Earn Less to Survive Advertising Slump?

I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal factor in their marketing mix. They have an awkward tendency to raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes. ~ David Ogilvy

That’s certainly understandable. However, how many advertising agencies and design firms will actually do that right now?

Once upon a time,  there were many full-fledge advertising agencies where creative, media and production departments all fall under one roof. Now, these departments became self-sustainable companies with their own overheads and revenues to take care of.

Why? Because good clients who will  not “raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need cash for other purposes” are now a rare species.

Inflation is in. Everything you see in the market place has risen at least 20-30% over the past one year. With droughts and floods, wars and political tension in mineral rich and agricultural countries, prices are rising horrendously fast. Many businesses lamented that  higher operational cost is eating away their profit.  “Cut Cost” and “Minimize Wastage” are two words I hear very frequently these days.

With such a gloomy outlook, it is not surprising that many clients are much more careful with their marketing budget. They might still put out a big war chest for an advertising campaign. However, you can bet that many eyes had scrutinized every step and process that were proposed, and many questions must be satisfactorily answered before the dotted line is finally signed. Gone are the days when your client will slap his thigh and gallantly said “Good idea, let’s do it” immediately after you have made the first presentation. More often than not, they will look at you straight in the eyes and said soberly and slowly, “I like what I have seen, however, your price is too high”. Don’t bother to ask “Too high? Compared to what?”. Even if the price is reasonable, they are most likely to share with you their  challenges with upper management or their finance department on budget issues. The bottom line is, you cut your price if you want the job.

You have to make a choice between earning less and earning what you deserve.

And then, you’ll have to decide to be happy or unhappy after you opt to do it for less.

No wonder many creative talents – especially creative directors, art directors, and graphic designers decided to abandon their true passion – and turn to the teaching industry.

New Products need People to Survive

It used to be that people needed products to survive. Now products need people to survive. ~Nicholas Johnson

Not surprising, with consumerism being the norm these days.

I used to have a green fan sitting on my desk. I remember my father used to take it apart every fortnight to give it a thorough wipe down and wash the metal casing to prevent any rusting. That green fan faithfully served me through out my years in elementary school and beyond. Only when I was in high school did my father retire it with regrets.

Back then, things were built to last. Not any more. For the last 10 years, I believe I have bought more than 6 to 7 fans. Somehow, they don’t last as long as my faithful green fan. And no, I didn’t turn abusive as I age. I’m one of those rare specimen who still believe in sending damaged products for repairs. Even when I have to dump beyond-repair goods, I usually place them in recycle bins.

Naturally, my mum laments “Things are not sturdy any more.” She has a similar experience. After her 26-year-old Kelvinator refrigerator died of old age, she also had to replace her fridge once every two or three years.

My answer to mum is “If things were build to last. Many people will be out of a job.”.

With consumerism raging and the promiscuity of consumers who prefer to have the newest model, newest look, newest toy in the town, it behooves the old brands to update themselves regularly to stay in touch with their customers’ swaying loyalty. As for the new kid on the block, the products basically must be of good quality, look great and price well. Otherwise, good luck!

Advertising works the way the grass grow

We find that advertising works the way the grass grows. You can never see it, but every week you have to mow the lawn. ~ Andy Travis

Sadly, many marketers – whether on the agency or client side – don’t look at it that way. They would think hard and work hard to get a really good idea and execute it. Voila, it works. Everyone celebrates and leaves it as is because  the good old adage says “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Technically, nothing wrong with keeping the same advertisement if the message is still relevant. However, there are other things to consider. Are the images, words, tone of voices relevant to the fashion of the day? I remembered seeing a pharmaceutical company’s TVC year after year during Christmas season since I was in high school. The product is reputable, the message is relevant, however, everything in the commercial looks dated ! After 20 years, even the dashing actor that did the commercial don’t look as suave and cool.

Plus, seldom will one single advertisement make a product and its owner a household name. It usually takes the full works including advertising, promotions, public relations, sales, customer relations management to sustain that much envious position right at the top of the pinnacle. So that vitamin product I was talking earlier survives, however, it doesn’t enjoy as strong a following it once enjoyed. Marketing take consistent and continuous efforts.

Sometimes, I’m really frustrated when the client chose to do ad hoc marketing because “this isn’t the season to do any marketing” or “I prefer to do guerrilla marketing because I don’t have a big budget”. Sure, I understand seasonal marketing. However, I do not subscribe to the notion that he can literally stop listening to , speaking to and caring for your customers and go hibernating in the cave. There is lots of post-sale activities and customer relationship management is certainly one area he can concentrate on. My understanding of Jay Conrad Levinson’s guerrilla marketing is about having a unique, engaging and thought-provoking concept to generate buzz, and seek cooperation with other businesses to grow the business. As far as I know, it’s not simply about doing something now, stop, and then picking up later.

To me, marketing is the pulse of business and that means it is an ever continuous process. Similar to the Energizer Bunny, marketing should be kept going, going, going and going – even during hard times.

We are going though challenging time now. You might not have a big war chest to do marketing, however, that’s things you can do without spending money. Talk about your product and services; building relationship with people and other businesses is a great way to grow your business. When people sees your passion and enthusiasm about your stuff, it will rub onto them. Talk about your product and services in social medias, like FaceBook,  in a responsibly manner. Your purpose is to first to serve – tell them how would your product/service be a great solution to people’s headache. Yes, be honest and tell them so if your product isn’t a fix. People appreciate honesty and will remember that. Hard selling at social media may backfire so be really careful about that.

Whatever it is, do something. When you choose have a lawn, be prepared to mow it.

Marketing is more than just advertising

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If the town’s citizens go the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.”
~ Unknown

Whoever said this, said it really well. Because so many people thinks marketing is just about advertising. All I like to add to the unknown author, is that when you bid them goodbye, wish them well and ask them to revisit again with their families and friends, that’s customer relationship management.