The Image GroupThe Image Group

By The Image Group

QUESTION: Is advertising expensive?
ANSWER: Only when it doesn’t work.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that most companies take criticism of their marketing initiatives personally. People know what they like and, as it turns out, they really like their own creativity. Badmouthing someone’s marketing materials is akin to disparaging a person’s kids.

Truth is, there are right ways and wrong ways to do marketing. But knowing how sensitive humans are to negative feedback, most advisors are reluctant to offer constructive criticism. But marketers are different. Marketing people tend to be results oriented, and we’re likely to be blunt when telling you what will and won’t generate the results you’re seeking.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 Things Only A Marketer Will Tell You.

10. You don’t have enough followers to make social media worth your time. Marketing and social media are made for each other. If you’re not targeting customers through social media, you’re missing a fast and continuously growing advertising audience. But the effort required to develop a constant supply of fresh and relevant content will pay small dividends when you only have a couple dozen followers on Facebook or Twitter. For that reason, whenever customers ask us to help them engage people via social media posts, we suggest they first strive to build a larger follower base.

9. Get over the “call to action.” One school of marketing thought argues that every advertisement should include a call to action. Without directives to “visit our website” or “schedule your free demonstration today,” that line of reasoning asks, what are we hoping to gain from placing ads? Well, before you get too pushy with your audience, consider how the largest advertisers spend their marketing budgets. For example, flip through the first twenty or so pages in your favorite fashion magazine and see how many calls to action you can find among the elegant high-priced ads. Undoubtedly, there’s few if any. Instead, you’re likely to see a beautifully photographed model, posing in a coveted lifestyle environment, with the advertiser’s name as the only text. You see, marketing is intended to establish emotional connections with consumers. Indeed, you’ll make more emotional connections with concepts than you will with commands.

8. Your spokesperson has stopped being effective (and your mascot is creepy). If you could convince Taylor Swift to pitch your products to today’s teenaged females, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a better way to use your marketing dollars. But it’s likely that Ms. Swift’s sway over teenagers will diminish somewhat with each passing decade. Why, then, do some companies insist on using the same product spokesperson forever? Spokespeople should come with an expiration date (talk about expiring: KFC recently revived its deceased colonel in its ads – what?). While it’s true that older adults respond well to celebrity endorsements, clinging too long to one spokesperson makes your brand appear stale, and increases the risk of being linked to any unpleasant publicity associated with the spokesperson. Oh, and unless you’re selling cereal to young children, please give your mascot a rest.

7. That jingle is really annoying. There are only two reasons for having a marketing jingle: one is brilliant and the other is inane. First, if you are selling consumer goods in a marketplace crowded with similar products, a rhyming jingle can help you build name recognition. Remembering the lyrics, “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup,” comes in handy for buyers facing three-dozen brands in the coffee isle. But the secret is in the rhyme, so you can achieve the same effect with a tagline (“Don’t get mad! Get Glad!). The other reason to feature a jingle is to give your television and radio ads a low-budget, unprofessional feel. And that’s just silly.

6. We’ve all seen that stock photo before. Look, most of us can ill afford to hire the likes of an Annie Leibovitz to shoot photos for our collateral. Fortunately for us, sites such as and make high-resolution photos available at relatively inexpensive prices. Stock photo sites have thousands of options from which to choose, so why use the same photo everyone else is using? That wholesome family of four, smiling at the camera and wearing 1990s clothing, makes for a nice image until the exact picture pops up in another company’s ad. Spending time playing with each photo sites’ advanced search features helps locate images that are especially well suited for your needs, while improving the odds that your stock photos will appear unique.

5. You don’t write as well as you might think. Our in-house copywriter made us include this one. You know the type: keeps a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition, of course) next to his keyboard. As a matter of fact, good writing is critical to good marketing. It’s important to know the difference between there, their, and they’re, when to spell out a number in words, and whether or not to use a serial comma (obviously, we prefer it). Poor writing can negatively influence the perception of your marketing materials, as well as the perception of your company overall. Granted, most people never notice that something is written well. However, many people do notice when it’s written poorly. So, please, appease our copywriter by paying closer attention to this detail.

4. Your inexpensive neighbor the “designer” is a hack. Everyone, it seems, knows an up-and-coming or soon-to-graduate graphics designer. Not surprisingly, all those budding designers are less expensive than the experienced professionals agencies employ. If you want to provide portfolio-building opportunities for your cousin’s kid, we applaud your bigheartedness. If you simply want to save a few bucks, you deserve the quality you get. (DISCLAIMER: We’re a little biased on this point.)

3. The worst time to reduce advertising spend is when business is slow. Henry Ford is credited with saying, “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” Ford’s point is that advertising stimulates revenues; therefore, trimming your advertising budget in down business cycles practically guarantees your company a decrease in sales. We can see how you might consider this advice self-serving on our part. But, in reality, advertising when others are cutting back portrays your company as stronger and more stable than your competitors – something consumers value in tough economic times. Not to mention you can get some great deals on media buys.

2. You’re blowing a marketing opportunity on your packaging. If you’ve ever purchased an Apple product, you probably noticed the company’s beautiful packaging. It’s no wonder our creative department’s closet contains iMac boxes we can’t bring ourselves to discard. As in Apple’s case, a product’s packaging speaks volumes about the company that sells it. And if done correctly, packaging gives customers the opportunity to speak back to you. For instance, a QR Code on a box makes it easy for buyers to click through to your website and complete a satisfaction survey; while there, they can sign up for your newsletter. Before you know it, your clients are actively engaged with you. Packaging provides valuable real estate that reaches the best demographic you can get: people who have already done business with you.

1. You know what you like. But we know what actually works. We once asked a larger advertising agency how they deal with clients who second-guess their creative work. The answer was straightforward: “We tell them it doesn’t matter whether they like or dislike our concepts. All that matters is that they work.” You might not particularly like the color combination we recommend for your logo redesign; but the psychological science and reproductive practicality behind the colors should outweigh your personal preferences. Maybe you favor websites with limited homepage scrolling; but if we tell you scrolling gets people to linger on the page longer (in other words, engage with your site), perhaps you should trust our experience. Bottom line is we do this for a living, and our goal is to deliver marketing ideas that generate results. And we know you ultimately want the same.

About TIG
10 Things Only A Marketer Will Tell You