Why don't my ads work?

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Why is advertising so hit and miss?
Why do so many marketing campaigns miss the mark?

It’s not for a lack of talent – there are more gifted ad creatives, marketers and social media-ites in the world than you can poke a stick at. The problem comes down to a lack of strategy, or a misalignment of strategy. Or as the old saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”

If the company that owns the brand can’t explain what their brand stands for, or what genuinely makes it unique and compelling, then their agency is stuffed before they even begin.

What tends to happen in this situation is that the agency invents a compelling argument, even if it doesn’t align with the brand they are promoting. The outcome is often an entertaining creative concept that wins awards, but does nothing to engage the brand its audience.

So who’s at fault here?

The Company is – because it’s their responsibility to understand the Purpose of their brand, and to communicate that Purpose to everyone they work with – their team, their customers, and all their suppliers and agencies. But up until now that hasn’t been a priority.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a creative agency tell me that their client couldn’t or wouldn’t explain what their brand stood for, I’d have at least $18.50 by now!

“That’s your job,” the client would say, “just get on and create something that will sell my products.”

Unfortunately that’s just about the worst thing you can say to an agency, because they will do their best to develop and/or promote your brand in a strategic vacuum. The result is what I call ‘The Agency Pollution Effect.’ The agency unwittingly pollutes your brand with a random set of values and attributes that simply don’t exist. The idea they come back to you with may look amazingly creative and engaging, but it won’t connect your audience to your brand – it will only connect them to the creative idea. The result is that they remember the campaign, but forget the brand.

And that’s a huge waste of your money.

So what’s the solution?

As the CEO / MD / Owner of the business, it’s essential to get clear about what your company / brand stands for (it’s Purpose and Mission).

That means answering questions like:

What’s the Purpose, beyond making money, of your brand?
What is it here to do for people?
What does it stand for?
What does it stand against?
What will it do for its customers (that others won’t)?
How will it genuinely help them and/or make a difference to their lives?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a creative agency has all the answers when it comes to promoting your brand. They don’t - not without first knowing the Purpose of your brand. Give them that, and they can do their job of making your brand look enticing, special, and 'must have' to the right audience.


Justin Cooper