On Advertising

Build trust and maintain credibility through your advertising

Good advertising is an art of persuasion—not just visual stimulation.

With the advent of Google Ad Words and YouTube, advertising has forever changed. There was a time when a well-written print ad generated immediate results. It’s not that easy now. Why? Today’s world is overloaded with sales and marketing messages. Your prospects have learned how to tune most of it out. They’ve become skeptical and defensive. This holds true for car enthusiasts as well. They know many performance claims are just too good to be true. Advertising is still useful, but its purpose has shifted. It needs to be used in concert with a creative marketing, PR, and social media effort to maintain and reaffirm the brand’s core values. All advertising, be it online or in print, must create an emotional bond that builds trust and credibility.

It takes time and a consistent ad message to mold perceptions and direct behaviors. Print advertising is expensive. If your budget is limited, it’s better to run half- or even quarter-page ads on a regular basis, than it is to experiment with one or two expensive full page or two page spreads.

Must your print ads be highly artistic? No, they must communicate. Computers make it easy for amateurs and professionals alike to add to the kaleidoscope of ads and marketing communications that are posted, presented and projected everywhere. Because people are visually over-stimulated, it’s hard to get the needed attention — even for a second. To combat this, many advertisers push the boundaries of artistic creativity or good taste to absurd levels. They hope that somehow the consumer will take notice. Ads with avant-garde styling may cause a buzz and boost corporate ego, but they don’t do much else. Plus, it’s easy to be misunderstood. Push the envelope too far and you run the risk of confusing, or worse, alienating your market.

In advertising, artistic creativity should be a means to an end—and not be the message itself. Make each word, type style, photo, illustration and color work hard to communicate. Don’t decide to use a design just because it looks like a candidate for a creative award.

Develop a style. Stay with it. The objective of your advertising is to adjust behavior and maintain awareness. Your objective is to maximize the desired effect in a minimum amount of time. It’s been estimated that it takes at least two-dozen impressions of an ad to create the desired effect. To be as effective as possible, your ads must be recognizable. Each impression must retain a “family resemblance” so it reinforces the impression that came before it. As example, take the sports car maker Porsche—a relatively small company with a big image. They build consumer trust with efficiency. Everything that their “ad guys” have recently developed—TV spots, print ads, sales collateral, website, etc.—has a consistency that is coupled to a strong promise of personal benefit. That’s no accident. This evokes reliability and credibility. The impressions build quicker, thinking is affected sooner, and the brand grows stronger.

Porsche is consistently a good example of visual consistency across traditional and new media. This projects a sense of substance, reliability and trust, and makes a relatively small company look larger than it is.

In comparison, many small aftermarket vendors don’t have much consistency or originality. Pick up your favorite specialty car magazine. Notice that many of the ads from accessory manufacturers look similar. There’s usually some kind of edgy type treatment near the top, a glamor car shot or a product shot, a few bullet features, a logo and a phone number. There isn’t much of a message except “Buy our stuff!”

Here’s a test: take your most recent print ad. Put your finger over the logo. Now, can you tell whose ad it is? Without using a consistent style and message in your ads, you will not build brand recognition as well as you should. Develop a style and maintain it. It doesn’t matter if you get bored looking at it. Unless a product becomes outdated, a good campaign has staying power. In your case, by the time you are sick of looking at it, your prospects are just starting to take notice. Consistency gives a feeling of substance. Substance builds all-important trust and credibility.

Prospective customers ask one question: “What’s in it for me?” Can you answer that in a few seconds? That’s all the time you have to grab their interest. To do this, don’t just define your product—define the person who buys it. Write a narrative that talks with your market—not just at it. Make the benefit promise strong and compelling. Without this, your ads will fall short. Decide the image you want then stay with it. Image means personality. Products must have a unique personality to be noticed.

If a product becomes a success, it’s because the market identified with its image. Treat your advertising and marketing collateral, not as entertainment or an art form, but as a conduit for image building and consumer oriented information that builds trust and credibility.

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