Saturday, May 19, 2007

Advertising and My Attention

The world and how we interact with it has changed dramatically in the last few years, and advertising has to change too. Businesses are very slow to change and continue to throw their ad dollars away.

One of the biggest wastes of advertising dollars is yellow pages. You know what I do with the phone book they plop on my porch? I pick it up and take it directly to the recycling bin. I never open it. That $50,000 you just spent to get the back cover ad - wasted. I never saw it, unless it happened to land back side up in the paper recycling bin and I caught a glimpse of it before I dumped the Fingerhut catalog, which I also never look at, on top of it. Just because I buy things through catalogs on occasion does not mean I will buy something from your catalog.

You may be thinking - but where do you get phone numbers? Online, of course. And if you're hard to find online I'll just call your competitor. And, by the way, I want it now. If I have to order it, I'll just order it online instead of having you do it for me. So how could you get me interested in your phone book? If it were digital and would easily dump into my PDA. Then you could get my attention. Or, if you were giving me a list of cell numbers instead of land lines. I call very few people on their land lines. I have one and never even answer it. I should just have it disconnected, I just never seem to get around to doing it.

Of course, you could argue that I'm not your customer, and that may be true. But I am a person with some income, with which I purchase goods and services, so I'm someone's customer. But you're going to have to be a little more savvy if you want me to be yours.

The trick is to figure out how to get to me. Where do I put my attention? Well, generally places where you can't find me easily. I listen to radio, but I also listen to podcasts. I read news online. I do watch some television, but I'm a button pusher - changing channels or fast forwarding. I read magazines and that's probably one of the best mainstream ways to get to me. To top it off, magazines are very niche marketed.

That's the reason they often ask what magazines you subscribe to - it says something about who you are. If you're reading sports magazines or decorating magazines or science magazines it all says something about who you are and what you're about. I suppose I could do marketers a favor and share the list of what I subscribe to here, but I don't know that I'm feeling that generous.

Oh, what the heck - it's the weekend - let me see if I can remember them all... in no particular order:
Mary Englebreit's Home Companion
Martha Stewart Living
Oprah's O Magazine
Cottage Living
Midwest Living
Scientific American Mind
National Geographic Adventure
The Crisis (NAACP Magazine)
Sierra Club Magazine
AAA Magazine
Smart Money
Taste of Home
This Old House

Others I subscribe to off and on:
House Beautiful
Country Living
Southern Living
New Yorker
National Geographic
Travel and Leisure
Bon Appetit

OK, so, what do you know about me now? Well, it's obvious I'm not a sports fan. I did one time have a subscription to Golf Digest but it was a computer error. You can tell I'm not into cars, although at the same time I had a subscription to Road and Track - also a computer error. I had a bf at the time who took those off my hands.

But, you can probably deduce that I am into my house, that I have some interest in cooking, decorating and travel. You probably have a sense of my politics to some degree. You might also figure that I'm into investing because of Smart Money. That would not be true. I'm trying to make myself think it's fun, though. Elle is also an anomaly - I got a great deal on it and thought I'd see what it was like. There are some interesting articles in there, but they're surrounded by so much shallow crap it's hard to find them. Even if I had their bodies, I wouldn't dress myself like Lindsey and Paris, I have better taste.You might also guess I'm interested in science and news, which is true.

Truth be told I got a great deal on Time, or I wouldn't be subscribing to it. I do enjoy it, but it's overpriced. Especially these days when magazines make their money from advertising - they could give away the product, but they need the subscription numbers so they can charge more for the advertising. That's why you can get magazines for about $1 each by subscription - or often far less. You're part of the numbers game.

So, the big question is how do you get to me, or others like me? If you send me text messages you just piss me off, and the same with email spam. If you call me on my home phone, which you shouldn't do because I'm on the no-call list, I'll be even more pissed off. If you call me on my cell phone, I'll be beyond pissed. The message? Don't involve the phone in selling me something - it pisses me off. The phone is reserved for my friends and family.

