Leave the Sell to the Consumer

One thing I enjoy most about being in the marketing business is the opportunity to craft a well-designed campaign that will appeal to consumers who see/hear/interact with it. My whole approach to marketing is one of pure communication. I don’t try to sell products. I focus on finding a way to leave the client thinking about the benefits the product represents for her. If I can leave the consumer thinking, “I’d be an idiot not to buy this!” I’ve done my job.

People have easy access to a wide variety of products. Even in areas that seem limited, a wide variety of options, tastes, and benefits are offered.

Consider running shoes and sneakers for a moment. When I was a kid (not to date myself) sneakers were a great alternative to shoes. Softer, easier to run in, and better suited to the abuse I doled out, sneakers represented a certain carefree freedom. Today, the running shoe and sneaker industry is a multibillion-dollar affair. Sneakers are specially designed for running, walking, sprinting, standing, or sitting around. You’d think there would be a limit on the variation possible, yet new angles of attack are developed every day.

Sit down and really reflect on these different designs. Are the differences between styles really important enough to make a difference? Do your feet care? Can you run in a walking shoe and walk in a running shoe? Of course you can. The difference is you know an option’s available. It seems important you buy the best shoe for the task, even if it means owning multiple pairs.

All sneakers offer a certain level of comfort and utility. What makes any single sneaker design valuable are the benefits we associate with it and the emotions we project on those benefits.

When designing interactive campaigns, we must stop and consider the best ways to present those benefits to the consumer. Unlike print and TV ads that state or show the benefit of owning this product is X, Y, and Z, interactive ads can allow consumers to discover the benefits for themselves.

It’s been said the best way to change anyone’s opinion is to position new information in a way that makes a person believe he thought of it himself. The difference is like trying to hook a fish by jamming a hook in its mouth or providing some tasty bait floated within easy sight of the fish. In other words, make the fish discover and be attracted to the bait, and subsequently the hook, instead of trying to force the hook into the fish’s mouth.

As an example, let’s say you are working on a campaign to sell a new car. We’ve all seen thousands of car ads in our lifetimes. Most have a similar message to offer — the cars all look good; all perform great; and have extended warranties, great handling, and power V-6 engines while being super fuel efficient. But when all is said and done, the car is still just a vehicle whose purpose is to move us from one point to another. What really differentiates the cars from one another is the way owning any one of them will make the consumer feel.

Today we can choose “green” cars that help us feel good about lowering our personal impact on the environment; tough “real man” trucks that can haul heavy loads and travel to places ordinary “sissy” cars can’t touch; sleek and sexy “date bait” cars that (hopefully) get you noticed by the right people; expensive luxury cars that tell the world “you’ve arrived”; and sensible sedans that were good enough for your dad and are good enough for you. The only thing really separating these vehicles (aside from monthly payments) is the emotional appeal of each to people who buy them.

In an interactive format, we can present information that supports the benefits of any vehicle and allow the consumer to discover the information. Say you’re marketing a new, fuel-efficient vehicle. Traditionally, we might present this model as saving fuel and money compared to others. By offering an interactive calculator that allows the consumer to enter the number of miles she drives each year, the ad can generate a dollar figure that “proves” owning this new car will save hundreds of dollars at the pump. The consumer can create her own justification for buying the fuel-efficient car. She needn’t rely solely on the advertiser’s say-so.

Marketing a high-performance car or truck interactively allows the consumer to click on the engine compartment and see an expanded view of the engine and features that make it great. Again, the consumer discovers the information of interest to him and uses it as part of the decision-making process.

Use interactive ads beyond the show-and-tell approach most online advertising currently uses. Create ways in which ads can allow consumers to sell to themselves. If done right, you can leave the hard sell up to consumers. Focus instead on where to put the information they want to find.

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