Advertising: It can’t solve all your problems.


Advertising plays an important role in your company’s business strategy.  If people don’t sense (yes I meant to say sense – see, hear, smell & touch) your products or services then how would they know that they’re available for purchase?  And of course, if people don’t purchase your products, then you won’t generate any sales….. which means no income or revenue and a fast track to certain oblivion.

It’s no secret that communicating and advertising your product benefits to consumers is vital for the success and longevity of your business.  Among other things, it also allows you to separate and differentiate yourself amongst  your competition.  But what a company really needs to embrace is the knowledge that advertising won’t solve all of your business’ problems.  So what exactly does that mean?  Allow me to illustrate with a few scenarios I’ve witnessed over the years that I’ve worked in this industry….some of which I’ve personally worked on.  Since most of these are local (Hawaii) companies or companies that are still in business, I won’t use actual names….just in case 😛

The scenario:  Statewide dental service network that has multiple branches on each island (Oahu, Kauai, Maui & Hawaii) .

The problem:  Due to consumer cutbacks and a weakened economy, the company was struggling to maintain all of their branches and retain all of their experienced dentists on staff.  They needed to generate sales in a stagnant market and do it quickly.

The solution:  According to internal data, the branches were servicing many clients that used English as a second language.  So we were tasked with creating ethnic ads in Filipino and Korean and have them run in their respective ethnic publications.

The ‘real’ problem:  One could call it a good problem if there was such a thing…the ads were well received and their call volume and walk-ins increased.  The problem was that there were really only a few Filipino and Korean speaking staff members.  Most branches had none which actually cause more of a problem because of the language barrier.

The scenario:  Interstate air carrier.

The problem:  Though their rates remained competitive with the other air carriers in the market, the “word on the street” was that this particular carrier had a bad rap when it came to service and reliability.  This was confirmed through 3rd party consumer surveys.

The solution:  Commit to spending on a large multi-scaled advertising and public relations campaign.  Primary message – service.  Secondary message – low rates.

The ‘real’ problem:  This particular air carrier didn’t do much to full fill their service promise internally.  The campaign backfired on them since nothing really noticeably improved.

The scenario:  Back in the 80’s and early 90’s many of us may remember the “Long Distance” phone carrier wars.  One local company in particular needed to maintain their current customer base as well as increase new business.

The problem:  Even though they were a local company with established trust, they still had higher rates then their competition, most of whom where mainland based carriers.  From focus groups it was revealed that “price” out trumped all other reasons why a consumer would choose a long distance carrier…However since they were rapidly losing market share due to rates, the executives decided to respond immediately with a campaign based on their strong points.

The solution:  What the focus groups also revealed was that this company in particular was recognized by the community for their friendly local service.  The company decided to push an ad campaign that played up their local, trustworthy service (rather than take the time to adjust their business model to accommodate for lower pricing).

The ‘real’ problem:  In the long run, people want to spend less especially for something of a commodity such as long distance phone calls.  The company had to pull back the advertising until they readjusted their pricing model.  They basically threw money into a bottomless pitt.

I could give many more examples but I’ll end this short of boring you.  The lesson learned here seems to have a few common themes.  Before you send a message out into the public, be sure that you’re prepared internally like in the case of the dental service and airlines.

Look at advertising from the inside to out.  In the long distance carrier scenario, the company should have adjusted their pricing model before moving forward.  They heard what consumers wanted through research, yet they still went ahead with a campaign that pushed service.

It astounds me how obvious these blunders are, yet these mistakes are still commonly made.   What’s worse is that advertising is always the scapegoat for a company’s woes.  Yes…”it’s not the ‘lower rates’ that other companies have, it’s the creative you put in our ‘awesome service’ ad.”  Really???


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: