I recently had the pleasure of attending a screening of Sign Painters, a documentary about well, sign painters.
This is an advertising medium (art form) that I have always appreciated being from Buffalo. While most cities and roadways are lined with billboards advertising local and national products, not every city is lucky enough to display some of the original, hand painted signs.
Aside from the nostalgia and appreciate for the craftsmanship, we can learn something from the origin of these signs.
An Advertisement Should Tell a Story
It’s hard to imagine living in a world where products were purchased simply by category instead of brand reputation, reviews and product features. In those days, purchases were made out of necessity; “I need more flour”.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what we can learn from these talented sign painters. Advertising should still be driven out of that purchase necessity; an ad should tell a story to consumers to help them along the buying process.
Stop Bragging and Start Answering Questions
Too many brands and (sadly) advertising professionals are still stuck in a world of self-importance. Sure, in the end, the story is about you. But in order to capture attention, the message has to be driven by your audience. Sign painters were hired to appeal to consumers, to set a brand or product apart from it’s competition. This isn’t done through bragging and features, it’s communicating the demand of costumers through product benefits.
Taking things further, we as marketers keep missing the point. We’re putting out advertising in both traditional and digital channels without communicating. We take product/brand knowledge for granted. It’s not safe to assume that the general public has the same information as those working on behalf of a brand.
Common Advertising Mistakes
Simply put, we’re creating too much work for our customers. A while back we discussed keeping things simple with web content. This holds true for offline, traditional media as well. I’d like to use an example that I pass every day on my way too and from work.
A local pizza joint (who will remain nameless), cycles what should be prime billboard space here in Buffalo, NY. One is located on Delaware Ave and is visible to north bound traffic. The other is on I-290 and is visible to drivers headed east. Their red branding and delicious sub instantly catches your attention. The text is nice and simple: “Home of the best Chicken Finger Sub in Buffalo”. Sounds great doesn’t it?
But they’re completely missing the ball! Let’s take a closer look at the billboards as compared to their location:
Pop quiz time! Did you figure out what they did wrong?
By failing to give us more information we have NO idea how to get a delicious chicken finger sub! If I’m traveling on I-290, I have no idea that I could simply exit and have some hot food within minutes. If I’m traveling on Delaware ave, I’m probably going to jump on the highway before I even seen the restaurant.
Countless people are driving home from work, or better yet, traveling hungry. On their travels they see this billboard and think “Ah, a chicken finger sub, perfect!”. Unfortunately, in this case they keep driving and end up getting fast food or buying a sub at a competing location.
But what about branding and awareness?
Sure, they are getting eyes on their brand, a bunch of people are now aware that this location has the best chicken finger sub in Buffalo. What they don’t know is where to get it. The customer must drive to their destination and Google the business. When they find out they live 15 miles away do you really think they’re coming back? This is an unnecessary step that could be avoided by creating advertising that fills the consumer’s need.
We HAVE to stop assuming that our customers know the whole story!
Now, this particular location isn’t one of my clients but I’d be willing to bet a quick inclusion of “Exit Here!” or “1 mile ahead” would significantly increase the ROI of their billboard.
Special thanks to the Sign Painters team and Bond Influence for allowing us to use a clip from their excellent film! Please make the time to see it in it’s entirety!