An Uppercut from ’38

The W.E. Long Company (now just the LONG COMPANY www.thelongco.com/) used a newsletter to communicate in the 1930’s to their associates called THE ROUND TABLE. In a 1938 issue that happened across my desk this past week, an article was published “In Other Words…Pictures,” which talked about outdoor advertising being like a prize fight.

After reading it, I thought I’d review some of the highlights of this piece (if you are interested in a copy, drop me a note at http://intrln.com/contact). Because what they say about outdoor advertising, in fact, has unbelievable relevance in today’s age of electronic communications.

For example, the article pointed out that “a one-punch fighter might win in one round (but ‘meets himself coming back’ when the competitors ‘gang-up’ on him in the second round) or more often, miss completely and knock himself out. The best fighters win on points.”

This is the argument for frequency in advertising. While you can get a knockout with an award-winning campaign (for the WSJ best of 2011, go to http://goo.gl/lRf2P), how many Volkswagens were sold because of a little boy in a Darth Vader costume last year? Great brands go for advertising with frequency AND continuity. Or, as Thomas Denton wrote in the 1938 article, “Giving and taking, they (brands) carefully protect themselves from lasting injury…A top notcher piles up scores in every round.”

Let’s review some of the other tidbits Mr. Denton pointed out that make so much sense today (perhaps more than ever as we try to break through the clutter).

1. “Since the prospect is away from a phone, and away from a store, the outdoor advertising message must be remembered…must throw its punch in a flash – but it must be strong enough to make an impression.” Do you wonder about the growth of mobile (See Nielsen 3Q2011 Mobile Media Report at: http://goo.gl/hy0ew)? What Denton said about outdoor advertising is completely relevant about your website – especially now with the mobile apps. Even in print, where “they” say there is less clutter (have you seen a VOGUE magazine lately?), standing out takes frequency and continuity. When Denton says “the picture and copy line must be delivered with a real ‘sock,’ quickly, imperatively, definitely,” isn’t that true of any communication? To break through clutter, you have to be different – not just different for being difference sake – but truly unique. Little Vader is cute, but do sales rise because the force is with you – or him?

2. “Both the first round and the last round in the advertising battle are fought wherever the purchase is made.” And now you know the importance of today’s e-commerce websites, the first and final rounds of an increasing number of purchases (for a webinar on-site deployment of social tools and the impact on e-commerce sales by Lauren Freedman and Cathy Halligan, go to http://goo.gl/msnt3). But, what about the “considered” purchase? In B2B, the purchasing channel is populated with “value-chain participants” – people who have influence, but take a lot of time and have a lot to say on what is and is not purchased. Indeed, most manufacturers in B2B hesitate to open “stores” online, for fear of disturbing their distribution channels, which flock to the web for their storefronts!

This channel confusion complicates things, but shows the relevance of CONTENT, which is the “product” on any website, e-commerced or not! You never know WHERE someone is reading, or about what, and hence, CONTENT transactions occur. This begs the question: how good are your content transactions?

For example, one of our clients received a call from one of their successful sales representatives saying that they really needed to re-print the entire catalog. The problem was that we had just showed the pro forma showing that the entire catalog didn’t need to be reprinted: only one-third of it changed. Our strategy was to reprint the “parts,” and have the rep deliver that content into the customers’ offices. However, the representative told our client that there was no way he, or the other reps, would be going into customer offices and “updating” the catalog (blowing, by the way, a perfect sales call). This “content” was enough to convince the client to re-print the entire catalog – a significant investment.

The point of this story is that it depends on who you talk to, and you have to be talking to everyone these days! The fight is really unlimited rounds, last company standing! The rounds in between the first and last round of a fight in B2B are what drive business toward the eventual sale. Unfortunately, a company has to be everywhere, or as Denton put it: “The prospect may hear about your product through radio, read about it in the newspaper or magazine, be told about it or see outdoor posters, but the sale is made at none of these places.” Sound advice – because the website becomes, then, THE store! As a matter of fact, your website should be your single focus, with EVERYTHING driving people back to it!

3. “Store advertising isn’t easy to place. There are too many people trying to do the same thing.” For real stores, even today, Denton is right. But for the virtual store, the website, nothing is easier! In fact, there isn’t a week that goes by when we are not deluged by calls offering all manner of space opportunities on websites. The problem is: these websites are not selling anything, nor are they offering places to sell our clients’ products! They are “content hubs,” so they offer places to “message” an audience.

So here is the question: in today’s content-rich environment, why would a client believe that “shoppers” at any website “store” are more relevant than the shoppers at their own store (if they give them something to buy!). Let’s re-phrase Denton’s statement to: “Website advertising is easy to place. There are many people trying to do the same thing.” The question is: what are you going to do?

It’s funny how things don’t change, and yet they change so much!

For more thought leadership on this topic, or a copy of Thomas Denton’s 1938 article, contact Jim Nowakowski, President, Interline Creative Group, Inc. at 847 358 4848, or http://intrln.com/contact.

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