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September 30, 2010
Are You Branding With Your Message?

We work primarily with small to mid-sized businesses. More often than not, on any given day, I find myself sitting in the office of the founder/president who wants know why his or her company's advertising isn't working anymore. The industry and geography changes daily, but the questions and challenges are the same:

"I'm running ads in the newspaper for my investment advisory business, but I don't seem to get any calls. What media should I use now?"

"I don't think radio will work for me because so many people listen to iPods or CDs or satellite in their cars."

"I've had outdoor boards up for the past year, but it seems that no one is noticing them anymore. Should I change them?"

"I want to reach people who are shopping for a tux. Do you have a mailing list?"

"Corporate will pay for the advertising as long as I run their radio and print ads. Can you just add our name at the bottom?"

"I tried advertising. It doesn't work for my kind of business."

All of this focus is on the medium -- but what about the message?

As long as you focus on the media, you can be assured that you are wasting your advertising. You have to focus on the message. Your ad is going to work if it connects with consumers and tells them something that they care about.

Want to know why your message isn't relevant?

Stop talking about yourself! Your consumer doesn't care about you. They don't want a laundry list of your features. They don't want to hear your empty promises.

The relevance of your message will determine whether or not your ad works. No ad can be successful if it is delivering a message that no one cares about.

There are some pretty clear indicators that your ads will fail even before you run them.

Irrelevant: Are you delivering a message that matters to your consumer? Will they connect?

Features: If your ad is a list of the features that your product has instead of the benefit that your consumer will feel, then they won't care.

Predictable: If your ad is predictable, no one will notice it.

Confusing: If you are using industry jargon that only makes sense to someone in your business, you are talking to yourself -- not your consumer.

Corporate: If you are getting your ads from "corporate," how do you know that you will connect with your consumer? Every community is different, and not all consumers are the same. Don't expect generic ads to motivate anyone.

Cultural: If your all-male office is writing an ad for a female buyer, do you think they really can create a message that will connect?

Boring: Is your ad designed to appeal to everyone and offend no one? I can promise you it is boring to all.

Copycat: Does your ad sound like your competitor's ads? How will the consumer tell you apart?

Every day, people watch television, read a newspaper, and listen to the radio. You have the opportunity to reach your potential consumer each and every day. What you say is far more important than where you say it.

To deliver a pointless message powerfully is the definition of hype.

To deliver a powerful message pointlessly is the result of weak creative.

To deliver a powerful message powerfully is the first step to success.

Branding is about building an emotional connection with your consumer. The location of your ad isn't going to build that connection. What you say will. To change the message, you have to change the conversation. Break away from the way you've always done it and find your new voice. Say it in a way that your consumer will connect with it.

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Jaci Russo is a co-founder and senior partner of The Russo Group, a national branding agency located in Lafayette, LA. She is a brand strategist with experience including strategic planning, consumer insight, brand management, national product launches, and media management for clients in a cross section of industries. She speaks to organizations across the country on the power of branding, changing the conversation, message training, and how to brand through social media.

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