcoming business. Hopefully, everything turns up well. Thanks again!

    • Suhail 4 June 2010 at 7:49 am #

      Thanks guy. Good luck to you and let me know how you get along.

  5. Basim AlSaie 4 June 2010 at 3:35 am #

    Good article and very true. Couldn’t have said any better 😉

    • Suhail 4 June 2010 at 7:50 am #

      Thanks Abu Aliya 🙂

  6. Younis A.Rahim 5 June 2010 at 10:43 am #

    hi Suhail..

    you write nice and straight-to-the-point articles and i have been following your blog for some time now..

    i agree with you that Zain ad was a bad idea, but as you said big companies like flashy ads and rich graphics images so they look “Cool” and lack of proffisionals working there since we have a problem with the whole recruitment process in the region and the last thing that the companies look at is your achievements or level of proffisionalism 🙁

    but i have to disagree with you regarding yout opinion that the ad should have “lots of words!”

    people never wants to look to an ad which looks more like an article, i saw your ads in many news papers and magazines but i never managed to reach the bottom of the ad, i just feel bored

    in my humble opinion, i believe that the ad should have words but not too many, it should have a couple of sentences that summarizes the whole story..

    • Suhail 5 June 2010 at 9:01 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Younis. I’ll probably make the copy length a blog topic on it’s own.


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