The Importance of a Unified Marketing Message

When it comes to developing a Marketing and Advertising campaign, it’s easy to do too much, too often. It’s something we’ve witnessed businesses do quite frequently as we make our way through our inboxes sifting through email blasts. Businesses are excited to sell their product and driven to create more demand from the consumer. They launch full-scale multi-level campaigns that integrate diverse messaging that targets extremely small percentages of their customer base or by blanketing all customers. In other words they spam your inbox with many messages. In the end it’s an attempt to be everything to everyone and that’s virtually impossible. By doing this, a business may gain or lose customers. However, at its worst it may cause a multiple personality disorder and they may lose their true identity all together. The voices from the campaigns compete and confuse.

Let’s say your business sells fruits and vegetables, and let’s suggest that 75% of all your business is in apples. Although you are known for your apples, you only possess a portion of the industry. Thus apples account for 75% of your business but your customers don’t purchase 100% of their apples from you. Let’s say you also sell grapes which account for 1% of your business as well as peaches, carrots, corn and 21 other products that equally account for small percentages of sales. Here lies the problem. Often times more than not, a business markets to the product lines that are struggling, rather than what they are good at, what they are known for and more importantly what they are actually profiting from. It’s in our nature to want to fix things.

So you develop a campaign around carrots. This includes print advertising, email blasts, websites, electronic advertising and pay-per click search ads. The message is clear, “we are the place to buy carrots”. This may work in gathering some new carrot customers but meanwhile you may be alienating your existing customers. I mean after all, they want to hear about apples. However you’re incredibly smart, you start targeting your carrot marketing to your carrot customers. This creates another issue as you’re now spending your time, resources and ad dollars promoting something that is only 1% of your sales.

My example may be far too simple but demonstrates why a business really needs to create a “Unified Marketing Message”. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Walmart? Well, besides the people shopping in sweat pants and braziers outside of their shirts. The answer is “Low Prices”. Walmart knows this is what they are good at and everything they do is focused upon sending this message. Given, Walmart probably has a small percentage of customers that feel they are high quality (believe me, they’re out there). It would be a mistake for Walmart to advertise the quality message to this small percentage as their customers expect value and it would be in competition to their “Low Price” message. Another great example is Geico. They have a very diverse feel to their marketing from the Gecko to the Cavemen but they have one unified message and that is saving money.

How do you create a unified marketing message? To begin you really need to discover what you are good at and why you are good at it. What is the thing that sets you apart from your competition? If it isn’t quality, than perhaps price? If it isn’t price, than perhaps it’s customer service? Is it a specific product? Find out whatever it may be and focus your marketing on it. It’s not particularly terrible to market items that are not your top sellers, but know when this may be working against you. Have the courage to drop a product that may not be delivering. Do you have the resources available to remain a top contender in the product line you are great at while marketing in other product lines? Examine your business and listen to your customers, they will tell you exactly why they shop with you.


Olympic Logos Revisted

Now that the London Olympic games are over and while I am still on a logo kick, I wanted to take a look at some of the Olympic logos from the present back to the 80’s. In particular I have to state that the London Olympic logo is down-right hideous. Don’t get me wrong I love the colors pink and yellow, and I also like random strange shapes but much like pickle-juice and milk, some things do not belong together. I understand not wanting to display the stereotypical famous monument or building, or a man running/hurdling but the idea that they hired a professional agency to produce something that could have been produced by my toddler is preposterous. It’s also disappointing because my toddler could use the money.

I can only imagine the design and art critics casting the logo as pure genius. These same people purchase the big solid blue painted canvases with the all too hip titles like, “Portrait of a man dying from a broken heart”. It’s simply a canvas painted blue, 1 solid color and you’ve just spent $100k on it! However to my point about the logo… it’s simply some shapes thrown in Microsoft Paint, 2 colors and you’ve just spent $100k on it!

I promise no more ranting, i’ll let you judge for yourself.

Scientific Advertising

If you’re in advertising or interested in getting into advertising, you must read the book “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. The book itself was written in 1923, but much of it’s contents resonate in advertising today.

“Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times” – David Ogilvy

With regard to David Ogilvy’s quote, I’ve only read the book once and I hope to read it again but I doubt that I will be reaching the lucky 7. That said, advertising was always been relevant in my career (having a background in Graphic Design) and with one read of Hopkins’ book, I’ve grasped advertising more than ever. Even now as a developer, I use what I know about advertising to create a much better, more marketable product. Some times that product is a web application. Some times the product is me and my skills.

Some of what the book “Scientific Advertising” will teach you:

  1. That every ad is the equivalent of a sales person standing before you.
  2. How grammar and fine writing has little to do with writing ad copy that sells.
  3. How to use scientific testing to create more effective advertising.
  4. How to make a brand, a business stand out from the crowd
  5. The laws of Advertising

A few snippets I’ve picked up from the book:

1. Do Your Research — “An ad-writer, to have a chance at success, must gain full information on his subject. The library of an ad agency should have books on every line that calls for research. A painstaking advertising man will often read for weeks on some problem, which comes up. “. To be effective these guys researched everything. They had medical journals on the effects of coffee if they were making a coffee ad. They had dental books when they were making a toothpaste ad. They engulfed themselves with research and data that rivaled the top experts in the fields of the ad’s topic.

A good example of the effectiveness of Hopkins’ ad research was the Pepsodent ads he created. Pepsodent was a new brand of toothpaste. Before Hopkins, people weren’t brushing their teeth ritually. They would simply gargle with salt water or tonics. It was in the early 1900’s and people were peddling tonics that clean teeth left and right. Hopkins, in order to come up with the Pepsodent ad campaign, read through countless dental articles, books and scientific studies. In the middle of one book he found a reference that plaque builds up on teeth and later he would call this “the film”. He conceived the idea that Pepsodent was a creator of beauty and that it removes this film.

In one ad he wrote: “Just run your tongue across your teeth, You’ll feel a film—that’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay.” and another read: “Note how many pretty teeth are seen everywhere, Millions are using a new method of teeth cleansing. Why would any woman have dingy film on her teeth? Pepsodent removes the film!”


This ad copy served as genius at the time. It also contributed to a large tooth brushing habit. Pepsodent began adding chemicals to their toothpaste to make your mouth “tingle”. This and the ad campaign prompted the routine of brushing everyday, to look beautiful and to feel tingly clean. (Charles Duhigg, New York Times reporter and author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business )

2. Understand Psychology — The competent advertising man must understand psychology. The more he knows about it the better. He must learn that certain effects lead to certain reactions, and use that knowledge to increase results and avoid mistakes.

Hopkins writes of the enduring human need to be curious. Humans want to learn more and it’s an incentive that advertisers may use to gain the sale. A headline may serve as a hook, to grab a person’s curiosity and take them through the ad’s contents and finally the call to action.

Another, is that people are generally honest. This is why the ads that boast “Try it for a week, if you don’t like it return it for the full price”. Or the ads that offer a free product, “Try it for a week, if you like it then buy it, if not return it”. It also plays a bit into reciprocation. There have been many other studies in advertising that show when you give someone something for free, that they will return the favor or reciprocate. An example of this is a Night Club where all drinks are free and the only form of payment is a tip jar. People are more likely to tip higher than the drink was worth.

With all that’s out there now on advertising, I urge you to read the book “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. It lays the foundation to what you’ll need to know about advertising. I did find the entire book online here in one neat blog post. Get it while it lasts…

Other related books worth reading…