“Winning ad awards is a silly way to measure success.”  — A paraphrase of thoughts expressed by my colleagues, Tim Miles and Charlie Moger.

And while I heartily second that emotion, I usually let Tim or Charlie express it, since it’s less sour-grapey to say it after you’ve won those kinds of awards, which they have.

But the interesting thing is that not all ad awards are based merely on creativity.

You can enter and win awards based upon marketing effectiveness! That award is called an “Effie,” and you can review the 2012 Effie winners here.

But if you’d also like to see a meta-analysis of winning campaigns, showing what winning and finalist entrants had in common, then you’re also in luck.

Effie Worldwide has compliled just such an analysis in their 2012 Effie Report, and have also been kind enough to summarize their  key findings as follows:

  • “Effie Finalists tend to spend more on paid media, but not necessarily the most. More finalists spent in the $20 million to $40 million range than in the $40 million+ category, and nearly half spent less than $20 million.
  • Effie medalists have slightly fewer goals to achieve, and campaigns with a business objective, rather than one to reach a target audience, collect more medals.
  • Never underestimate David taking on Goliath – he’s 47 percent more likely to win an Effie medal.
  • In the Shopper Marketing Effie categories, about two-thirds of finalists’ programs demonstrated some aspect of disruption – either by novel product placement in the store, changing the way shoppers perceived the retailer or changing perceptions of the brand.”

So what I’d like to do today is take each of Effie Worldwide’s bullet points and discuss it in terms of local advertising/branding:

Spend More on Paid Media

It’s tempting to go after “free advertising” such as Word of Mouth, Social Media, and various PR and Guerilla Marketing tactics, but while those are effective, experience shows that there’s just no replacing old-school mass media muscle when it comes to grabbing increased share of mind, and in turrn, share of market.

But if that’s the case, then why didn’t finalist spend the most on media?  Frankly, I’m guessing here, but I think this indicates intelligent media buys along with the desire to effectively concentrate on one (or a few) media source(s) rather than a spending spree spread out over too many media types.

It might also indicate the investment in long-term, day-in and day-out media spends for branding rather than massive, flash-in-the-pan spending for one-time marketing blitzes.

In any case, according to Effie Worldwide, effective marketing strategies are more likely to have intelligently invested in paid media.

Focus on Fewer Goals & Tie Them to Business Objectives

There’s an apocryphal story about a copywriter who was late to a client meeting, wherein the board was going to discuss with him the 13 Points they wanted to their ad to cover.

So the copywriter walks in late carrying a hockey bag over his shoulder. Without saying a word, he places the bag on the conference table, pulls out a board that’s basically been turned into a bed of nails — a rather eye catching prop that grabs every eye in the room as it’s placed on the table.

The copywriter then takes a fry pan out of the bag and slams it down onto the bed of nails. Lifting the fry pan up, he shows the executive team the dimples. Then writer-boy swaps out the bed of nails with a board featuring a single, imposing spike potruding from it. He slams the fry pan down, forcing the spike clean through it, creating a half-inch hole big enough to stare through when mr. copywriter holds the pan up to show the board.

At this point, our intrepid copywriter says, “Now how many points do you want the ad messaging to convey?”

As it is with ads, so it is with campaigns: one point, goal, or objective per campaign is always best.

And if you want to narrow it down to one objective, you’ll want to choose a business objective. So, figure out how you want to measure success in term of your (or your client’s) business, along with what the required timeline is, THEN create a campaign clearly aimed at achieving that singular, business goal.

And by the way, “driving traffic” isn’t a business goal. Increasing gross sales might be, but merely getting traffic through the door isn’t. So conversion ain’t just a metric for online businesses…

Act Like David Rather Than Goliath

Increasing market share when you have very little of it to begin with is relatively easy, as there are plenty of competitors to steal customers from, and plenty of prospective customers to steal. On the other hand, once you’ve cornered 30-35% of the market, grabbing more of that same market is darned difficult.

This is why, again according to the Effie Report, smaller businesses taking on larger competition are more likely to find their advertising effective — because gaining marketshare always involves stealing it from someone else. So when you’re already holding almost all the marbles, there are fewer and fewer left to acquire.

For local businesses that means that once you become the Goliath of your category, you either have to open up a new store in another market, or open up another business, or business-line, in the same market. Either way, your future growth will be powered by your Davids rather than your Goliaths.

Of course, this assumes that the smaller business has something new or interesting to offer the customer… which leads us to

Practice Disruption

If you look at how that last bullet point is worded, it’s basically saying you need to do two things:

  1. Grab people’s attention through some form of novelty
  2. Provide people with some sort of Unique Selling Propositon, OR change the way they FEEL about the brand

In other words, if you’re offerng the exact same thing as everyone else, in the exact same manner, and if your ads are predictable, boring and dull, then it won’t matter that you’re investing in paid media in order to air ads aimed at achieving measurable business goals for a business that has plenty of market share left to steal — you’ll still lose.

But if you’re ads capture the interest and imagination of the buying public, while offering them a strong reason to do business with you, you’ll soon disrupt the power structure of your industry as you dominate every market you care to enter.

My only note of caution is to add in a third point: credibility. You can grab their attention and promise them a tempting and relevant benefit, but if your audience doesn’t believe you, your ads won’t achieve much.

Relevance and Credibility are the meat of the message. The novelty part simply ensures that your message is heard long enough to be deemed relevant and credible.

Ah… Validation

Interestingly enough, these are the same principles espoused by all Wizard of Ads Partners, including Tim and Charlie, so it’s gratifying to see them espoused by a institution dedicated to promoting effective advertising, such as Effie Worldwide.

If you’re interested in exploring these principles to grow your business, why not contact one of us?

2013 is just getting started, why not make it your year to thrive?



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