How about the mail? You might have better luck with me that way, but let me just say that I have a shredder and a recycling bin within arms reach when I open the mail. And if you're just sending me a paper bill - that will piss me off too - I'm paying it automatically or online anyway so why are you cluttering my mail box? You're wasting paper, killing trees, harming the environment, spending the money I'm paying you wastefully by buying postage and paper, not to mention the manpower involved. All it tells me when you send me paper there's no reason to send is that you are out of touch with the modern world and likely to be gone in a few years. I might as well cast my lot with another company that's more on top of things.

I spend a lot of time online, but rarely do I pay any attention to online ads with the exception of Google ads on people's pages, which are generally very targeted to content. I read blogs and if someone I read regularly writes about a product in a genuine way - not a blog whore way - I am likely to pay attention. It's the modern equivalent of word of mouth advertising, which we all know is the most effective.

You might get to me with POP - that's "point of purchase" for those of you whose minds are not littered with advertising terms. That means those cool in-store displays, where they're encouraging you to try their crackers because some celebrity I've probably not heard of has their head on a cutout. If you have a NASCAR person on your display I'm not even going to look at your product because you've already told me it's not something I'm interested in by your choice of spokesperson. Put a nice grand motherly type up there holding a plate of crackers and I might give it a second look.

If you say something on the packaging that impresses me I might try your product. I'm what's called an "innovator" and an "early adopter," which makes advertising people drool. The terms came from a book in the 60s where a guy named Rogers wrote about the "diffusion of innovation." It's often used to apply to technology now, but the terms can be used in any field.

What it means for advertising is that I'm the kind of person who will buy something and try it out, even if I've never heard anything about it before. This is very, very, very exciting to people who are paid to introduce new products. After I try it out, I'll tell others about it. This makes advertisers drool even more.

The trick is, you have to get my attention, and therein lies the rub. Like everything, the population is spread out over a bell curve. There are very few innovators, a few more early adopters, but they are the left edge of the bell curve that the five categories spread out over and we're rare - even put together we're a smaller segment of the population than any of the other three categories.

How else do you get my attention? Well, an oldie but a goodie - you put your message where I'm likely to go and see it. Flyers in a store I frequent will get my attention. Tent cards in a restaurant I go to will be something I see. Well placed online advertising will get me. Someone telling me about it will do the trick - particularly if it's email or some other medium I'm using every day.

I'm thinking about this more and more, because I know that so many of the traditional ways to reach people don't reach me most of the time. And I know there are lots of people like me out there. So, I'm trying to figure out how I would advertise to myself. It's an interesting exercise. I recommend it as a process. Please share your thoughts as I'm trying to gather information.


kenc said...

Patsy, Patsy, Patsy. Yellow Pages advertising is a waste of money?? You are kidding right??

US adults referenced them over 15 billion times last year. And that’s just the print versions. 90% of all adults reference them at least once a year, 75% in a typical month, and 50+% on average month. How about on average 1.4X each week? And let’s remember that not everyone has Internet access to reference those websites you are talking about.

There is no other directional media that can provide buyers the information they need when they need it about local businesses than the print Yellow Pages. It is truly the original local search engine….

And that same Yellow Pages sales rep also has a complete portfolio of local search and Internet based products that they can help you with.

Patsy Terrell said...

Well, there you go... Obviously, it is helpful to some people - just not to me.

I've never had my phone company offer to give me the phone book in a searchable database. That would be incredibly useful. It would be far more useful if you'd ask people if they want to list their cell number as well.

If I could just load it on the computer for direct hard drive access, and carry it in my PDA, I'd be more excited.

How can everyone else be using something 1 1/2 times a week that I don't even have in my house? How can I be living without it?

I realize not everyone has net access. And I realize not everyone who has access is on high speed. But it's a smaller and smaller percentage.

My point is that we have to advance beyond these "old fashioned" ideas - that businesses are going to lose customers if they don't.

I think that 10% that's not using them will grow. But I could be wrong. I guess time will tell.

Thanks for reading and writing.