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Effective messaging: One step beyond conventional wisdom

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When it comes to effective messaging, marketers are taught the rules expressed by Brian D. Till and Donna Heckler in their book The Truth About Creating Brands People Love. Taglines, and really any messaging intended to change purchasing decisions and the minds of people in society, must be meaningful, memorable, and motivating. To the seasoned marketer, this should be obvious. People will remember concepts that compel them to act, they remember, and underscore some higher value in their life. This is common sense to those who practice the art of persuasion.

Or is there more? The answer is yes.

Today, people are bombarded with messaging. If it is not the television, it is a website, if not a website it is a billboard, if not a billboard it is the interruption of streaming music. It seems every where one goes there is a message waiting for them on the newest gadget, car, or soft drink.

What is the consumers’ response? To filter out such messages of course. As Marty Neumeier states in his book ZAG: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands, consumers have begun to block messaging that is not relevant to them, so advertisers broadcast their message louder. When advertisers get louder, consumers build more barriers to the messaging pushed upon them, and advertisers respond by becoming even louder. The result is what Neumeier calls the “advertising death spiral” and the result is not favorable to the consumer or the brand.

How can this be avoided? Obviously today’s marketing is becoming more and more an opt-in environment, people must be allowed to choose the messaging they want to hear and businesses looking to grow their markets and profits must seek out what people desire and then fulfill that demand. The days of creating a product and then telling people they need it are all but gone.

How does a business, though, create messaging that people will want to hear?

To take messaging beyond the elementary and obvious characteristics of being memorable, motivating, and meaningful, marketers must consider how to capture the perceptions of their target audience.

Exceptions are the engines of our perceptions.

When one looks into a field of green grass as far as their eye can see, do they see the blades of grass? No. What if amid that field of green there was one patch of red? Would anyone care to investigate the vast amounts of green, or would they wonder what in the world is up with the red patch?

Human nature is to investigate and consider the possibilities of the exceptions we perceive. As marketers, our messaging must, as best as possible, break the mold to be truly effective.

When Geico ran their caveman ads, people actually wanted to see them, so much so the ad concept was re-imagined into a TV series. Consider the effectiveness of such an ad; so entertaining that it motivated 13 half hour episodes that were, in effect, half hour ads that actually had potential to draw a profit.

Were these ads meaningful? No, not really. Were they motivating? No, not really. Were they memorable? Certainly, but one out of three is not very good.

So what did the Geico ads have that were so successful?

They were exceptions to the rule. Exceptions that caught the public’s attention, drew their perceptions, and paid huge dividends. To take marketing messaging to the next level in a world where the advertising death spiral is all too common, marketers must find exceptions to what is commonly perceived by their target audience and use this to build brand equity and recognition.

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