What do Budweiser, Coke, Omaha Steaks, Indochino, and Rolex have in common?
Well, friend, I’m gonna tell you.
These are all companies that advertise, somewhat frequently. And between them, they represent the five basic consumer responses to advertising.
Let's explore the companies and their basic advertising strategies and see how it affects me, the guy who may or may not be buying what they're selling, and then see how we can relate that to our own business models.
Budweiser spends hundreds of millions annually on advertisements. Heck, they spend tens of millions just on Super Bowl Sunday alone. They make so many brand impressions on me that I couldn't even hope to count them all. But, for all of that, this is all money that they might as well pack up and run through a shredder. While I enjoy some of their ads from a creative standpoint, they ultimately don’t make one iota of difference to me when it comes to making a beverage buying decision, and there is nothing they—or you—could ever do to convince me that they are the King of Beers. You could prop me in front of a TV Clockwork Orange style, watching non-stop Bud ads around the clock until I screamed with blood dripping out of my eyes and I *still* wouldn’t buy a Bud when I went to the store. I could go to a store and see 1000 cases of Bud lined up surrounded by beautiful women wearing bikinis and riding Clydesdales and I’m still not buying. This is a product that I’m just completely not interested in, and that will never be able to win me over no matter how much money they spend. And it's not because I'm some kind of teetotaller that doesn't like beer. Quite the contrary. I love beer. I just don't love their beer, and there is nothing they can do to convince me otherwise.
Very similar to Budweiser, Coke spends beaucoup money on advertising. And while I do enjoy the occasional Coke, I can’t think that there has ever been a time when seeing a Coke ad has actually influenced me to go out and buy the product. Again, their ad budget is mostly wasted on me. I know they exist, I know what they are, and I’ve determined long ago that I *like* Coke over the competition, and when the mood strikes, I’ll buy it, advertising or not. Coke is usually a situational buy for me—if I’m at a Mexican or pizza restaurant and don’t want a beer; I’m at a movie and I’m getting popcorn. Or if I’m at a fast food restaurant. Whatever. If they stopped advertising tomorrow, I’d still drink exactly as many Cokes as I do now. The only difference is when they launch a new flavor. I am generally interested to try the Lime, Vanilla or—sweet nectar of the Gods!—Cherry varieties, and this is a case when their ads do compel me to be aware of new flavors I might be interested in trying.
I like getting packages in the mail. Seriously, when I see the UPS or Fed-Ex man turn onto my cul-de-sac, my heart picks up a little. And I like steak. So, after seeing an offer in an AmEx flyer for an Omaha Steaks “give us a try” promotion, I decided to try it. I was moderately happy with the product—I don’t think the flash frozen steaks taste as good as the stuff I purchase fresh from a deli—but it arrived nicely packed and I thought it was nice to have a freezer full of meats for a bit. But ever since then, I am bombarded by advertising from them. I get two mailers a week and probably four emails. Then they started calling me. After they called me at 8:30 one night when I was trying to put Lauryn to bed, I said, “I’m putting my daughter to bed and this is not a good time for you to call.” They then called me *every day* for a week until I finally just said, “Do not ever call me again. I know how to get hold of you if I want something.” For all of the money they have spent targeting me, they have over-advertised me to the point that I have kind of lost interest. Now most of their fliers go straight into the trash, unopened. Umm, I mean recycling.
This company—which manufactures incredibly affordable custom-made men’s wear—has been around since 2007, but you’d hardly have known it. I had certainly never heard of them. Until about two months ago, that is, when I happened to notice a blurb on Twitter from George Hahn (who, seriously, if he isn’t on the payroll for Indochino, totally should be. He's an amazing brand ambassador for them). George writes a men’s fashion blog and he reviewed his experience with buying a suit from Indochino and their custom process. I was definitely intrigued and since then, Indochino has been seemingly everywhere I look. On Twitter I see people mentioning them. They are on my AOL mail sidebar. On practically every website I seem to visit, there’s a pop-up banner for Indochino. It’s subtle, off to the side, but it’s there. And I’m totally aware of it. And the good news for Indochino is, I am *exactly* the kind of customer they want to attract. I have always wanted a custom made suit, I didn't know they existed, and now that I see them subtly wherever I go, it is a constant reminder about them offering something that I've always wanted. On top of that, they are *incredibly* responsive on Twitter. Virtually any question or mention of them elicits a personal response. The result? When I saw that they were advertising a Black Friday sale, I pulled the trigger and ordered two of their suits. This is a case where subtle, persistent advertising and great word of mouth led me to make a purchase and become a customer.
Unlike Indochino, I’ve been incredibly aware of Rolex for a long, LONG time. Since before high-school, actually, when I read that James Bond wore a Rolex Submariner. And, good news, Rolex! Your ads have totally worked on me! I love the lifestyle your ads portray and I sincerely want your product! Every time I see one of your ads—Milgauss, Daytona, GMT II, Explorer—I *totally* want to buy them ALL! I like to stop by high-end jewelers and look at them all lying there, gleaming on the green felt with their stainless steel oyster bracelets and flawless synthetic sapphire crystals and perpetual motion sweep second hands... The problem is, these are all mostly aspirational products that are outside of my purchasing zone, and all of the advertising in the world isn’t going to change that. But, it does make me aware of the product, and when I see someone wearing one, I notice it and appreciate it. But, if I were to ever come into a sizable chunk of money, I’d know how to find a Rolex dealer.
Substitute other company names for your own personal list of five, but you can see how people essentially respond to advertising.
So, how can we relate this to what we do? We certainly don’t want to target those in the Budweiser group who will never use our services for whatever reason. Say the hardcore DIY or Internet forum guys that will always buy it on their own and love tinkering and connecting and think they know how to do it better. That is really money and effort largely wasted. We also don’t want to over-advertise to people—bombarding them with e-mail offers or Facebook updates, for instance—until we turn them off, a la Omaha Steaks. Existing customers could be likened to the Coke crowd; they like you, they know who you are, and they will continue using you. They may or may not be swayed if you occasionally contact them to check in and tell them of new products you might have, but that’s OK. It’s also nice to keep your name in front of the Rolex crowd, because you never know; one day they may have the means to afford using you. And aspirational buyers who finally achieve a long-desired goal are often wonderful word-of-mouth promoters.
The real group that you want to contact is the Indochino-type clients. These are people that have always wanted to use you but that maybe didn’t know you existed or haven’t used you for a while. They have the money to afford what you do, and are in a position to buy. They are also generally proactive in looking, so you should make sure your business is easy to find in web searches and has a nice web presence. Then make certain you are incredibly responsive to follow-up to any queries if they do make contact.
Ultimately, the most successful advertisers get to know their client base and target their message to the people that will be most interested in responding to it. Then they keep their name on potential buyer’s radar so that when they are ready to spend, you are right there at the front of their mind.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.