We will only be able to respond adequately to the continuing rapid pace of change in commerce and communications if we understand the basic principles of how people are influenced by publicity.
This was on page 16 of The Anatomy of Humbug and, upon reading that, I had a hunch the book would be good. "How people are influenced by publicity" is a great choice of words. It's naturally big so it's no surprise that the answer varies.
But that shouldn't be frustrating.
It should be liberating.
And that's the genius of The Anatomy of Humbug--it provides confidence and structure while at the same time requiring the practitioner to study their own situation and apply the right answer from a collection of approaches.
Paul Feldwick confirms several things in this book that I have long believed but couldn't articulate in a way that I liked. Such as how many advertising and marketing people have long-argued for the USP--but that's not always right. In fact, it's often wrong. Equally, others have argued for all emotion-based campaigns. But that's not always right either.
"Humbug" offers six ways to think about how advertising works:
- Advertising as Salesmanship: the first massively adopted way that advertising works dating back over 100 years, commonly condensed under a USP, and often the default definition from most marketers. (I think of Microsoft)
- Advertising as Seduction: more emotion-forward advertising, this works by providing associations to brands and products. (I think of Coke)
- Advertising as Salience: creating a distinctive and consistent mass marketing approach derived at making a brand famous and easily accessible in the mind. (I think of GEICO)
- Advertising as Social Connection: the acknowledgement that most communication is 'non verbal', that everything a brand does communicates, and that it's always 'on.' (I think of Red Bull)
- Advertising as Spin: re-framing reality--impute all-new meaning into the product benefit. (Feldwick cites Axe)
- Advertising as Showbiz: creating must see entertainment, like what P.T. Barnum did for his traveling shows. (Feldwick cites Volvo Trucks)
So which way is right?
All of them.
But not all of them, all of the time.
Throughout the history of advertising each of these approaches have been overstated, often by the practitioners who coined (and sold) them. But none of these theories on their own can claim that they are 'how advertising works' because it depends on the brand and what needs to be accomplished.
What is required is deep understanding of the business problems--and the true purpose of the brand at-hand--and then applying whichever type of advertising theory satisfies them best.
And it's often about choosing several of these.
Within the same brand there are times when an ad should be a salesperson. There are other times when it should seduce. As it does both, a campaign should have salience. And so on.
If everything is done well it creates business-driving advantages, hence the title of the book.
My favorite part:
"...rigging the odds in your favor."
Any brand can do this.
Every brand should do this.
And doing this takes deep study, lots of preparation and great creative thought.