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When Ads Get Too Close, Too Fast
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Common thought is that if brands fail to connect with consumers, then they are doomed to be ignored by their audiences. It is a generalization, but more often than not, it is a safe rule to follow. The act of connecting or engaging with people who like your good or service, or those who fit the mold who would, is a balancing act. Establishing a niche audience is nice, but then if your offering attracts multiple audiences, the advertising campaign gets complex. Complexity isn't a bad thing, but it does demand more from the shop and brand to develop better messages, develop better research to hone the messages, and develop better creative to drive it.

And don't forget the media to deliver it.

Within that entire process, there arises a battle between the copywriters and the creatives. Both would argue that their individual practice is more important, but truth be told, both have to be on mark in order to be effective. In fact, research coming out in the newest edition of Journal of Consumer Research states that the copy of an ad could significantly turn consumers off a brand. It all revolves around familiarity.

The research suggests that those who are not already consumers of certain brands and services like copy that uses "you and [the brand]" instead of "we." They like the formal structure better than the intimate. Also, and more interesting — using "we" could positively or negatively affect the brand with its current customers. The study used a bank and an insurance company as examples, and using the same "we" copy, bank customers liked the intimate nature better than the insurance customers. The insurance customers felt better about the brand when it used the more formal "you and [the brand]."

We should be careful about how we use language to connect with consumers, because studies like these show that wanting to level with them on "familiar" territory could backfire. When forming a message, it is important to know how the consumer relates to the brand. If they had to place the brand in one of their social circles, which one would it be? Does the brand come up more in conversations with friends or with parents? What kind of environment does the brand regularly operate?

It takes more than just familiar, friendly words to establish a rapport with the consumers you want to reach. Relying on simple conclusions like that could jeopardize the very relations you are striving to create.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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