avoid falling for marketing myths

Alright, for those who just want to see the list up-front, here are the 7 myths:

  1. Digital can replace mass media

  2. “_____is Dead”

  3. “____ Changes Everything”

  4. Ads Should be 100% Trackable

  5. Customers Always Maximize Their Purchase

  6. You Need to “Go Viral”

  7. Shit + 1 = Success

And here’s why they’re not only false but dangerous to your advertising, even if you aren’t currently falling for them.

1) Digital Can Replace Mass Media

Digital can be a powerful tool, but it can’t do what mass media muscle can do.

Especially in terms of exposing mass audiences with sufficient frequency and reach to efficiently brand a company over time.

And that goes double for ugly duckling industries for whom “interruption marketing” is a must.

And even if you’re not substituting digital for mass media, you’ll likely be tempted to over-spend time, budget, and attention chasing digital bright shiny objects.

Even clients doubling their business still want to “boost results” even more — and there’s always an overhyped digital something eager to exploit those hopes.

Moreover, digital weasels commonly use “last touch” metrics to take credit for your mass media campaign’s persuasion and then push for more budget as justified by that “success.”

2)_____is Dead

Doesn’t matter the blank in question, whether it’s the 30-second TV spot, radio, direct mail, etc. — it’s a bullshit pronouncement that can cause you to exclude that media from serious analysis.

All across the US there are companies getting fantastic results from each of those so-called “dead” media.

And the more “everyone” overlooks an ostensibly “dead” media, the more likely you are to negotiate better rates.

So how does this myth hurt you even when you’re not falling for it?

When it comes time to add to your primary mass media choice, you’ll once again be tempted to overlook some other supposedly “dead” media.

3) _____ Changes Everything

The reverse image of “_____ is Dead.”

Unless X fundamentally changes human nature or basic economics, its changes will be relatively superficial.

And the danger isn’t that you’ll believe this or that bright shiny marketing object will “change everything.”

The danger is you’ll be subtly tempted into paying more attention to technology and tactics than to strategy.

Spend your time thinking more about what won’t change than what will, and you’ll have greater success because of it.

4) Ads should be 100% Trackable

You cannot “track” changes in audience perception of your brand in anything resembling objective, real-time metrics.

And therein lies the rub:

Investing in branding is crucial to the long-term success of your company, yet you can’t “track” the results like you’d want, or may even be told you should.

That doesn’t mean you’re branding ads shouldn’t be held to account for delivering increased sales and market share.

It does mean you’ll have to look for results in half-year and yearly increments rather than month-to-month.

Sure, there are certainly early-stage indicators of success during that first year, but they’re indicators, not metrics.

And even if you’ve resisted this myth, it’s always a temptation to look to your mass media ads to provide measurable responses anytime you run a sales activation ad.

Hey, our tune-up ad isn’t driving as many tune-up sales as I hoped!”

OK, but if that tune-up ad was written properly, it’s still doing deep branding work that’ll pay off in the mid-to-near future.

Understand that the most powerful advertising won’t bear fruit until further down the road, making tracking with 100% certainty nearly impossible.

5) Customers Always Maximize Purchases

When’s the last time you did intense research and comparison of all your options to get the very best value possible?

Perhaps once in the last month? Likely for a big ticket item or equipment for a passion & hobby?

The other 99% of your purchases weren’t maximized; they were satisficed.

You bought a good-enough solution that got you the result you needed with minimal hassle.

The less “sexy” your industry, the more satisficed vs. maximized.

Fortunately, there are upsides to being satisficed.

For one, you can advertise as a “Positively Good” solution to your customers’ needs, rather than competing on price or offering a “Unique Selling Proposition.”

For another, ranking #1 in the search engine of your customers mind, is more important than ranking on Google.

‘Cause if customers think of you first and feel the best about you when they need what you sell, you become the go-to solution when it’s time to satisfice their purchase.

But even if you are using a “positively good” advertising strategy, the myth that people are maximizing their purchase can hurt you when it comes to pricing and short term offers.

Even smart brands can get sucked into mentally competing with lower priced competitors or mis-using reason-why messaging when “maximizing” thinking slips into their mental models.

6) You Need to Go Viral

Viral is a stupid term that means your ad is entertaining enough for people to willingly share it with others.

You ad spreads “virally” from person to person, rather than requiring mass media.

Great when it happens, but it’s not only not necessary, it’s a distraction.

Has anybody ever shared a Tony the Tiger ad with you?

Yet you know exactly who he is and his famous catchphrase, right?

More importantly, you’ll likely buy his brand of cornflakes over any other.

Your advertising doesn’t need to be good enough to share.

It does need to be high enough impact to enable the Sleeper Effect.

But the rest can be done with repetition over time, rather than sheer entertainment factor or “going viral.”

End even if you’re not consciously striving to go viral, this kind of thinking can cause you to over-spend on one-off stunts, production, or Hail-Mary-Super-Bowl ads rather than investing in sufficient frequency required to drive a message home.

It can also tempt you into a “snappy gags and chatter” style of advertising in an attempt to increase the entertainment factor of your ads.

7) Shit + 1 = Success

You’re in trouble if you ever catch yourself thinking:

“At least it’s better than most of the other ads out there.”

Yes, 97% of radio ads and local TV ads are shit.

But, no, being slightly better than shit — i.e., “Shit + 1” — won’t get you where you need to go.

No, your ads don’t need to go viral. But they do need to be high impact enough to gain attention from the audience and get talked about.

If no one ever mentions hearing your ads to you, or they don’t ever repeat key phrases, brandable chunks, or earworms from your ads back to you, you should seriously re-evaluate your advertising strategy and creative quality.

And these indicators are especially important when you’re within the first year’s launch of a branding campaign

Following the Zeitgeist is Easy. Good Branding Is Hard.

If you routinely read this blog, you probably aren’t “falling for” any of these 7 Myths.

But chances are your thinking might still be slightly warped by them. Because it’s difficult to break out of the mainstream thinking about marketing and advertising.

If you’d like help clarifying and improving your branding and brand-thinking, I’m happy to help.