Advertising on Auto-Pilot

Wouldn’t it be great if advertising was so simple that all you had to do was get an easy formula and then always follow it, in all situations, for all cases.

We wouldn’t need to think, we wouldn’t need to struggle to reinvent the wheel every time.

All we’d need is a simple formula like, “Nowadays, all products are exactly like all other products. The only thing that can possibly differentiate anything from anything else is brand.”

Then all we’d ever have to do is brand advertising.

In other words, just make commercials that people like and our job is done.

Unfortunately it isn’t true.

All products are not always exactly like all other products, neither are all brands, neither are all advertising or marketing situations.

‘Brand’ advertising tends to work well for FMCGs.

For those of you not familiar with the term it stands for Fast Moving Consumer Goods.

The accent is on ‘Fast Moving’, things that you buy, and use, and replace quite quickly.

Things like: beer, cigarettes, food, toiletries, cleaning products, pretty much everything you find in a supermarket.

Most of these things are pretty similar in terms of price and performance, so the main distinguishing factor is the brand (the image, the style, the feeling).

In this case it may be enough to simply do an ad that people like, because an FMCG is a pretty whimsical purchase.

It’s not expensive, it’s not long-term, you can try it today and, if it isn’t quite right, you can buy something different tomorrow.

That’s okay if you’re selling chocolate bars, but what about cars, or washing machines, or TV sets?

Those are called ‘consumer durables’, and they aren’t whimsical purchases.

You need to carefully consider what you’re buying here, because it’s going to cost a lot of money, and you’re going to be stuck with it for a long time.

It’s an entirely different purchasing situation, consequently an entirely different marketing and advertising situation.

Just doing an ad that people like won’t cut it here.

People won’t part with thousands of pounds just because they thought your advertising was cute.

This is about changing opinion at a more fundamental level.

But I don’t think we encourage people in our business to use their brains.

We don’t teach them how a ‘distress purchase’ differs from an FMCG.

Consequently they sell car insurance they same way they sell a bar of chocolate (and wonder why it doesn’t work).

We don’t teach them how ‘brown goods’ differ from ‘white goods’,

Consequently they sell luxury technology to men the same way they sell essential household goods to women (and wonder why it doesn’t work).

We don’t teach them the difference between ’investors’ and ‘savers’ in the financial area.

Consequently they do the same advertising to people who just want security and people who watch interest rates (and wonder why it doesn’t work).

Here’s the bad news: you can’t go on auto-pilot.

Seductive as it is to think the answer is always ‘brand’, and doing an ad that gets lots of hits on YouTube, it isn’t always true.

People can like your advertising, and not buy what you’re selling.

Especially if it isn’t an FMCG.

The bad news is, there isn’t a formula.

Every problem is different, and needs a different answer.

The FMCG formula doesn’t work for everything.

Which is one of the reasons 89% of advertising doesn’t work.