Why does advertising work?

Advertising is a marketing activity that has been with us for a long time. But with modern, digital platforms (including Yorkshire Powerhouse!) now offering an ever-increasing number of places and ways to advertise, and with some traditional routes struggling to continue (think newspapers and Yellow Pages!) it’s important to work out whether to advertise your business or not!

The most common adverts connect a buyer to a seller.  Since the 1st Century, there have been ‘ads’ providing directions to sailors looking for the local brothel!

Adverts connect buyers with sellers, employers with workers, single people with single people (lonely hearts), families with the circus, etc.

Are you influenced by adverts?

When asked, most people will answer ‘no’ to this question.  If this is true, why does business spend so much on advertising?  Can they not see that it’s not paying them back? The trouble is, whether we admit it or not, advertising does influence our behaviour because advertising does work!  Research over the last 50 years has shown this conclusively.

In the UK alone, £21.19 bn was spent by businesses advertising in 2016.  More than £10 bn of this was spent on online pay-per-click advertising, with other digital platforms are also starting to take sizeable market share. (Source)

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BUT advertising isn’t that simple – if it were, we’d never leave our local McDonalds based on the amount of advertising they do! The truth is that advertising lands the strongest punch when you’re already in the market – your memory of the advert then influences your buying decision. This is why Google pay-per-click advertising works so well (like it or not!) – the advert is only shown after a buyer types in a specific search term that indicates they might be looking for something that you can provide!

The Basic theory of advertising:

Advertising influences the behaviour of the prospect through repetition and emotional connection to the reader. Colours, images, fonts and, of course, the words and message used all make an advert work or fail. But so too does the location of the advert. It all contributes to advertising ‘catching the eye’ or not.

The elements of an advert:

The pitch! As soon as you have more than one advert for the same kind of service or produce, you get competition between the advertisers. They now need to start being clever and ‘pitching’ for your attention. The more desirable your product or service ‘appears’ the more enquiries you will receive.

in 1904, copywriter, John E. Kennedy, defined advertising as ‘salesmanship in print’. Salesmanship is best understood when you remember the AIDA definition:

Attention – Interest – Desire – Action

… with an advert having to achieve all four elements to be successful.

YET, there are plenty of adverts that don’t conform to this approach.  Instead, their aim is to build the recognition of a specific brand. Think of the adverts by McDonalds or Nike – they rarely promote a single, specific product.  More often, they promote an associated lifestyle or experience that you’ll get when you embrace their brand!

Back in the 1960’s, extensive research was done that proved that repeated advertising ‘nudged’ prospects towards choosing an advertised supplier over a non-advertised option. There have also been large scale studies that connect a businesses actual market share with the share of the advertising noise they have.

It’s actually all under the radar!

This ‘proof’ to argue for the question ‘does advertising work’ is all based around the approach of persistent and continuous advertising rather than placing a single advert. The advertiser’s argument is centred on influencing the buyer’s brain subconsciously through repetition.

Red Bull  have a great ‘subconscious’ advertising campaign.  They do ‘traditional’ media advertising, but a massive amount of their marketing spend goes to supporting extreme sport activities. Remember Felix Baumgartner, the guy who jumped out of a capsule on the edge of space and skydived back to earth. This one stunt cost Red Bull $30m (!!!) but the YouTube video showing this activity has been watched over 44 million times now!  Viewers often then click onto other Red Bull videos with over 2bn (yes, BILLION!!!) Red Bull videos watched to date!  The Red Bull YouTube channel has 8m subscribers – the most subscribed brand on YouTube!

Think about the location:

Finally, the ‘place’ you advertise is essential to your success (or not). If you take an average B2B supplier, they will find that advertising on Facebook (for instance) will rarely bring success. In this example, at least half of their prospective customers ARE using Facebook and can be targeted, but their ‘motivation’ to use Facebook is to be social.  They are not in ‘business-mode’ so they are likely to disregard ads that are business centric.  Indeed, advertising at the wrong time or in the wrong place can actively damage your reputation and brand.

For a B2B business to succeed with advertising, you need a location that is used by businesses when they’re in ‘business-mode’ (like Yorkshire Powerhouse!).

So – does advertising work?

Advertising clearly does work – businesses wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t. BUT, it’s definitely important to remember that all advertising should be strategic.  It should be in line with your business marketing plan.  It should focus on your customers needs.  It should have a consistent brand and message.  It should be repetitive.  It should be displayed on the correct media at the correct time.

If you’re looking to maximise your return on advertising then find an expert who can help you with your overall marketing strategy.

Yorkshire Powerhouse thoughts on ‘does advertising work’!

Now you’ve read our article on ‘why does advertising work’ – have you any more questions?

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