Is Advertising Misunderstood?

I was talking with a client the other day about his advertising campaigns when a very interesting comment came up. My client told me that one of his customers had said something along the lines of “Well, I guess I don’t need me to refer any business your way.  Looks like you’re doing pretty well based on all of the advertising I’m seeing.”

That led me to a thought. What is the purpose of advertising, and what should people think about it? I don’t mean big Coca-Cola or Target advertising campaigns. I’m talking about local businesses and organizations reaching out to their audiences via TV, radio, outdoor, and high visibility sponsorships. Why do they advertise?

  1. To grow their business. Through advertising, this happens a couple of different ways. First, advertising provides the ability to reach new audiences – audiences who may have never heard about the product or service. Second, advertising serves as a reminder to your existing customers, keeping you top of mind when the need arises, and giving them the confidence to refer their friends (despite what the customer above said!)
  2. To educate the public through a transition. A transition can take many shapes. It can be a new product that needs to be announced to the market. It could be a name change or a leadership change that the public needs to be made aware of (and build a comfort level with). Or maybe it’s a new location, or multiple locations, that would make access to the product or service easier.
  3. To gain support for a cause. Face it – who hasn’t cried through the Stray Rescue commercial with Randy Grim talking about Stracks? When you see an ad for an organization like Crisis Nursery, doesn’t it make you thankful the organization exists? Each child, dog and family served through this public awareness is a win. Each volunteer recruited, and every dollar raised is a win.

Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is that businesses and organizations use advertising (typically in combination with other tactics like PR, direct mail, web & social media, etc.) because they have something to say, they want large amounts of people to know about it, and they want those large amounts of people to act on it.

All that being said, the real question becomes … how do YOU react or respond to advertising? Has advertising ever been the initial spark which caused you to visit a business, use a product or service, or become a supporter of an organization? What was it that caught your attention? We’d love to hear your feedback!

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