Wanamaker finally gets it

–In stocks, it’s “Buy Low. Sell High”.
–In weather, it’s “not the heat, it’s the humidity”.
–In advertising, it’s “I know half my advertising is wasted, but I don’t know which half.” It’s a quote attributed to John Wanamaker who owned a department store in Philadelphia in the early 20th century. In one of my marketing keynotes, I throw his quote up on the screen and tell my audience if they don’t know which half is working, they’d better stop advertising because they’re wasting their money, time, consumer attention, brand equity, etc, etc.

Marketing is sometimes seen as an art, (which it is to an extent), but businesses take that too far. Are you too far? Apply your marketing philosophies to another aspect of the business…
–“I know half my customers are not paying me, but I don’t know which half!”
–“I know half my employees are stealing from me, but I don’t know which half!
If it doesn’t make sense in the other parts of the business, it doesn’t make sense in marketing either.

The trouble is tracking. Most companies (especially smaller ones) don’t track their marketing investment at all. Most that do track are doing it wrong. It’s no wonder that half (or more) of the marketing doesn’t work.

That’s why I’m encouraged by this news from Nielsen. Beginning this November, they will not only report TV program viewership, but also advertising viewership.

People have been preaching the death of the 30-second ad for some time now…(some better than others). I have always agreed that the change was on the horizon, but knew that old habits die hard for business. We’re now at the tipping point.

Today in the early 21st century, you have more tools and more opportunity than ever (and it’s growing everyday) to find out “what half of your marketing is working”. Why does your marketing still reflect a quote about a department store in 1912?

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Chris Houchens is a marketing raconteur & writer. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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