Unfortunately for us marketers, the public is inundated, deluged and bombarded, every day, with hundreds of ads, commercials, emails and direct-mail offers inviting them to buy, try, upgrade, sign on, act now and order before midnight.

The problem created by this daily assault on our senses is that we tend to tune out, ignore or question the vast majority of the advertising messages we're exposed to. As a result, two of the most formidable challenges to successful marketing—both on and off the Internet—has become (1) grabbing the attention of prospects and (2) convincing them that they have a lot to gain and nothing to lose by trying your products and services.

How do you gain entry into people's awareness when they're automatically filtering out probably 95% of the marketing messages with which they're barraged? Well, one way is to “think outside the box.”

Think original thoughts

I wouldn't be using that hackneyed cliche if it weren't for the fact that I recently had a pizza delivered to me in a box that was covered with an ad for Nivea for Men skin products.

The message on the top of the box says, “The good news? Your face isn't a pizza. The bad news? Your face isn't a pizza. (That means you can't order another one. So take care of it.)” On five different surfaces of the box, the Nivea for Men logo and the slogan “More evolved skincare” appears. The product's Web site address is also printed on top of the box.

I don't know if this is a new trend in advertising or if it was a bold experiment by an innovative advertising agency, but the bottom line is this: it sure caught my attention and made the marketing message jump out at me without being annoying. If it were a display ad, a newspaper insert, or a Web site popup ad, it wouldn't have had as much impact.

Now I'm not suggesting that advertising on pizza boxes is the way for your business to achieve a marketing breakthrough, but I am saying that promoting your company differently from the competition and carving out a distinct identity in the marketplace are among the ingredients in a successful marketing formula.

“Thinking outside of the box” (literally or figuratively) can help position your business as a frontrunner in the marketing race.

Don't be an ‘also-ran'

Seemingly unrelated question: “Why has George Carlin been a popular and successful comedian, author and actor for the past 40 years or so?”

Well, when asked in Time Magazine (3/29/04) why he doesn't do jokes about the President, he said, “I don't like easy targets, and I don't like sounding like everyone else.”

Perhaps the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman has distilled the essence of effective marketing.

Make me laugh (but not grimace)

I'm not in the market for a snowmobile or an ATV, but if I were, I would have made a sharp turn off the road this winter and pulled into a parking lot that displayed this banner on the storefront: “Your Wife Called! She Said It's OK!”

Now if that's not an effective way to talk directly to a targeted audience, grab their attention and make them laugh, then what is? That being said, it should be mentioned that the use of humor in advertising can easily backfire or just plain fall flat.

So if you think you've come up with a winning slogan that's going to make people laugh AND stand up and take notice of your Web site or flock to your place of business, don't launch the idea immediately. Wait until you've had a chance to bounce it off a handful of people who will give you their honest, candid, preferably blunt opinion about the concept. Then run with it.

Cautionary note: When you use humor in advertising, there's always the intrinsic risk of being offensive, politically incorrect, tacky or just plain lame.

So while marketing may not be rocket science, it requires talent and insight to make it fly. To generate results, it takes a lot of creativity, a certain amount of guts, and a firm understanding of who your audience is, what they want and the potential obstacles to their getting it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joel Sussman is a writer, a newsletter editor and the president of Optimal Marketing Communications. To subscribe to his newsletter, visit his Web site, MarketingSurvival Kit.com, or send an email to optimal-marketing@getresponse.com.