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June 28, 2006

Advertising’s Little Blue Book

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Someone from somewhere at some recent time sent me a copy of THE LITTLE BLUE BOOK OF ADVERTISING. Readers of this blog know my marketing mindset is along the lines of spending marketing dollars to make a customer’s experience better and not necessarily spending dollars to make the advertising better. So yeah, I read this book with a grain of salt the size of a salt lick.

The authors, Steve Lance and Jeff Wool, are long-time ad guys and in the book, they share 52 tips they’ve learned over the years working in the advertising game.

It’s an easy read (albeit choppy at times) with some brilliant and banal insights including ...


”You don’t have to be a billion-dollar brand to do quantitative and qualitative research. It’s as simple as asking everyone who comes into your store (and keeping all the data for analysis) ‘how did you hear about us?’ (quantitative research) and ‘what made you stop in?’ (qualitative research).” (p. 22)

>> You’ll be hard-pressed to demystify the notion that small businesses can’t do customer research better than that.


”Not knowing where you want to take your company/brand—realistically—is management malpractice at its worst. It’s a virtual guarantee for financial failure.” (p.59)

>> Okay, this nugget might not be brilliant but the marketing doctor in me thought the use of “malpractice” in a marketing context was brilliant.


”Take a look at your advertising and marketing plan. Not the budget, the plan. And not the media plan, either. We’re talking about a written plan that says (in effect), ‘We’re going to do X in order to achieve Y and this is how we’ll do it in Z time frame.’” (p. 66)

>> I’ll gladly borrow that X-Y-Z line when talking with small business clients about how to simply (and surely) develop an actionable marketing plan.


”Where do you want [your business] to go? The answer’s simple: you want to go where your best customers are and where they’re headed. Ideally, you want to get there a little before them. Research provides the best opportunity to understand where that is.” (p. 75)

>> Again, Steve and Jeff use real words with real meaning to explain how customer research can help companies set forth a vision for the business. Nice.


”The fact is, an ad that talks about how great a company is, is an easy ad to sell internally. Your boss likes it because he knows it’s going to please his boss. His boss likes it because he knows it’s going to please the president. The president of the company is thrilled that you’ve put in writing how good your company is. And everyone gets to go home at 5PM.” (p. 93)

>> Yep … that explanation sums up why we tend to see so many hubris-heavy marketing messages from companies. Makes complete sense to me. I saw this happen repeatedly during my days working inside Starbucks.


”To get the best and freshest work from your people, follow the advice of an art director we know, “Stay in the area of the problem, not the area of the solution.” (p. 113)

>> Not sure I totally know what that line means but I’m sure to chew on it until I do. There’s something powerful in their advice of spending mind-time in the area of the problem and not the solution.


”Steve had a boss who taught him the true art of hall walking: ‘Walk the halls at 7 PM; it’ll take you to the problem every time.’ His theory was that the people who were still there at that time were either a) the dedicated employees staying late to clean up someone’s mess or b) the problem employees who were overwhelmed and couldn’t manage their jobs. Either way, the conversations he would have with the 7 PM people would often reveal the organizational issues.” (p.121)

>> Sure, that’s a total riff off Tom Peters’ MBWA (management by walking around) concept. But there is brilliance in the idea of roaming the hallways at 7PM on a workday to discover what problems are taking too much time of employees.



"In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In marketing, it’s brand, brand, brand. Start diluting it and you’ll wake up one day with a name that means . . . nothing." (p. 35)

>> It’s become tired and trite to play the BRAND IS EVERYTHING card. Think about every endearing and enduring business you admire. (For me that’s … Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, Google, Chipotle, Pei Wei, Container Store, Trader Joe’s, Lexus, In-N-Out Burger, Jones Soda, Apple, etc.) How many of them were built on brand advertising and how many of them were built on being a better business? You cannot create a brand before you create a business—the process is simultaneous. As you build your business, you create your brand. Dig?


”If your product’s the same, then turn to the research and marketing people. What’s the unique selling proposition they can come up with that will set your product apart from the competition?” (p. 100)

>> Oh my! Let’s stay in the area of the problem and not the area of the solution. The solution for a non-compelling product is NOT to offer creative selling propositions. That’s band-aid marketing at its best (and worst). The long-lasting solution here is to address the root cause of the problem and spend marketing dollars to make the product more compelling and not to make the selling proposition more compelling.


