While most copywriters have avidly studied Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising, very few have even heard of Theodore MacManus, let alone read his book, The Sword Arm of Business. And yet MacManus was, in some ways, a more successful ad man, having:
- Established his own (very successful) ad agency
- Launched the Dodge and Chrysler brands
- Hired and mentored Leo Burnett, creator of the Marlboro Man, Tony the Tiger, Pillsbury Doughboy, and many other advertising icons that made his clients rich
- Turned positioning into a fine art form half a century before Ries and Trout even coined the term.
- Helped establish Cadillac’s pre-eminence among early automotive marks
- Wrote “The greatest ad of all time,” as voted in 1949 – an ad still listed in the top 50 of Ad Ages Top 100 Advertising Campaigns.
Interesting, but why should you care? Because MacManus’s – and by extension Burnett’s – approach was the yin to Hopkins’ yang, and because MacManus’s approach still works today.
And what was that approach?
In a word, it was to position the client while dethroning competitors in the minds’ of the audience. He wanted to create, in the mind of the public, a deep-seated prejudice towards his client’s brand.
If, in the words of the legendary Gary Halbert, the biggest key to success is to sell to a starving crowd, then MacManus aimed to persuade the consumer that only his client’s product would fully cure their hunger, and then wait for the more-cheaply-persuaded and much larger mass audience to get hungry as their individual circumstances dictated. This would be in contrast to targeting only hungry people and then selling to them via direct mail.
And so the two poles of advertising continue on to this day, as is clearly seen in the following comments by an extraordinarily successful brand builder, Chris Maddock. Chris was responding to my request for his opinion on Google’s recent attempt to track the effect of offline advertising upon online sales/conversions. Here’s what he had to say:
I think Google’s traditional ad analytics are interesting, sexy, and certainly useful on some level. But I think the program could also be dangerous, in that it could give some folks faulty impressions of what is actually happening – or what is right – because it assumes advertisers know things they probably don’t.
Let’s say a local hardware store runs some print ads, and compares the online response to another time they’ve run radio ads. If the print ads were for a short term offer, and the radio ad of a more institutional bent, the print ad could drive more traffic to the website and have the hardware store owner thinking that print’s the ticket. The reality in such a situation is that the print advertising is impressing and motivating a tiny, albeit palpable, percentage of the market to respond and go the the website, while the time-sensitive nature of the offer makes the advertising all but invisible to the bulk of the market. On the other hand the radio advertising is likely creating greater long-term top of mind awareness, yet probably not motivating as many to go the website. Mr. Hardware likely thinks that the radio campaign was less effective, when in fact most category dominant businesses are those that eschew short-term sales, offers, promotions and the advertising tools that make them work, while leaning on intrusive media such as radio and television to push long-term awareness. Over time, radio could likely drive many more visitors to the website – visitors who will likely buy.
So my worry is admittedly Hamiltonian. Years of interaction with average business owners and traditional ad people has revealed a startling blindness to things like buying cycles, differences in long and short-term strategy, and proper media selection.
So these new Google analytics are cool. I just hope the good people using them understand what they’re trying to make happen, and what the numbers returned really mean.
Do you see how Chris picks up the standard of Theodore McManus, Leo Burnett, and Roy Williams? Although I think it is possible to intelligently and rigorously compare media, I can’t help but agree with Chris’s larger point. Creating a prejudice in the mind of the customer before they’re hungry is often a more effective strategy than trying to only target hungry customers.* But it requires a longer time horizon. So if you are only measuring on the short term, you’ll likely come to the opposite conclusion and then deem your position to be “scientific.” It’s a perfect example of one of the deadly sins of Web Analytics.
So what’s your time horizon? And have you implemented a measuring/analytics system that will enable you to measure accordingly?
* To be fair, there are certainly also times when it pays to directly target hungry customers, rather than engage in a lengthier branding campaign. I’m not necessarily advocating one over the other; I’m arguing that you shouldn’t base your decision on skewed metrics.