Although attributed to Steuart Henderson Britt, with the Canadian having popularised the statement in his book Marketing Management and Administrative Action in 1965,
this advertising tongue-in-cheek statement was coined more than a Century earlier.
Granted, the original source remains anonymous but the truism in the witty statement is not under any dispute. “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”
That advertising is a critical component of today’s business is not questioned. Competition is a stark reality in today’s liberalised free market capitalistic economy. For every product or service you bring to the market, you have to contend with tens more having exactly the same product or service within your range of quality and price.
Nobody even cares that you have a new product because let’s face it; life was going on well before your product arrived. It’s upon you the seller therefore to convince the targeted buyers on why your new product or service will matter to them and why they should consider your offering over your competition.
Advertising thus serves two major purposes. Firstly it makes your intended customers aware of your offering. Secondly, and more importantly, it sells your unique proposition and differentiating advantage in an attempt to convince the customer that your offering is the superior choice to the competition. In short, the sole role of advertising is “make aware then sell.” Forget all the marketing mumbo jumbo; if your advertising does not achieve these two things, then you are wasting your advertising resources down the drain.
Unfortunately, most advertising fails spectacularly in its attempt to be effective. It was John Wanamaker, one of the pioneer proponents of adverting and marketing who said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
There is only one reason that over 90% of advertising fails to achieve its purpose. Let me share a small story to illustrate clearly the single reason our advertising simply fails to live to its billing.
One of my grandpa’s favourite past times was fishing and many times he would carry me along. The routine was almost similar; we would leave the village just after having breakfast which constituted tea and roasted potatoes, his favourite, carrying along the fishing line and hooks. Then we would trek down to the river bank where there was a shallow swamp. There we would dig for red earthworms which we planned to use as bait for our fishing. Then we would bait our lines and lower our fishing lines into the river, be patient for a while and voila! We ended up with enough fish that would make some delicious lunch.
One day, as we were lowering our lines and waiting for the fish to swallow our bait, my grandpa asked me, “Grandson, what is my favourite food?” “Roasted sweet potatoes “I answered, wondering where he was headed with this. “ How come when we bait the fish lines I don’t use roasted sweet potatoes and use worms instead even though roast potatoes are my favourite food?” “But fish love worms, not sweet potatoes” I answered back in a childish chuckle. “That is good observation my grandson. Now here is a lesson for you. In life treat people like you treat fish, by giving them what they want, not what you want and you will always be successful.”
This is no less advice than I can give to business engaging in advertising. 90% of the time your ads fail because you insist on using sweet potatoes as bait instead of using worms and you wonder why you are not catching fish. Advertising is not about what you want your customers to have. Advertising is about what your customers want to have, you only happen to have it, and wished to make them aware of the fact.
Sissey is the Managing Partner, Marvin Sissey Consulting Group.
BY MARVIN SISSEY