The Star of the Show.
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away -- before all this internet thing
heated up -- there was a really big cowboy star. For those of you who weren't
around, you can still see his movies. They're mostly black and white, but
even in the movies this guy was bigger than life. Come to think of it, even
in life he was bigger than life.
His name was John Wayne and he not only epitomized the United States
of America from about 1930 to 1970, he WAS the United States of America:
big, brawny, able to stand up for the little guys and punch out the bad
Being the American icon he was, the Duke (as he was known) turned down
every commercial endorsement that Madison Avenue threw at him. Every advertiser
wanted him, because they knew that if the Duke would buy it, the rest of
the consuming American public would, too. Wayne remained adamant until the
end of his career, when he finally signed a major deal: the makers of some
headache-aspirin-pain-reliever finally roped the old cowboy into doing a
pitch for their TV commercials.
When the deal was signed, delirium broke out: advertising executives
wet their pants, clients rejoiced and America watched their TV's with anticipation,
waiting for the big moment when:
The Duke bombed.
Yup. The American icon straddled up to the camera and hawked some ridiculous
script about how "when the Duke gets a headache, ...." Needless
to say, the campaign fizzled. Sales plummeted. And more than one "really
bright, rising star" advertising executive was shown the door.
Now, why do I bring this up? Well, for one thing, Andy and Ann thought
that I forgot about this week's column and Andy always says my stuff is
too short. Another is that I thought it was an interesting story. But the
real reason is that too many advertisers forget that when it comes to advertising,
the product is always the star. And if you forget that, no amount of window
dressing or celebrity endorsement is going to help you.
But how do you make you product interesting? Well, you're in your business.
YOU must like it. What makes you think that nobody else will? The trick
is keeping your audience focused on the stuff you present, and presenting
it in an interesting way, on the web and everywhere else.
1. KEEP THE PRODUCT AS THE STAR. We already went over this, but it bears
repeating. Believe me, after all the work you put into marketing your widgets,
which do you want you customers to remember: your widget or the way Miss
February displayed them between her, um, well, held them up to the camera?
The test of failed advertising is when somebody tells you that they saw
a great ad the other day, but can't remember what was being advertised.
2. GET RID OF THE DISTRACTIONS. Frankel's Rule of Clutter specifically
states that "if it's not helping, it's hurting." Lose all the
window dressing. Start with a blank page and a picture of your product and
tell me why I should buy it over someone else's. Remember, less is more
(more or less).
3. DON'T DRAG YOUR COMPETITION INTO IT BY NAME. We've been cranking out
hard-hitting, competitive ads for years and never once needed to directly
label a competitor by his/her name. If you're leaning on the competition
to make your pitch, you're not trying hard enough. You're also building
their market awareness at your expense (see number 5).
4. DELIVER AN INSIGHT. Hey, everyone likes people to think they're smart.
So tell them something about your product that they never thought of. A
feature in your product that only an expert like you would know. Like how
the little tip at the end of your shoelace is actually called an "aglet."
Bet you didn't know that. See how smart that made me look? Now if I could
just get a shoelace client, I'd be set.
5. DON'T SELL THE INDUSTRY. Remember that no matter how much/little you're
spending, if you're not promoting your cause exclusively, you're spending
your money to promote the whole industry. That's a favor that your competition
will send you flowers for, because even if it works, you'll be growing everyone's
market share value, instead of your own market share. Stick to selling your
stuff, not your competition's.
Well, cowboys, that's about it for this week's round-up. Stay away from
the distractions. Keep your eye on the ball. And if "Blood Alley"
is on cable this week, make sure you watch it in its original black and
© 1997, Rob Frankel