british advertising

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A life lesson I’ve learned that is quite profound and one I have tried to share, especially with my kids, is that “asking for help” is a very human and important behavior.  I’m not talking about the “could you pick up my dry cleaning?” help, I’m talking about real help. More of the desperation variety; the kind where you must let your guard down and share fallibility. A student about to fail. A mortgage in need of payment. An anxiety in need of treatment.

When a person asks another for real help most people will give it. It’s who we are having crawled out of the primordial soup. The Inuit people have 8 or 20 words for snow, we only have one for help. Sadly, the word has become watered down.

In marketing and brand positioning, the better practitioners are “you” focused not “me” focused; consumer focused rather than product focused. And that’s good. But bazillions of dollars are spent trying to convince consumers our products can “help” them. You’ve heard of a pity-fest? Well, much advertising today is a help-fest. I love the Brits for their advertising. It’s often a bit out there, but tends to work better than ours in the U.S. Why? Because they aren’t always trying to help. They share value. Imply value. Identify with people in their quest for better life experiences. But they don’t go all mother-in-law on you with help.

If you have a product that really helps, with a capital H, then sell as such. Little “h” help, however, is not really, well, helping. Peace.

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Here’s what marketers can learn from teachers…good teachers, that is.  Much selling these days, especially of the B2B variety, is done via PowerPoint. On average, it is done in 18 slides, anywhere from 12-60 words per slide, one or two pictures – and a flow that would make music bed blush. That’s how marketers and salespeople roll.

Teachers on the other hand, face a room filled with 22+ kids, all of whom have different IQs, learning styles and attention levels.  Good teachers assess the entire room of kids and create learning experiences to meet all of their needs. Poor teachers teach to the middle, to the median.

What marketers can learn from good teachers is sensitivity to the individuals, not the median audience. Using that sensitivity, born of bi-directional interaction, they can provide instructive, discovery-based selling scenarios. Make everyone in the audience feel smart, by allowing them to deduce and conclude. (And I’m not talking about the “solution selling” pop marketing approach of last decade, “Tell me about your pain points”.)

Ads can’t really take this individualized approach; they have to work for the whole classroom. That said, Brits do good job in this area with their ad craft. Everything is not served up rote.  Selling requires some brain work.

Now, I wonder what teachers can learn from marketers. Hmmm. Peace.


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