”Its repetition, repetition, repetition that makes your advertising memorable and successful. (p. 163)

>> This “Tell’em, Sell’em, and Tell’em Again” angle is classic jurassic advertising thought. Remarkability/Fanaticism in many ways has replaced the classic jurassic advertising approach of Reach/Frequency.


“The Internet (in case you didn’t know it) is just print delivered on a different platform.” (p. 175)

>> Really? And a laptop is just a typewriter delivered on a different platform.


”SALE! Don’t ever hide that word. Some people say it’s the most powerful word in the English language. We’re not sure about that, but it’s definitely in our Top 10.” (p. 193)

>> Paraphrasing Seth Godin from PURPLE COW … a marketer that relies on low price marketing strategies is a marketer who is out of ideas. This marketer believes the word ‘SALE’ has lost its salience.


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» On the Art of Hall Walking from Mock Turtle Soup
Steve (not me) had a boss who taught him the true art of hall walking: Walk the halls at 7 PM; itll take you to the problem every time. His theory was that the people who were still there at... [Read More]

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Comments

You inspired me to pre-order this book. Conventional wisdom is nothing if not unwise. Sounds like these authors have a style that might clear up the fog.

“The Internet (in case you didn’t know it) is just print delivered on a different platform.” (p. 175)

Holy-unpurple-Cow!

I can't believe any marketer would make that claim... not even Jack Trout. It's that thinking that has brought us pop-up ads and other interruption marketing on the Internet.

Hard to believe the same minds came up with...

”To get the best and freshest work from your people, follow the advice of an art director we know, “Stay in the area of the problem, not the area of the solution.” (p. 113)

Nice post. Thanks.
(I'll also borrow the XYZ line)

“The Internet (in case you didn’t know it) is just print delivered on a different platform.”

Wow. I know that this will be a statement that draws A LOT of ire.

What a load of crap! Well, at least this statement was true 10 years ago, but now if your Internet presence is tantamount to "print on a different platform," you are dead. Today's Internet is about participation, pure and simple.

John: Usually I only comment here when I disagree with you. Today, I agree with all your calls. The brilliant stuff you quote is all pretty durn good, and the banal is pretty durn bad.

(Except that repetition does still work; not by itself, of course, and not in place of all the great things you preace. But the facts don't lie; frequency is still a big, big seller of hot dogs)

Repetition, I feel, will always be important. Our brains are built to learn by repetition, and in these times of info glut, I think its power will remain as a force to elevate messages above the internal noise twixt our ears. Other than that, I'm nodding like a bobblehead at the rest of the post.

Great review - and deservedly so. Agree with the banality and stupidity of the statement "the Internet is just print delivered on a different platform." That's the problem with long book lead times. Correct statement should have been "Web 1.0 was just print delivered on a different platform." Web 2.0 is a whole other animal and we're jazzed about the possibilities of a brand new medium.

Steve (co-author) Lance

"In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In marketing, it’s brand, brand, brand. Start diluting it and you’ll wake up one day with a name that means . . . nothing." (p. 35)

I am having this exact same discussion with a colleague - and the counter arguement (which I just can't wrap my brain around) seems to be that 'being a better business creates the publicity that builds the brand. Once the newness of the story wears off, and publicity cools down, brand awareness advertising is required.'

But the last time I looked, Starbucks was allocating about 2% of revenue for marketing/promotion - right? And there really isn't anything new about Starbucks, is there?

Isn't it all about the experience for the firms you listed? Failure to consistently deliver a valuable experience for your target audience can't overcome the most expensive of brand ad campaigns.

I guess I am old fashioned. Create a unique, valuable solution to a real need/problem (positioning) is key. Then, consistent delivery of that solution (culture) makes the business a winner.

“The Internet (in case you didn’t know it) is just print delivered on a different platform.”

This statement is enough for me to stay away from this book completely. This wasn't even true for Web 1.0. This has never been true. I love the laptop/typewriter analogy. Here is more fun along these lines:

Movies are just plays delivered on a different platform.

TV is just radio delivered on a different platform.

Radio is just morse code delivered on a different platform.

Email is just a telegram delivered on a different platform.

Electricity is just lightning delivered on a different platform.

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