Advertising – How to make it better.

Advertising is expensive but every business needs to advertise. How else are people going to know about your product/service? Now, I am not an advertising guru and besides the course I did as part of my degree in university, I haven’t been in advertising. I am however, a consumer. A very conscious consumer. I have also been part of new openings for stores and seen how they’ve rolled out their advertising and how the customers responded.

The sole purpose of an advert is to send a message about your business, your product/service and your values to your potential and existing consumers.  Its is therefore imperative that the right message is sent, to the right people, at the right time and in the right manner. So how come most companies are not moving with the times? Why do they seem to make the same mistakes over and over again? It seems like a formula was found, it worked once upon a time and now most don’t want to change it, even though the world around them is. Here are the 5 things that advertisers are failing to utilise and connect to their customers in todays world.

  • Where is your business? –  many businesses that expand beyond their traditional markets always make this mistake…initially at least. Few correct them, eventually. In my country, South Africa, we’ve had a lot of retailers come into the fashion space. As excited as we have been, most of us couldn’t help but wonder, why the models didn’t speak to the country? Now you might think this is not that serious but in a country that’s over 80% African, representation does matter. I’m not saying that they should neglect the other but your consumers need to see people like them when they look at your ads in magazines, tv and billboards. It reinforces the idea that you are selling to them. It used to be that  if you advertise for white people then every other race just follows but that has changed. We all want to be convinced to spend our money. If you don’t want to cater to each market, then make sure that your global campaigns are inclusive from the get go…take a page from Fenty’s book.
  • We don’t have snow here? – this is one of my pet peeve. I know there are a few places that experience snow on this continent but international businesses with adverts that show snow, come on! not everything works everywhere. Our local retailers are also very guilty of this. They keep trying to create a “christmas’s feel” with fake snow and Rudolf the reindeer  songs…stop it.  Snow represents a lot of things. Aspiration is a good thing to sell to your customers  but it’s important to stay as close to the real environment as possible.  Embrace your surroundings and find inspiration there. Create an African christmas for all to relate. I want to use your product in my own environment and not just pretend to be in yours.
  • Why is their’s more special? – as you are busy creating these beautiful adverts for the beautiful diverse markets that you occupy, please remember to put the effort in all of them. It’s a small digitised world we live in now. I can easily see the ad in London and compare to the one here. I don’t want to feel like ours was a last minute  quick thing that you put together. Money is money. Put the effort in all or don’t do it at all.
  • Diversify your staffunless you want to have a problem like H&M, have some diversity in your teams. It’s not only good for the business but for people, for culture and for learning. It’s become very clear lately that we don’t all get offended the same way, so having different people in your teams means that you’ll have someone who can  guide the production or at least the delivery of your product better. Always be mindful of your customers history, triggers and what they find offensive. Your reputation, intention and credibility could be lost in a minute.
  • Use the right ambassador – this is especially true in South Africa. These days brands just look at how many people one has as followers and they put them on everything. This is wrong. You are wasting money and not reaching those you intend to. You have to look at who their audience is first and if that audience is who you are targeting.  I’ve lost count of how many events take place with the usual celebrities in attendance to open yet another store they “love” only to leave the party and move on to the next one. Use that money effectively. If your target is students, then advertise to them.  Try and make it authentic by choosing people who do or who look like they could actually use your products or services.

So what about the small business? Coming up with a quality advert at an affordable price is not exactly easy. This means that you don’t have the luxury of not getting it right the first time. Here’s what I believe you should consider before you advertise:

  • Know your target – when you are starting, you want to focus on your target market, so know them. Understanding their life Style Measure (LSM) and their shopping habits will help you narrow them down and create a precise advert that caters to their needs.
  • Use your consumer’s medium of choice – as stated above, it’s important to know your consumer and their habits as this will determine the type of medium that you’ll use to advertise. Social media can be a wonderful tool for a small business to get their products/services out there. If your people are twitter users, then focus on that initially. Corium skincare does a wonderful job of using social media to communicate and give great customer service at the same time. That’s because they know their target.
  • Make them personal – the advantage that you have as a small business owner is in the ability to get personal with your customers. Use the advertisement as an opportunity to connect with them. Don’t just advertise about your product, tell a story. Tell your story so that I can identify and continue to be on your side. The market is in favour of the small business owner these days. There’s an unspoken camaraderie to support the ‘little guys’ that are trying to make it against all odds.  Take advantage of that.

Advertising never stops. It continues for as long as your business is still going. The CocaCola’s and McDonald’s of this world are proof that one should never get too comfortable. No matter what type of business you are in, if you want to be in it for a long time, then find a way to get it to the people.