Advertising Campaign 101

Dec 2, 2009

Developing an advertising campaign within the automotive aftermarket is usually a bit different than directing a one-piece ad campaign in a single media message. Many have asked the questions, “When and where do I advertise? What size should I choose? How do I reach the market, and how do I really read into demographics?” Furthermore, advertising is an investment in your business and comes at a price.

Advertising 101

The reality is that advertising reinforces positive attitudes toward brands, products and is a reference tool for do-it-yourselfers as well as the business-2-business WD. Within the scope of product recognition are developmental steps to implementing an advertising campaign. The specifics of each step are roadmaps to successfully earmarking where and when to execute your advertising communication to the media, the retailer and the end-user.

Within the suggested major steps of campaign development, you’ll likely recognize your specific market and the required approach to eliminating confusion, adding metrics as a measure to your advertising investment and knowing you’re on the track to success. Advertising is in part like life. At times, we view it positively; at other times, we avoid it. Some advertising informs, persuades or entertains us; some bores, annoys, or even offends us.

Without question, advertising is a transmission of your company image, product or service to a specific audience. Consider the business names you associate with and recognize as leaders. They communicate a direct and articulate message and seem to always be the benchmarks within the aftermarket. How did they get to the level of acclaim, lofty appeal to the masses and become the go-to company for specific products? The simple and short answer is INK!

The following are major steps in creating an advertising campaign which a company at any level should file as to-do’s when placing advertising in any publication or advertising medium. The number of steps and the exact order in which they are carried out may vary according to your budget and resources, the nature of your products and the type of target audience to be reached. Nevertheless, these advertising campaign guideline steps will enhance your ability to convey your message as well as communicate with your advertising representative or agency.

Step 1: Identify and Analyze Your Target Audience

Ready, aim, shoot. It seems simple, but in the automotive aftermarket there, is no specific buyer profile. Furthermore, there is the aspect of multi-buyer levels such as WD to jobber to end-user. Satisfying the masses is no easy task when everyone has an opinion. Thus, identifying and analyzing the target audience is a critical process, and it’s the initial step in determining the other steps while developing your personal business ad campaign.

The exact kinds of information are extremely broad based and must fit your product. There is a temperament that characterizes your customer. And with combo performance applications, there is a need to understand both gender, ethnic, lifestyle and consumer attitudes regarding the purchase and use of both your products as well as competing brands. Generally, the more you know about the target audience, the more likely the successful development of your advertising campaign.

Step 2: Defining The Advertising Objectives

What do you want to accomplish? Because advertising objectives guide campaign development, advertisers should define objectives carefully. Advertising objectives should be stated clearly, precisely and in measurable terms. This is no napkin exercise, and a great amount of prudent thought should be exercised. Talk with customers, note the style of copy layout, the “white-space” within the layout, professional photography and clean art. These are simple can-do steps to achieving your objective. Precision and measurability allow you to evaluate advertising success at the end of the campaign in terms of whether objectives have been met.

Also, in providing precision and measurability, advertising objectives should contain benchmarks and indicate how far you wish to move from these standards. Thus, if the goal is to increase sales, you should state the current sales level (your benchmark) and the amount of sales increase sought through advertising. Be realistic and know that an ad should run for a minimum of six times to get an accurate measure. Also, allow 45-60 days post the last ad run to measure the qualitative result.

Even though your long-run goal is to increase sales, not all campaigns are designed to produce immediate sales. Your actual immediate need may best be suited to increase product or brand awareness, make consumers’ attitudes more favorable, or heighten consumers’ knowledge of product features.

Step 3: Determine Your Advertising Appropriation

Time and money are the key factors in determining how much to invest in your advertising campaign. Many factors affect your business advertising model such as the aftermarket geographic and cool factor built into the product appeal.

One of the techniques used to determine the advertising appropriation and most logical is the objective-and-task approach. Using this approach, aftermarket marketers can determine the objectives a campaign is to achieve and then attempt to list the tasks required to accomplish them. The costs of the tasks are calculated and added to arrive at the total appropriation.

In the more widely used percent-of-sales approach, you simply multiply the company’s past sales, plus a factor for planned sales growth or decline, by a standard percentage based on both what the company traditionally spends on advertising and the media buy average.

Another way to determine advertising appropriation is the competition-matching approach. Marketers following this approach try to match their major competitors’ appropriations in absolute dollars or to allocate the same percentage of sales for advertising that their competitors do. You should be aware of what competitors spend on advertising, but this technique should not be used alone because the competitors probably have different advertising objectives and resources available.

Step 4: Creating The Advertising Message

Just as the lines of the Indy 500 Corvette pace car translate a message, your ad copy is a function of several factors. A product’s features, uses and benefits affect the content of the message. Also, characteristics of the target audience, their attributes and lifestyle also influence both content and form.

If your company’s objectives and platform involve large sales increases, the message may include hard-hitting, high-impact language and symbols. When campaign objectives aim to increase brand awareness, the message may use much repetition of the brand name and words and illustrations associated with it.

The verbal portion of your display advertisement is the copy or verbal portion which includes headlines, sub-headlines, body copy and company name signature. The simple fact is that the headline is perhaps the most visible aspect of your display ad. It should attract readers’ attention and create enough interest to make them want to read the body copy. Body copy usually consists of an introductory statement. The focus is to:

  • Identify a specific desire or problem
  • Recommend the product as the best way to satisfy that desire or solve that problem
  • State the product benefits and indicate why the product is best for the buyer
  • Substantiate your advertising claims
  • Ask the buyer to take action

Graphic Designer

Unless you have an in-house graphic expert, I strongly suggest you seek out a qualified person who is familiar with automotive advertising graphic layout and arrangement. It is the layout that can pull or push a buyer from the split second they consider the ad.

Developing an advertising appeal is a challenging task. Small businesses frequently stay small because they either do not have a budget or do not have the connections for engaging with creative people. It is difficult to connect the dots, get it right the first time, have the patience necessary to wait it out for the measurable result and to believe you did the right thing.

An understanding of the behavioral approach to why people buy is easily understood by analyzing the following key common advertising appeals.

  • Profit: Will the product save them money, or enhance their performance wow factor?
  • Admiration: Did the likes of your super racer hero celebrity spokesperson say, buy it?
  • Convenience: Can the do-it-yourselfer do the install with common tools?
  • Fun and Pleasure: Is the product cool, packaged as such, provide fun and pleasure?
  • Vanity and Egotism: Do you think you know anyone with these attributes?

The Key

The key to advertising success is believing enough in your product to convey the message in a systemic way. The company who gets their message out, believes in the power of the written message, has a plan of attack and does their homework can win and improve their bottom line.

Do you think Sears would have gotten their first horseless carriage on the road if they had not advertised? If selling that first vehicle in 1905, which was delivered in a box to your door and advertised in the Sears catalog, worked through the power of advertising, you can move mountains with the right plan and the belief in the power of advertising ink.