Sunday, July 4, 2010

How's not advertising working for you?

Here's a business plan to experiment with. I pulled it off of the Name-On-Request School of Business website:

Step 1. Build a better product, one that the world needs.
Step 2. Keep it quiet.

Would one of you try this out and get back to me how it works?

Better still, I have a pertinent advertising anecdote (and believe me, I've got a million where this came from). Years ago I was working at an ad agency that was trying to help a regional Mexican fast-food chain increase their brand preference. There was a key member on the franchise advertising committee who, ironically, thought advertising was a waste of money. "We did a commercial once," he said, "Didn't work." We were tasked to persuade him.

So we drove out to one of his restaurants in Downtown Metropolitan Gresham to see if we could have a heart-to-heart with the guy. As we entered his store--which, I have to point out, was empty at lunch time--he jumped on us (not literally), "You're here to get me to vote for more advertising. Well, you're wasting your time. People don't need advertising to tell them we have better food than Taco Bell. It's just a fact."

He sneered at Taco Bell's empty and "cute" advertising campaign and complained that they didn't even use real meat in their tacos. He may have been right about the relative quality of his food, but nobody was ever going to know about it. "Because advertising doesn't work."

I couldn't resist pointing out the window to an actual Taco Bell that just happened to be across the street--and so crowded that cars were lined up to pull into the parking lot. "How's that working for you?"

(How often are you gifted with such vivid illustrative opportunities?)

Needless to say, the meeting did not go well. I drew two valuable lessons from it: 1) You have to advertise and you have to do it all out. There's no getting around it. 2) Don't be a smart ass with a client.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you're going to advertise (and you should if you're serious about growing or even staying in business), then do it big. Don't run one small space ad in a monthly trade one time and then act disappointed if you're not up there with Taco Bell in brand preference. Do it like you mean it.

Or maybe what I'm really trying to say is, there is no Name-On-Request School of Business website. That was a joke.

It was Harvard.


  1. Jeff, you're hilarious. And oh so right of course. Your old example is still a great tutorial for new marketers today -- Taco Bell's got it going on. I'm reading your missive on the heels of my 17 year old son's biting anaylsis of their current brand campaign on TV -- "it's not even about tacos Mom, this is fulfilling every guy's dream...attracting a good looking girl willing to follow you around carrying bacon."