How ironic that an industry dedicated to communications, public relations and identity building has a public perception of its honesty and ethics equal to stockbrokers and members of Congress! In November of 2012 Gallup polled people on their impression of different occupations and industries. Only 11percent said they gave advertising high marks. 36 percent gave low marks and 50 percent were in the middle with little opinion either way.
This negative sentiment has been reinforced over the years by comments from influential people. Will Rogers said, "Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need." H. G. Wells was a bit more blunt, he said, "Advertising is legalized lying." So that the average person regards advertising in a negative way is not surprising at all. But do they really hate advertising?
The best answer is sometimes. Early in my marketing career I came up with a simple definition: Advertising Informs, Marketing Motivates. The problem is that people only want to be informed when they want the information. Simple right? But advertisers have no idea when a consumer wants information so they constantly bombard them with the information, hoping that at some point there will be a moment when the advertising information is wanted. And that moment will come – but up until that point and again once that point is passed – advertising is annoying, intrusive, condescending and many times embarrassing. Advertisers try to create entertaining ads to overcome the general desire to ignore the ads by flipping pages past them, pushing the fast forward on the remote or switching to the "other" station on the radio.
But something amazing happens when a consumer is ready to accept the information. For example, Tom and Jane are looking for a new larger car because they are expecting their first child. Instantly every car ad is being scrutinized, diaper ads are really interesting and investment ads about future security make a lot of sense! If only advertisers could know when their ads will be accepted and important to people, then they could avoid wasting time and money pushing information to disinterested consumers. Enter big data.
Big data or the process of collecting information about a consumer, electronically digesting that information and then pushing out ads that may be interesting to the consumer based on the data collected – is the latest concept. And guess what the reaction of consumers is to being bombarded with targeted ad? They hate it! Even when the ads are very much in line with a current interest of the consumer, the invasion of privacy and ad clutter can have a negative impact. Just go online and search for something – say hiking boots. For weeks following that search you will get hundreds of ads for hiking boots even if you made a purchase the same day you ran your search. The fundamental dislike for advertising is not changed by the technology, people still only want the information when they want it. So what is an advertiser to do?
By using promotional marketing/specialty advertising exclusively or as a component of a marketing campaign, a basic message will simply be handy for a consumer to react to when they are ready willing and able to respond. For a start, promotional marketing/specialty advertising is the only non-intrusive advertising and people appreciate that. We don’t interrupt the TV program they are watching or break up the article they are reading or take up a full 1/3 or the air time on the radio. We don’t even interrupt the scenery along the highway with billboards and flashing lights! It is also the only advertising that people thank you for!
In the bigger picture where advertising will be readily accepted and appreciated because a consumer is interested in receiving the information, specialty advertising is more accurate and more immediate than “big data”. Delivery of advertising after data is collected and processed is reactive. The consumer is already actively gathering information. But if a message delivered by specialty advertising prompts contact between the consumer and advertiser, that advertiser gets total access to the consumer to deliver the information. The tangible aspect of a message delivered with a specialty item also reinforces an affinity for the merchant that a fleeting banner ad can never provide.
Now the best part of all of this – people don't hate specialty advertising even sometimes – but they hate every other method more often than not. That is an extremely important point to discuss with your clients. The idea of breaking through ad clutter with entertaining ads, celebrities, outlandish antics or over the top claims are unnecessary when consumers will happily wait in line to take your message away with them on an interesting, useful or decorative "gift" – a well selected specialty advertising item.
I'm hopeful you have realized that this article is about promotional marketing/specialty advertising and not promotional products. If you confuse what we do with what we use and all you find yourself doing is selling promotional products, then accept my apology for wasting six minutes of your time!