so bad it’s good

On the local level, small businesses develop their print/broadcast creative for ad campaigns in 1 of 4 ways:

  1. Some entrepreneurs are either creative or stole somebody else’s good idea. (the best ideas are always stolen ideas) These people either have a good marketing head or they hired someone who knew what they’re doing. Some of this local “homemade” advertising is as good (and some is much better) than what would come out of a traditional agency.
  2. Some small businesses waste their marketing money on generic template or spotrunner type ads where they just stick their logo and phone number in a generic ad and then wonder why they get generic results. (If your whole business can be represented by a generic stock photo, then it’s not going to be hard for a competitor to replace you.)
  3. Some let the graphic artist burger flippers down at the radio/tv station or newspaper develop their entire marketing philosophy for them on the assembly line
  4. And then there are the people who have no idea what they’re doing, but still decide to create their own advertising. For me, these have always been like watching car wrecks. It’s horrible, but you can’t look away. In fact, some of these ads are so bad — they’re good…like enjoying a really bad movie.

The comedy duo of Rhett and Link have capitalized on local bad advertising from this 4th group with their “Custom-built, Micro-Budget Commercials for MicroBilt Customers” series. They took a few real small businesses in North Carolina and made a farce out of a farce.

(Update: If you’re reading this through RSS, you may have to click through to the site to see the following videos)

One of the spots, Black and White People Furniture, is getting some buzz because of the racial issue and the simple fact it’s so bizarre.

There are lots of businesses that are the one stop shop like Bobby Dennings:

And the Cuban Gynecologist Auto Salesman is just odd:

Even though these spots are causing the phone to ring for these local businesses, I’m not ready to advocate that you change your tv campaign. But it’s a growing trend for professional marketers to “Astroturf” a grassroots phenomenon both online and in traditional media with a tongue stuck in their cheek.

The key to all marketing, homemade or store-bought, is grabbing attention and keeping that buzz.

Colonel Kenny Marketing

When I got home tonight, there was a letter from a local realty company telling me that if I was in the market to sell my house, they had a proven marketing plan to sell it.

First off, I don’t want to sell my house. So an immediate strike one, two and three.

But since there’s nothing on TV, let’s look at the marketing plan they use to sell themselves: They send unsolicited letters (snail spam) to my entire county’s property tax rolls in the hopes they might hook somebody. In addition, they used the full 39 cent postage instead of bulk mail rates, there were a couple of typos in the letter and it was off-center on the letterhead. Yeah. These people know how to market.

I’ve always been disturbed when real estate salespeople start beating their chest about their “marketing plan”…or “proven marketing plan”…or “exclusive marketing plan”…etc.

Most of these “plans” that I’ve seen in action involve lots of irrelevant ads directed to the masses who are unwilling or unmotivated to buy. For some reason, alot of these “plans” also involve a lot of facetime in the ad for the salesperson. It would be crazy to show a picture of a house…better to fill up half the billboard with a little self-ego inflation.

Some of the advanced salespeople have spent some of their marketing investment on “Guerilla Marketing for Dummies” and have exclusive methods such as keychains, pens, and stickers.

And like the letter I got tonight…they all love direct mail….but have no idea how to use it. The realtor we bought this house from 4 years ago (at auction!) still sends us postcards constantly every Groundhog Day, Columbus Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Festivus, and every other major/minor holiday reminding me that he has a “great marketing plan” to sell my house. My wife and I laugh and roll our eyes everytime we get one of the postcards…right before we trash it. Great marketing investment.

Why so much bad marketing in the real estate world? Several reasons. The biggest right now is that there’s a lot of get-rich-quick-schemers trying to capitalize on the bubble. They’re using everything they can to become established in the market. In addition, because of the bubble, there’s a lot of money available to “market” the real estate company. When a media salesperson comes in with a proposal, they are sold and don’t buy their marketing.

In all, it goes back to my basic stump speech. Business people know they need and they hire experts for business functions like accounting and HR. Sure, they can handle the basic day-to-day things, but for big things like audits…they hire someone…or at least have someone double check it.

But anybody can buy an ad. Right?

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Look at me

Ad campaigns that feature the owner of a business are like a horrific car accident. You want to look away, but your primal nature wants to see the carnage.

It happens a lot in local ads. When I worked in radio, there was a constant stream of small business owners coming in to read their copy…which, on the air, sounded like they were reading their copy. TV is even worse. Some of these people don’t know any better. And some are just doing it because they like the attention.

Local ads like this usually last a long time because the owner personally sees the results. People come up to them and say “I saw you on TV!” The owner is constantly reassured that people are seeing the commercial…so they buy more. This is one reason these types of ads are so prevalent…media salespeople know that vanity spots are usually good for an extended run. An ad that doesn’t feature the owner (or heaven forbid – his kids/grandkids/etc) is probably just as effective. But since most businesses have no marketing tracking whatsoever, vanity spots are seen as “effective” by the gut check of the owner.

OK. Small businesses don’t know any better. What about larger companies?

Well, when there was a fungus among us in contact lens solution, Bausch & Lomb trotted out their CEO who looked like he was making a hostage tape.

Bill “I’m related to Henry” Ford has all the personality of Al Gore when talking about the innovation and “exciting things” happening at Ford.

Sometimes the owner is so non-camera-compatible that it becomes a hallmark of the ads…and becomes good. Case-in-point: The late Dave Thomas at Wendy’s.

And we’re about to have another instance of “bad becomes good” with the current “Dr. Z” commercials featuring DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche. (I’m actually appalled at one of these spots where Dr. Z and another guy crash…and walk away. The disclaimer is not big enough here.)

The point is that sticking the CEO out front in an ad is not always the best option. Actually, it rarely is. And a good leader/manager/owner will be intelligent enough to realize their own limitations…and decline.

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